Last heard at Oslo’s Ultima festival in 2013 in a version for voice and Indian harmonium, Tansy Davies's Song of Pure Nothingness was premiered in a new incarnation at the University of St Andrews in February by countertenor Andrew Watts and Huw Watkins. Written for Watts, who created the role of the Shaman in Davies’s 2015 opera Between Worlds, it formed the dramatic centrepiece of a portrait concert which also included grind show (electric) and inside out 2, as well as a conversation with the writer Michael Faber.
Like Troubairitz, this song is a product of Davies’s fascination with the Troubadours. The 11th-century poem by Guillaume IX d’Aquitaine is a kind of riddle and, asked why she keeps revisiting it, Davies commented ‘I think it has a lot meaning for me in the psychological sense; I see myself in it and perhaps it works on me like a mirror reflecting back unknowable secrets, unearthing hidden pain and bringing dark things into the light, all the while supported by a hidden inner strength. It’s also funny, and completely without melodrama, which I find very attractive.’