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Friday 7th October / posted by Graham Hawkes

Alan Banks new recording is “Principium”, an album of music for lute, more than a third of which he has composed.

The lute is centuries old, much older than the guitar and the development of the guitar owes so much to the lute. Ironically the guitar now – and for the last two and a half centuries – absolutely dominates the lute in popularity (of course excepting highly fashionable and lauded rock stars that decide to have a go!) this wasn’t the case 300 plus years ago, in fact there is more music written for the lute than any other instrument.

This recording is and was never intended to be a dry academic exercise in performance practice techniques on the lute. My vision was to take these ancient instruments and create new music ‘within the style’ from the old. That is, new compositions written in a format which was the norm in say, 1650. I also composed my pieces and indeed my reworkings of others (Dowland for example) on the spot in the studio so the recording abounds with improvisations. Despite my earlier statement disregarding authenticity for academic sake, there is no doubt in my mind (and I am sure that scholars would agree) that the typical lute player – indeed any musician – of the period would have improvised as if second nature.

There are several significant reworkings of some Dowland pieces – the improvisations at the beginnings and ends giving a new sense in direction and the elaboration on the many dance forms by both Purcell and De Visee give a greater rhythmic weightiness.

The Canario and Folias de Espagne were both famous harmonic progressions for hundreds of years. Both compositions on this CD are complete improvisations. Then there are the truly modern pieces. Mr Tumnus lute for example, with its maninya feel utilising digital delay, Principium – in a sense inspired by Samuel Barber’s Adagio, and using cross string tremolo technique As much as the guitar owes the lute, the lute owes the Oud – Eulogy, a middle eastern improvisation evoking a sense of the truly ancient past, a past going right back to the crusades and the subsequent Moorish invasion of Iberia. Why Eulogy? It is my musical dedication to the people of the Middle Eastern nations and their suffering. And of course we have Bach which speaks for itself…

An interesting feature of this recording also is the stylised playing which sometimes seem to deviate into flamenco and modern guitar type utterances…hey I told you this was new composition…as I said, taking the old and making it new.
Please enjoy with your favourite tipple.

Informed by authentic practice but not constrained by it.

Available at CDbaby, Itunes or contact Al direct (preferred) alancharlesbanks@gmail.com

Play list for Principium

All live musical performances are included in our podcasts with the express permission of artists, who reserve all other rights in their music. All music used in our podcasts is licensed under an APRA Community Broadcasting license agreement.

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