Thursday, May 18, 2006
Benjamin Britten - 'Lyke-Wake Dirge'
from Serenade for Tenor, Horn & Strings
Well, the Scott Walker album is with us (BUY IT NOW) and there's one on the way from Cindytalk. My head is a bit fizzy with all this. I've been waiting years for this pair. No, really. I suppose I've been doing a bit of living as well, but you know how it is. Music.
Scott himself was interviewed by the BBC. The parting question and response had me snickering. It went something like this -
Q: Will we have to wait a decade for the next one?
A: I hope not. I may be dead by then.
You’ll always get comments about how long you have to wait for the likes of these two: the way I see it, you may wait ten years, but you’ll be listening to it for more than ten and it will probably haunt you way beyond that. There are moments where I hear a scraping bass echo and a glanced piano chord and I know that Cindytalk‘s “Snowkisss” has drifted back to me/through me. Same thing goes for Mr Walker’s “Farmer In The City”. Music with the nature of a ghost. Or maybe I haunt them.
So to the great Benjamin Britten and a favourite of mine, “Lyke-Wake Dirge” from “Serenade”. There was a snippet of BB and PP (Peter Pears) knocking out an arrangement of a folk tune on the recent BBC series “Folk Britannia”, but only to illustrate the opinion that Folk could not be hemmed in by fuddy duddy concert hall types who didn’t really get it.
Rubbish. I’m with Martin Carthy, who said the worst thing you can do to a folk song is not sing it. The tradition has plenty of room for the imagination. Which is a relief, because it’s all that some of us have. I'd take it over technique any day.
“Lyke -Wake Dirge” is an old, old thing, clothed appropriately by Mr Britten. It looks in at us from the garden, but you may only see it from the corner of your eye. The dark resonance, so clearly present in the arrangement, is something that appears right the way through Britten’s works.
In fact, the melody is not too distant from something Scott Walker or Gordon Sharp would sing: all of them trying to allow something through.
Buy - Serenade/Les Illuminations by Benjamin Britten from Amazon
Visit: Lyke-Wake Dirge at Wikipedia
Visit: The Drift