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Donnacha Dennehy

Publisher: G. Schirmer

STAMP (to avoid erotic thoughts) (2008)
Commissioned by Music Network (with funding from Arts Council Ireland) for the Smith Quartet
G Schirmer Inc
Small Ensemble (2-6 players)
Sub Category
String Quartet
Year Composed
8 Minutes
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Programme Note
Donnacha Dennehy STAMP (to avoid erotic thoughts) (2008)

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Composer Note:
STAMP (to avoid erotic thoughts) takes as its point of departure some bars from an Italian Saltarello dating from the 14th century, a manuscript of which is housed in the British Library. It is a particularly wonderful dance, which in this instance switches instantly between a 7/8 and a 6/8 grouping. I take this subversive wrong-footing as a license to develop various metrical intrigues through STAMP, and the piece is infused throughout with bars that can simultaneously be perceived as 6/8 or 3/4.

Having recently fallen in love with the French Estampie I had wanted to use this as a source. It has a wonderful, occasionally wrong-footing, form bound together by recurring rhyming ending refrains. Johannes de Groecheio, writing in the 14th century, claimed that the Estampie was so complex so that it obliged the young people dancing it to concentrate and avoid erotic thoughts! I thought “wonderful” did it ever catch on here? However the extant notations did not trigger a way forward for me, so I was delighted when I found this particularly strange Salterello, as that Italian form is quite clearly derived from the French Estampie.

I like to think of the spirit of this piece as a strange cross between the ringing visceral open-stringed resonances and energy of an Irish session and the wonderful twists and turns of these related medieval dance forms.

— Donnacha Dennehy

  • Ensemble
    The Smith Quartet
    Signum Records:
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