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The changeless and the changed

It took me quite a while to find the right plant to take as the starting point for my contribution to the Transplanted project. I needed to find something with which I could make an emotional as well as a purely intellectual or aesthetical connection. I had been thinking about Dandelions in general for a few reasons –childhood memories of course, the incredible transformation that occurs during their life cycle and also the fact that they have often been considered rather plain and even ugly. Quite by chance, I came across an article relating to the discovery of the Taraxacum Pankhurstianum; a unique species of Dandelion found on the remote island of Hirta, part of the St. Kilda archipelago. I was immediately struck by the idea of its existence in this apparently inhospitable environment (there are no trees on Hirta) and was reminded of the strong impression this unique place made on me when I briefly visited there a few years ago. One theory suggests that the flower may have been brought to Hirta by the Vikings and I couldn’t help but be impressed by how this resilient plant has survived on a rock in the middle of the ocean and outlasted the human inhabitants there who have come and gone.

The music I have composed no doubt reflects something of the remoteness of St. Kilda and is characterised by a very exposed use of airy natural harmonics and open strings throughout. My intention was to keep things as simple and unadorned as possible. I was attracted by the economy of means in the Oswald Airs and surprised at how substantial pieces of music could be squashed onto a single page of manuscript. This has been translated, or transplanted if you like, into my score by the use of tiny repeated cells which in my mind, have also taken on some of the physical characteristics of the fabulously delicate and complex seed head of the humble Dandelion.

The title comes from a chapter 'The changeless and the changed' in the book The Life and Death of St. Kilda by Tom Steel.

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