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A Parcel of Airs

image: Mick Williamson

first performance:

Salomé Quartet

Collyer-Ferguson Hall, Canterbury

16 September 2021


11 minutes

programme note:

For several years John Woolrich has been patiently turning wood, fashioning from the bodies of violin, viola
and cello two dozen short quartets. Or perhaps, since he is consciously gathering them into a book of
inventions, we can think of them as a mega-quartet, a continuous project of fascination with this hallowed
medium. We might imagine that each ten-minute piece, when given life in a space, occupies its own parcel
of air. Each might indeed have carried the title of this one, since as ever Woolrich has applied his label after
the fact.
To conjure their music from gut and wood, the players must apply pressure, and Woolrich here has added
his own; there are knots in this wood, a near-constant beat of dissonance which disrupts the grain and
spews fragments of melody up or down. Different kinds of compression produce different effects. This
thorny material is being turned in the hand, and sometimes we catch a second or third view of something
we recognise. At times it is close to us, at others as if seen from a distance. It is the composer’s own
fascination with his journey which provides our own.

(Stephen Newbould)