David Fennessy: Foot foot and other stories

David Fennessy Foot foot and other stories
Foot foot and other stories

David Fennessy: Foot foot and other stories

Year of composition:
2008
Scored for:
for 3 flutes and percussion
Composer:
David Fennessy
Duration:
13’
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Work introduction

1. My Pal Foot Foot

2. Letters to Jo/Innisfree

3. Who are Parents?

When I first heard the music of The Shaggs a few years ago I was intrigued and confused by its close-but-not-quite-together rhythms and harmonies. On first hearing, it seemed the music had no real cohesive element yet at the same time it made a weird kind of sense.

The Shaggs were a pop/rock trio from the 1960’s comprising three members, the sisters Dorothy "Dot" Wiggin (vocals/guitar), Betty Wiggin (vocals/guitar) and Helen Wiggin (drums). Guided by their ambitious father they recorded only one album, 1969’s Philosophy of the World. It has become something of a cult classic since then and is held up by many as a shining example of what has become known as ‘Outsider Art’.

The outer movements of this piece are interpretations or cover versions of two tracks from that album; My Pal Foot Foot and Who are Parents?

The middle movement, Letters to Jo/Innisfree is inspired by something altogether and literally, closer to home.

In 2001 the bodies of four women were found in a house in Leixlip, Co. Kildare, very close to where I grew up. They were three sisters Josephine (47), twins Catherine and Ruth (51) and their aunt, Frances Mulrooney (82). Apparently they had entered into some kind of suicide pact and, over a period of about four weeks, had starved themselves to death. Over the years they had become completely reclusive, deciding ultimately to have nothing more to do with the outside world. In the bin were found letters written by Ruth to her already deceased sister, Jo. They read as the jumbled writings of a desperate person and talk of moving on to "higher wavelengths", casting off "dense physical bodies". Elsewhere she expresses doubt, pleading "Please listen. None of us foresaw it could be this cruel and slow. It can deteriorate worse into a slow hell for the four of us (horrible loss of sight, great pain). Please listen”.

Somehow, I don’t know why, over time these two stories have become intertwined in my mind. Their characters have become interchangeable; the Shaggs taking on some kind of tragic dimension and the Mulrooneys producing this innocently awful yet poignant music behind closed doors.

Of course, the members of the Scottish Flute Trio are highly trained musicians and it has been quite a challenge to notate this seemingly unsophisticated music in an appropriate way for them to play.

I hope, like me, you find something in the cracks and stutters and the out-of-tuneness of it all.

David Fennessy

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