When thinking about what music evokes for different people, it’s worth remembering that centuries-old musical notes on a page had very different connotations for our forebears than they do for us. We find immediate common ground in the denotation, in the mathematics of music; but it is the job of interpretation and scholarship, of imagination and dreaming, to journey further into those dark regions and yield new insights. Thus do we converse with absent friends.
Heard This and Thought of You similarly plays with ideas of memory, possibility and friendship over time and distance. In their booklet note, Australian recorder player Genevieve Lacey and Scottish-born accordionist James Crabb admit that little music has been written specifically for the combination of recorder and accordion. Yet these instruments “carry many connotations”. There is also the lovely idea of matching musical voices with writers (Lacey and Crabb love to read) by asking a number of writers to write to someone following the idea “Heard this, and thought of you”. These letters are included in the booklet.
The music itself ranges from Renaissance pieces by Ortiz, Palestrina and Locke – a kind of presiding spirit over the recording with his dance suite from Consort of Two Parts (For Several Friends) – through Baroque works by John Bannister and JS Bach to contemporary compositions by Andrea Keller, Damian Barbeler and Sally Beamish. There are also arrangements of traditional folk melodies.
Lacey and Crabb respond to the music “in the spirit of a live performance”. Consequently their playing has a genuine in-the-moment feel – flexible, vital and highly expressive – while their exploration of texture and timbre extends across different works, finding, for example, commonalities between the sweet architecture of a Bach trio sonata (originally for organ) and the Messiaen-like reveries of Barbeler’s Shadow Box.
The letters are equally moving. Luke Davies writes of “Your upcoming project about death. Your being surrounded by bees” after listening to Shadow Box. “But all that’s forgotten now. The strangers sleep without regrets,” writes Jana Wendt after hearing Sally Beamish’s exquisite, melancholy Lament from Seavaigers.
But perhaps Michael Leunig, writing as Mr. Curly to Vasco Pyjama after listening to the Ortiz, best sums up this remarkable project: “All we need to do is simply surrender; to open our ears and our hearts and let it flow through us.”