Tower of Ivory is one of a series of pieces in an ongoing project called Where Your Treasure Is, about the gradual decay of a large painting I inherited, a painting of an Irish burial mound. Each piece in the four-part series is a meditation on a text from James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and the text for Tower of Ivory is this one:
Eileen had long thin cool white hands too because she was a girl. They were like ivory; only soft. That was the meaning of Tower of Ivory but protestants could not understand it and made fun of it. One day he had stood beside her looking into the hotel grounds. A waiter was running up a trail of bunting on the flagstaff and a fox terrier was scampering to and fro on the sunny lawn. She had put her hand into his pocket where his hand was and he had felt how cool and thin and soft her hand was. She had said that pockets were funny things to have: and then all of a sudden she had broken away and had run laughing down the sloping curve of the path. Her fair hair had streamed out behind her like gold in the sun. Tower of Ivory. House of Gold. By thinking of things you could understand them.
The music for Tower of Ivory takes off from an Irish traditional tin whistle tune known as Salamanca. I was introduced to the tune from a recording that was given to me by the poet Linda Norton. The whistle player may be Neansai Finnerty, but I’m not really sure.
Margaret Lancaster recorded fourteen tracks(!) of flutes on bass, alto, C flute and piccolo to make the pre-recorded tracks that accompany the live piccolo player. There is a bit of synth bassoon family as well, that may be replaced by real bassoons, contras, English horns, and so on in a future version of the piece.
Here is a study score for Tower of Ivory.
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