The Last Time I Died is the first full-length album from the Irish composer Ailís Ní Ríain. The latest in NMC's Debut Disc series features a group of musically diverse artists performing a rich selection of Ní Ríain's chamber and small-scale works, the "theatre, intimacy, and nuance" of which has occupied the composer over much of the previous 20 years of her career.
Described by the Irish Times as "a significant talent" Ní Ríain's music has been performed across Europe and further afield in Brazil, Japan, and the USA. One of the principle ideas explored in Ní Ríain's work is communication with others, something which she has a unique perspective on as she is deaf/hard of hearing. Whilst this has sometimes placed her in challenging situations regarding verbal communication, her hearing differences have also heightened and enhanced how she relates to sound. The Last Time I Died is a portrait of a composer harnessing this unique experience of the sonic world to explore a huge range of substantial themes including consciousness, relationships, reality, and death.
Focal points on the album include Revelling/Reckoning, a two-movement work for wind quintet and percussion, which aims to reflect the contradictory nature of existence, heard here in a recording by the New London Chamber Ensemble and another musician who has embraced her hearing challenges in her artistry, the iconic percussionist Evelyn Glennie. Contradiction also lies at the heart of Hiding Out ‘Neath the Everything for violin and recorded altered piano, which explores the internal and external aspects of consciousness in this recording featuring violinist Darragh Morgan. Soberado, a toy piano work that reflects on experiences of sobriety, really exemplifies Ní Ríain's distinct approach to instrumentation in this recording by Xenia Pestova Bennett. Featuring Tim Williams on cimbalom and Tom McKinney on guitar, Thank You is a movement from Ní Ríain's 2010 music-theatre work Brief-Blue-Electric-Bloom, which combines music, sign language, poetry and animation, aiming to "enable a deaf audience and 'disable' a hearing audience so that they might 'receive' the work equally".
NMC’s Debut Discs are crucial calling cards, invaluable for showcasing composers to a wider public, giving them the opportunity to present a first full portrait album of their work. Debut Discs has to date supported 21 releases.
Xenia Pestova Bennett toy piano
Darragh Morgan violin
Ailís Ní Ríain pre-recorded piano
Tim Williams cimbalom, percussion
Paul Roe bass clarinet
Laoise O'Brien recorder
Frederik Munk Larsen guitar
Sarah Watts bass clarinet
Carla Rees bass flute
Tom McKinney guitar
Evelyn Glennie percussion
New London Chamber Ensemble
Darren Bloom conductor
'The sounds are bright, fresh, and inventive, the extra-musical ideas behind them wide-ranging and often provocative, suggesting that Ní Ríain’s larger-scale music would be well worth exploring, too.' The Guardian
'Seductively tintinnabulating [...] music that dances and delights,' BBC Radio 3 New Music Show
'Her bold approach to instrumentation, combined with ingenious imagining of musical shapes and their movement through auditory space, result in a series of delightful surprises.' The Wire
'This album shows a voice that is independent, exploratory and quirky.' ★★★★ The Irish Times
'This album presents not just miniatures inspired by the visual and internal world, although the conversion of sight to sound is of huge importance for Ní Ríain as a deaf/hearing-impaired composer and writer. These are descriptive conversations in instrument, with a fascinating interest in marrying sounds and resonances, unusual yet instructive, from pre-recorded piano to cimbalom and bass flute.' ★★★★ BBC Music Magazine
'Ailís Ní Ríain has been on the Irish music scene for some decades now (to say nothing of her international reputation), so it is well due that a CD of her work has been released.' Journal of Music
'The music evokes a conversation between humanity and the natural world. There are joyful, sometimes jovial voices with pensive interludes entwined with those of confusion and vocal utterances around illness, death and despair[...] Somehow, each piece is also a celebration.' Disability Arts Online
'A beautiful collection of quirky, engaging chamber pieces,' BBC Music Magazine
'Ailís Ní Ríain’s The Last Time I Died is a broad demonstration of her curious and unique creative mind.' Morning Star
'This well-produced collection of recordings is an ideal introduction to a highly original composer, with powerful and distinctive ideas. The featured performances are poetic and committed.' ★★★★★ Musical Opinion
FUNDERSThis album was made possible through the generous support of individual donors to NMC’s Imogen Holst Fund. Established to support recording projects by composers from backgrounds which have been historically underrepresented within both NMC’s back catalogue and the wider classical music sector, the Fund enables NMC to work pro-actively with a wider, more diverse range of composers than ever before.
To find out more and make a donation, please visit: www.nmcrec.co.uk/imogenholstfund
This recording was made possible with support from PRS Foundation Open Fund,
and the Vaughan Williams Foundation.
Soberado was recorded at Keeney & Stronge, Bangor, on 27 August 2021.
MICHAEL KEENEY Recording Engineer
Hiding Out ‘neath the Everything was recorded at the Irish Embassy, London, in July 2021.
CHRIS TANTON Sound Engineer & Producer
Parambassis by was recorded at TU Dublin Conservatoire on 24 September 2021.
BEN RAWLINS Sound Engineer & Producer
Our First Lesson in Forgetting was recorded at Symphony Hall, Musikhuset Aarhus, on 15 January 2022.
HENRIK WINTHER HANSEN Sound Engineer & Producer
Consent #7 was recorded at Lakeside Arts Centre, University of Nottingham, on 27 August 2021.
SIMON PATERSON Recording Engineer
Brief-Blue-Electric-Bloom: Thank You was recorded at Padfield Congregational Church, September 2008.
DAN POWERS Recording Engineer & Producer
Revelling/Reckoning was recorded by NMC Recordings at Stapleford Granary on 21 June 2022.
Seahorse [long snouted] was recorded at Ragdale Foundation, Illinois, USA, on 9 February 2019.
AILÍS NÍ RÍAIN Recording Engineer
PAUL ABBOTT Mastering
Don’t! was recorded at Marc A. Scorca Hall, National Opera Center, New York, on 4 March 2020.
PASCAL ARCHER Recording Engineer & Producer
The Last Time I Died was recorded at Hallé St Peter’s, Manchester, on 27 June 2022.
PHIL HARDMAN Sound Engineer & Producer
DAVID LEFEBER Mastering
Catalogue no.: NMC D270
Release date: 26 May 2023