Icelandic composer Valgeir Sigurdsson’s latest work, No Nights Dark Enough, for chamber orchestra and electronics was premiered by the composer himself (on electronics) and the City of London Sinfonia under Hugh Brunt on 17 June 2014 at the Village Underground, London, as part of the Spitalfields Festival. The 30-minute work was commissioned by Spitalfields Music, November Music and Dark Music Days, with support from Spitalfields Music's New Music Commission Fund and The Eduard van Beinum Foundation.
The event saw the City of London Sinfonia embrace darkness and melancholy with a John Dowland-inspired programme (the brainchild of Scanner, aka Robin Rimbaud) that flowed from Scanner’s Associate Artist series in 2012. The evening also featured Sigurdsson’s The Crumbling, sandwiched between Dowland’s own melancholic songs Flow My Tears & In Darkness Let Me Dwell. The programme then moved to the stark beauty of works by Thomas Adès (Darknesse Visible) and Arvo Pärt, and concluded with the world premiere of No Nights Dark Enough.
The composer writes:
‘John Dowland is not a household name where I come from, but the dude is mad famous in this country; so I thought I better do my homework when I was asked by Robin Rimbaud (Scanner) to write a new piece in response to and inspired by Dowland’s song, the unspeakably sad and beautiful Flow My Tears. Countless arrangements exist and many works that have been inspired by this well-known lute song. I didn’t want to directly reference or rearrange the original music, but I still wanted my piece to carry its DNA. Like a distant relative that might have a similarly shaped nose? So, as a way to inform the writing process, I listened to as many different recordings I could find and read the poem a thousand times before writing a single note. And then never again. Now I wonder what has survived the regurgitating spiral of sound recording, notes on paper and MIDI data that has since gone into writing No Nights Dark Enough.’
Working as a composer, musician, engineer and mixer, Valgeir has spent over a decade cultivating projects by diverse international artists whilst developing his own particular magic brand of recording artistry, establishing his record label and collective Bedroom Community in 2006.
“No Nights Dark Enough with its complicated rhythms and abrupt changes, was a menacing cousin of the Dowland work - Mexican waves of brass sound and a mechanical sound close to that of hydraulics, produced by blowing air and speaking through brass instruments, merged with watery effects from the electronics.”
Planethugill (Hilary Glover), 24 June 2014