“What is living and what is dead” is an uncompromisingly tonal and beautiful large scale work for solo piano by Simon O’Connor, composer, curator of The Little Museum of Dublin, and founder member of Dublin psych-rock band The Jimmy Cake. Last January in Berlin, pianist Michael McHale made the first recording of this important work, produced by the team of Garrett Sholdice and Benedict Schlepper-Connolly.
The Dublin-based record label Ergodos is now seeking your support to bring this music out into the world; though the initial work is done, we still need your help to cover the additional costs, including mixing, mastering and manufacture. We’ll also be producing a beautiful new edition of Simon O’Connor’s score to accompany the release in early 2016.
Supporters of this project stand to receive a range of rewards including exclusive downloads, beautifully presented recordings, deluxe hand-bound editions of the score and bespoke compositions by Simon O’Connor.
With “What is living and what is dead” O’Connor reaches back to the romantics of Schumann and Schubert, whilst channeling the iconoclastic modernism of Morton Feldman, Kevin Volans and post-rock. Childlike melodies are pitched against ever-changing harmonic landscapes, in a desperate plea for beauty in a world gone austere. This is a wordless political polemic that cries out for more space, beauty, slowness and understanding in a time of pessimism and intellectual voids.
“What is living and what is dead” takes its title from a lecture given by the late Tony Judt, which ultimately became his last book, “Ill fares the land”. The piano suite is a tribute to Judt’s insistence that we have lost the ability to imagine our way out of the kind of society the developed West has become in recent decades – this music also seeks to imagine a more positive and aesthetically rich landscape.
“There is a life within this music that I cannot release myself,” says O’Connor. “Like a song, it is for the performer and listener to breathe their own life and understanding into it. It is in sympathy with an older tradition of music that approaches the listener at both emotional and intellectual levels, rather than placing up barriers to understanding. I believe that right now, the world doesn’t need difficult art that makes an audience feel stupid – it needs art that can help us deal with the society we are inheriting, art that shows us the possibility of a more beautiful world. That is what this music is trying to achieve.”
Belfast-born pianist Michael McHale is the perfect interpreter of this historically charged work. Steeped in the Classical piano tradition, he has established himself as one of the leading Irish pianists of his generation. McHale brings a breadth of musical understanding to O’Connor’s rich, limpid score, combining polished pianism with a highly personal interpretation to create a recording of enormous emotional power.