Learning to Howl: Music by Andrew Ford

ABC Classics 481 0188

Influenced highly by literature, particularly Shakespeare, Andrew Ford’s music is inspired by his surrounds (real and literal). His oeuvre is a wondrous voice in Australia’s new music landscape.

Andrew Ford

Andrew Ford

Taking a diverse array of literary sources for his song cycle, Learning to Howl, Ford crafts a set of songs which are pensive, charming, melancholic, and even witty (as in I’m Nobody! Who are You?). Whilst all are possessed with lyrical qualities amongst the dissonance and angular vocal lines, A Birthday … My Love has come to me is perhaps the most accessible. His use of mixed ensemble (clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, harp and percussion) with the pure soprano voice of Jane Sheldon, coupled with imaginative use of text (word painting and lack of melismatic writing) has a directness.

A reprise of one of the songs from the cycle, albeit with a modified ending, forms The Birthday of My Life, which becomes a beautiful vocal solo with harp.

The flute and clarinet duo, Sounds and Sweet Airs have some delicious interactions, particularly in the dance-like section.

Snatches of Old Lauds, a solo for bass clarinet with drones (celli and double bass) sees melody gloriously rise phrase by phrase.

The remaining large-scale work is the radiophonic work, Elergy in a Country Graveyard (set for recorded voices, mixed ensemble, natural sounds, choir and brass). Interspersing liturgical texts, Shakespeare, a Parry hymn and recorded natural sounds, it is mesmeric.