Currently involved in a multitude of projects – with contemporary folk band This Is How We Fly or with Cork-based experimental group Quiet Music Ensemble among others – Dublin-based woodwind instrumentalist Seán Mac Erlaine has also been devoting himself to improvisation and solo performance since 2006. Playing a wide array of free reed instruments such as the clarinet, bass clarinet, chalumeau, alto saxophone or a free reed Chinese flute, the musician complements and processes the sound generated by the instruments with live electronics using MIDI controllers and software of his own design.
His first solo recording Long After the Music is Gone (2012) was introduced as a meditation on the Irish landscape. With A Slender Song released on the Ergodos music label in November 2014 last, Seán Mac Erlaine keeps elaborating his own personal cartography: all ten tracks on the record were improvised, performed and recorded live between 2012 and 2013 in venues across the four corners of Ireland.
Adopting a similar approach to German pianist Nils Frahm with his Spaces live record, the musician becomes a sensory receptacle for his immediate environment on the day of the recording. During that “immersive” and physical process, the journey to the venue, the shape, the size and the acoustics of the indoor venue or the dynamics of the outdoor venue as well as the energy exchange taking place between the musician and the audience all impact on the performance in some shape or form.
Long-form immersive improvisation for saxophones and live electronics – Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Ireland:
Quoting the work of psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his research on the notion of the creative flow – “an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he is doing.” – Seán Mac Erlaine notes that
Undertaking improvised music performance brings me to a space entirely distinct from common, everyday life. The quality and intensity of this space is of great significance to me as a performer and often serves as the sole measurement of the success of a performance […] In the presence of this flow state, my observation is that this special state becomes communicated to an audience. This in turn can help foster a sense of immersion and meditative listening. The music is often pitched with this in mind as is the choice of venue, lighting and my overall approach to performance. Seán Mac Erlaine – Redesigning a Performance Practice (2013)
Mirroring this creative flow and experimenting beautifully with the textures of the various woodwind instruments used on the record, subtle electronic loops and rhythmic layers, distortion or digital delays all enrich the sonic tapestry of flowing, fluttering or droning notes.
A haunting collection of slow airs, A Slender Song sometimes plays like an ambient field recording, expressing all the colours, organic nuances and natural sounds of a quiet landscape.
In an effort to capture the unique and physical nature of the performances, A Slender Song was released as a limited edition transparent orange vinyl with the disc echoing the striking dark orange sun on Cork-based artist Craig Carry’s front cover collage.