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Laura Cannell – Beneath Swooping Talons

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Laura Cannell - Beneath Swooping TalonsThe inscription inside the cover of Laura Cannell’s beautifully packaged CD reads “Beneath swooping talons we choose to be brave, or else to edge the shadows of open spaces, Silent wings come upon us in a strobe of feathers, we choose to be free, or else let the unknown control us.”

There is a pleasing sparseness to these single-take recordings, made in a mediaeval church in the wilds of East Anglia, played on fiddle, overbow fiddle and double recorders, and originating from scraps and fragments of mediaeval music — with echoes of Hildegard von Bingen and Guillaume de Machaut (among other sources) ringing through these improvised pieces to create something quite extraordinarily beautiful.

There is so much of the landscape, and of Englishness, in this music that seemed distant in high summer, yet the recent pouring rain and grey skies of late August take me there instantly. This is a music of autumn, of winter and of wide-open wind-chilled landscapes. It is delicate and intense in the same breath, holding space for something elemental and instantly recognisable. Within the owl hoots, hawk cries and softer trills and loops of marshland sounds that emanate from Laura Cannell’s bow and recorders, there is such a resonance of place and of the fleeting moments that pass unnoticed by most human eyes.

Yet while these pieces are deeply rooted in the folk music and liturgical canons of the distant past, there is something very modern in the approach and style. The double recorder, which allows her to harmonise with her own playing, has an eerie longing about it, a self-sufficiency that harmonises with the empty spaces the music evokes.

As Laura Cannell says in her inscription, “we choose to be free”. That freedom comes when we step away from the well-worn narrative. Beneath Swooping Talons takes the threads of the past and weaves them together to create something so bright and filled with presence and with real, solid, now-ness. This playful re-working gives an insight into the possibilities, the freedom that comes with the simple choice to not be bound by convention or by what has been done before. The result is music that frees the listener — honours the traditions that came before even as it breaks many of the old rules.

It is brave to step out into these open spaces, it is the knowledge that such bold steps can lead us to new discoveries and new forms, inspiring others to do likewise, that carries through each wondrous moment of this record.

-Arwen Xaverine-

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