January 30, 2020

Are they with us when we travel, the ones who went before?

Karen Marshalsay

Audio RecordingThe Road to Kennacraig, 2019

When you travel to an island there is a point in the journey where the rhythm changes as you move from road to ferry or vice-versa, and that disruption raises powerful emotions. The road is familiar but the reasons for travelling are not always the same. Memories and ties to those who travelled this road before and to those who will travel it in the future are strong. The journey is both necessary and filled with the essence of tradition and culture. I have taken the road to Kennacraig many times, and its memories range from happy, to sad and poignant. As a traditional musician music is inseparable from the places and the people, and the stories are as important as the tunes and techniques. But tradition too is a journey involving continuity and individuality. This piece joins the ancient ringing sound of the wire-strung clarsach with the ornamentation and keening nature of pibroch, both played on Islay centuries ago and again today, and challenges perceived ideas of both. A product of many years of playing, listening and searching, the piece is technically challenging and produces a highly emotive and reflective sound, enveloping each listener with their own thoughts.