• fl(pic), cl, perc, gtr, pf, vn, va, vc [opt all amplified]
  • 15 min

Programme Note

Composer Note

Kicking a habit is loosely translated into Irish (Gaelic) as eirí as an nós, but as with many phrases in Irish, its resonance is actually much more complex than that. Eirí as an nós literally translated means to rise out of a habit or a tradition or a style. An Nós itself often has good connotations in the culture, not just bad. In fact one of my favourite styles of Irish singing is known as sean nós (the old style). I like the association of habit, tradition and style with gravity, and the release of it with levity. In the middle ages, whole philosophies developed out of the opposition between levity and gravity. In this piece the gravity of the initial material is set in place by repeating notes (like dots in a Seurat painting), that in spite of any larger pitch or dynamic patterns, are constantly arranged in groups that forever decay into silence. The piece is a poetic attempt to maintain and yet escape (maybe even transcend) its own habit. Some of its patterns are influenced by ornamentation patterns in traditional Irish music.

As An Nós was commissioned by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, with funding from the Arts Council of Ireland. It was premiered by them at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco on 2 November 2009.

— Donnacha Dennehy