Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and Music Network announced the appointment of the chamber group Ikigai as the third Musicians-in-Residence for 2020 in September.
During their residency Ikigai are exploring material which has inspired them as a group, whilst also working on their own individual compositions. Their performance will showcase the trio’s diverse musical interests, and will feature exciting new work alongside unique interpretations of existing material.
The dlr Musician-in-Residence scheme is jointly funded by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council and the Arts Council and managed by Music Network.
Andrew Sheeran on Ikigai
"In January 2020 we formed Ikigai, a Japanese concept referring to living a meaningful life. As the year unfolded it seemed very apt as we all have had a chance to contemplate our direction and purpose in life. We hope our programme will bring enjoyment to the listener and transcend at least momentarily every-day cares in the way that music often can.
Sharing a mutual love of so many of the same composers from minimalist and ambient genres, we began playing together, working in a way that was inspiring us and building on the type of music-making Gabriele and I enjoy with Glasshouse.
Wanting to reflect these shared interests in our programme, we included works by some of our favourite composers in this genre, one being Embers by Max Richter which is a beautifully written piece for violin, piano and cello. As I play both violin and viola I found that the lower timbre of viola particularly suited this solemn contemplative piece. Gabriele’s proceeding composition provides a contrasting harshness and anger to the pieces either side of it in the programme. Similar to the Max Richter, we found an introspective quality in the two pieces by Radiohead: Like Spinning Plates and Pyramid Song. I have always found their work to lend itself particularly well for arranging due to their wide range of genres and harmonic and rhythmic diversity. We aimed to enhance the lyrical sonority of Pyramid Song through the low register of the cello, and Maja’s jazz background inspiring her to further develop the syncopated jazz feel.
Unravelled, written by Maja is a minimalist piece originally for bowed electric bass, slide guitar, voice, piano and electronics. We really enjoyed aiming to imitate the ghostly quality of the original version through artificial harmonics, before later on becoming more extrovert in expression as the cello takes over the main melody. When first hearing this piece it reminded me a little of the pianist-composer Nils Frahm, for whose work we all had a fondness. I couldn’t think why I was reminded of him, but some time later it struck me that the chord progression from his Because This Must Be, was very similar to Maja’s Unravelled and so by putting them side-by-side in the programme Unravelled almost sounds like an extension or development of the Frahm.
Having worked with Aran O’Grady via the ensemble Glasshouse, for the residency we commissioned him to re-arrange his piece Melatonin, which I had given the premiere of the year before. My only complaint to him at the time was that it was too short! Aptly titled, it evokes the head spinning feeling of lying in bed waiting for sleep, with various threads of thought popping up in consciousness before the slow section at the end signifying the relief of finally falling asleep. My own piece, Circuits, concludes the programme. Taking inspiration from Melatonin in its rhythmic nature, it features a repetitive riff on piano that sustains throughout the whole piece. A short improv section acts as an interlude, before the cello develops an expressive melody in the final section.
I’ve always had the desire to compose and thanks to this residency I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to compose for the first time and have a videoed performance of the work!
The residency has been a really rewarding time for us as a group, it was a unique opportunity to have the time and space to write new music, develop our own arrangements and progress our musical sound and vision. Thanks to Music Network, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown Arts Office and the Arts Council for facilitating the residency, a really positive occurrence during this chaotic and bizarre year."
Ikigai members Andrew Sheeran, Gabrielė Dikčiūtė and Maja Elliott’s musical careers have been inspired by a wide range of styles from classical and Baroque music to indie-rock, folk and experimental genres.
As members of the contemporary chamber ensemble Glasshouse, Andrew and Gabrielė have performed pieces by indie-folk artists such as Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver as well as by minimalist composers such as Max Richter, Johann Johannson and Olafur Arnalds.
Influenced by the creative experiences of collaborating with musicians from a range of different musical genres, Andrew and Gabrielė came together with jazz pianist and European folk singer Maja Elliott to form Ikigai.