Lisa Illean’s 2021 work for electric guitar Tiding receives two performances in Germany and the UK this May. The seven-minute piece, commissioned by the London Sinfonietta, was performed on 6 May by Yaron Deutsch at the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik. Sean Shibe will perform the work on 26 May at the Norwich and Norfolk Festival.

Like many of Illean’s pieces the work uses idiosyncratic tunings. Each guitar string is retuned to an overtone of an 11 hertz ground fundamental. “It took me a long time to find the tunings—the right ‘colour’—for this piece”, Illean says. “Finding this was so important because in a way it is a monochrome piece: each phrase is a subtly different shade of the same hue.”

Illean’s piece is partly inspired by the work of artist Christine Baumgartner, especially her 2013 woodcut Deep Water. “I like her work very much”, says Illean, “…in particular how this image evokes the perception of a liquid form through very precise means…I think—or hope—this might relate to the tunings and especially to the rhythms in Tiding, which aim to create something aqueous and fluid through their subtle detail.”

Tiding was shaped by Illean’s childhood experiences of listening to the sound of the ocean at the seashore. Illean recalls submerging her head and hearing “the world sounding through water…patterns of distant chattering mingling with the periodic rubbing of the sea.” You can listen to an excerpt from Tiding, performed by guitarist Huw Davies who premiered the piece, here.

Tiding is the first of a series of pieces by Illean which explores elemental patterns; Tiding II, saxophone, percussion, piano and electronics, was premiered in 2021 by Trio Accanto and the SWR Experimental Studio at the 2021 Donaueschinger Musiktage.