Prayers for a Feverish Planet

fiailí ceoil (2019) – John McLachlan (Ireland)

The title is Irish for musical weeds (pronounced ‘fyawly cyawl’). This is a nod to various early baroque collections with the title Fiori Musicali or ‘musical flowers,’ the most noted of which is the 1635 collection of keyboard (organ) pieces by Girolamo Frescobaldi. But the idea here is that in the modern era we find nature struggling through in wastelands, as we look to a future of more and more environmental degradation.

Just as weeds are often actually wildflowers which are as colourful and complex as cultivars, but more modest in scale, the music here may be thought of as almost representing the return of nature in a post-apocalyptic deserted landscape where various types of weed have broken through and taken over, with only their own wild natures to govern the overall arrangement.

In the context of Prayers for a Feverish Planet my piece is on the darker side: I imagined the current great man-made extinction through to its logical post-societal stage. A world of empty, slowly rotting cities with weeds springing through the concrete. For me this can be a sort of anti-prayer from an atheist who gives no centrality to ourselves as a species. When we have destroyed our civilization, Nature and the few remaining humans might return to a healthy balance. This is big-picture stuff that does not give me any pleasure to contemplate, but I have always since a child believed that all species have existential rights and we continue to trample on the others at our peril. To put it more positively, you might call my piece a paean to biodiversity.

Ann adds: This work is one of the longest of the series, and though it is in some ways very abstract, listen for the recurring musical motives.

John McLachlan

John McLachlan was born in Dublin and studied music at the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and Trinity College Dublin. He has studied composition with William York, Robert Hanson and Kevin Volans. He holds a PhD in musicology from Trinity College Dublin, where he specialised in researching the compositional techniques of Boulez, Xenakis, Lutoslawski and Carter. He lives in county Donegal.

His works have been performed in the U.S.A., Peru, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Moldova, Slovenia, Croatia, and around Ireland, with broadcasts in several of these countries. Performers who have played his music include the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Opera Theatre Company, the National Chamber Choir, Concorde, Sequenza, Traject, Archaeus, Pro Arte, Antipodes, Ensemble Nordlys, The Fidelio Trio, The ConTempo Quartet and Trio Arbós as well as many prominent soloists including Ian Pace, John Feeley, Mary Dullea, Darragh Morgan, Satoko Inoue and David Adams. Commissioners include the RTE NSO, New Music Dublin, Music Network, Lyric fm, the Musica Viva Festival and the National Concert Hall.

His music has been included on the following recordings: AIC CD 1, CMC CD 4, Irish Contemporary Organ Music (David Adams), CMC CD 9, Islands (John Feeley, guitar), Gothic (Mary Dullea, Metier records), Contemporary Irish (Dublin Guitar Quartet) and RIAM piano syllabus CDs; many of his pedagogical piano works have been published by the Royal Irish Academy of Music in their piano syllabus anthologies. First, a CD release of six works, is available from Farpoint Recordings.

He is also known as a broadcaster and writer on contemporary music, with many published articles. In addition, in his roles as Executive Director of the Association of Irish Composers (1999-2012) and Administrator of the Irish Composition Summer School, he has promoted Irish composers in an international context, presented international composers in Ireland, and run concerts, workshops, mentoring programmes and other events.

He is a member of Aosdána, Ireland academy for creative artists.

His music is available from the Contemporary Music Centre.