Ensemble Thing: Independence

Scottish-Italian composer John De Simone brought his new work, ‘Independence’ to this years Fringe. Through the lens of Scottish Independence it tackles themes of identity, heritage, community and belonging. Written in the politically galvanising year prior to the referendum in Scotland, it was for De Simone, as it was for many, an opportunity for reflection on national identity. De Simone his self was born and raised in England but shares Scottish and Italian heritage. Interestingly De Simone is linked to the independence movement through his grandfather, John MacCormick was one of the founders of the Scottish National Party and it was the meeting of this with his Italian heritage which provided the catalyst for the work.

The performance consists of several movements interspaced with informal introduction and context given by De Simone himself. The work blends very distinct elements of contemporary classical minimalism with Scottish and Italian folk music. There is also the inclusion of a folk tune written by his late uncle, Ian MacCormick, also a Scottish National Party MP, which is not only a nice addition but punctuates the show and attunes the audience’s ears more carefully to the folk elements in the rest of the work.

Performed by Ensemble Thing. A violin, bass clarinet, cello, double bass make up the western classical element of the texture and an accordion brings the folk character in distinct Scottish and Italian moments. They play with passion and a tight precision.

De Simone’s interludes although interesting and contextually informative (he talks travel around Scotland and the history of the Scottish National Party) they are at times disruptive and rambling, the spoken word elements would have been appreciated more if condensed, formalised and concentrated into fewer breaks in the piece.

Independence is a coalescence of musical cultures, politics and an exploration of belonging. It is an examination of the individuals relationship with a much larger movement or tradition. Or as De Simone say, “it’s not a question of if you belong, it’s how you belong.

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