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The Louth Contemporary Music Society (LCMS) have just released a new recording called ‘Four Thousand Holes’. The piece was composed by John Luther Adams and is based upon the iconic Beatles song ‘A day in the Life’. The society’s director Eamonn Quinn writes for HeadStuff about the story behind their new recording and their forthcoming concert on May 5th as part of the Drogheda Arts Festival.
The Beatles recorded ‘A Day in the Life’ between the 19th and 20th of January 1967. Lennon apparently wrote the song only two days previous, when he and Paul McCartney read the Daily Mail newspaper and their eye caught the following headline: “There are 4000 holes in the road in Blackburn Lancashire, one twenty-sixth of a hole per person, according to a council survey”. It was from this point of departure that Lennon penned the iconic lyrics “I read the news today oh, boy. Four Thousand Holes in Blackburn, Lancashire”.
I grew up the youngest of a family of nine children. I inherited all my brother and sister’s record collections which, fortunately, included The Beatles. I was also born on January 18th 1967 so the song ‘A Day in the Life’ has always resonated deeply with me. When an opportunity arose in 2017 to apply for funding from Creative Ireland, I knew I wanted to work on a project that would mark the 50th anniversary of the iconic Beatles track.
The American Pulitzer Prize winning composer John Luther Adams had created an experimental piece of music called ‘Four Thousand Holes’. His composition was based on the final chord from the famous Beatles track. On his recording Adams takes the sound from that final chord (The E Major) he then takes that final sound, stretches it, reverses it, and processes it over the 30 odd minutes of the piece so that it formed a tape. He then layers additional piano and percussion on top of this. Adams explains how he “conceived the entire piece as a single complex sonority that evolves slowly. As we settle into the sound, we begin to hear longer lines, counterpoint, and maybe even the occasional trace of tune”.
And so we set about recording a new version of ‘Four Thousand Holes’. The recording took place in June 2017 in St. Peter’s Church Drogheda with pianist Ian Pace and percussionist Simon Limbrick. The track is part of our society’s latest album Floating.Drifting.
On May 5th Japanese pianist Taka Kigawa and percussionist Russell Greenberg from New York will be coming to Ireland to perform the piece as part of the Drogheda Arts Festival. It’s always been our aim with the society to work with the most important of international artists on the contemporary music scene. To have such a high calibre of performers collaborate on a project that has its origins in a small border town in Ireland is quite wonderful.
“I think Four Thousand Holes is one of the most inventive and ingenious pieces of music of our time” Taka declared during our recent conversation about the forthcoming concert. “The instrumentation is rather simple, piano, percussions, electronic sound and so is the basic element of the piece the major and minor triads. But John Luther Adams has superimposed them, utilising multiple complex polyrhythms and the ever slowly changing electronic sound he calls aura. The result is the music track’s almost surreal sonic world”.
John Luther Adams remarked in his notes for the composition of the track that he had “never really felt completely at home in the classical music world. Personally, I’m especially uncomfortable with much of the so-called crossover music of recent years, in which classical musicians attempt to expand that tradition (and demonstrate their street “cred”) through appropriation of elements from pop music. In spite of this skepticism, ‘Four Thousand Holes’ is my own effort to re-appropriate and reclaim for myself something of my own musical past. For the first time since my days as a rocker, I’ve chosen to restrict myself to major and minor triads—those most basic elements of Western music both pop and classical.”