Guitarist Sean Shibe has recorded Oliver Leith’s Pushing my thumb through a plate (2017) on his acclaimed new album Lost & Found, released through Pentatone on 26 August. The original version of the 7-minute work was written for harpist Oliver Wass. Shibe gave the premiere of his arrangement of the piece for electric guitar on 1 April 2022 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. Listen to Shibe’s version of Pushing my thumb through a plate here.
Shibe’s recording of Pushing my thumb through a plate sits at the centre of Lost & Found, dividing the album into two halves; Shibe’s version lasts 10 ½ minutes. “This is music about movement and fluctuation”, Leith writes of the piece. In both versions for harp and electric guitar the player detunes the strings during the piece bending the pitches, exploring microtonal tunings that Leith often exploits in his music. The piece creates an atmosphere of uneasy, woozy transcendence.
In the Guardian Erica Jeal described it as “express[ing] in sound the impossibility of shifting molecules out of their pattern”; Fiona Maddocks called the work “a meditation on flux and inconstancy”. Shibe’s esoteric album places Leith alongside music by Hildegard von Bingen, Olivier Messiaen, Moondog, Shiva Feshareki, and Daniel Kidane, amongst others.
On 7 October Leith’s new chamber opera Last Days opens in the Linbury Theatre at London’s Royal Opera House. Based on Gus van Sant’s 2005 film, Last Days is directed by Matt Copson and Anna Morrissey, with a text by Copson. Grace Smart is set designer, with lighting by Prema Mehta. 12 Ensemble with guest artists George Barton (percussion) and Siwan Rhys (piano/synthesizer) join conductor Jack Sheen in the pit. The cast includes Agathe Rousselle, who makes her West End debut as Blake, the musician at the centre of the drama. Full details of cast and performances can be found here.