Tuesday 24 June 2014

Argatnél: early Irish mythology meets contemporary classical music

If any of our readers still need convincing of the sheer variety of strange and surprising places a degree in ASNC can take you in life, we direct your attention to the achievements of ASNC graduate Edmund Hunt. Edmund started here as an undergraduate in 2002; since leaving he’s been busy establishing himself as a distinguished composer of classical music, and is currently a PhD candidate at the Birmingham Conservatoire. Edmund has been in touch with the department about his most recent piece of work, an orchestral piece entitled, with a nod to the composer’s ASNC past, Argatnél. Argatnél ('silver cloud' in Irish) was one of four pieces recently performed by the London Philarmonic in an evening to celebrate work produced with the support of the Leverhulme Young Composers scheme. The piece was inspired by reflection on the 'Otherworld' as it is depicted in Immram Brain ('The Voyage of Bran'), an Old Irish prose-and-verse narrative which takes mythical Bran mac Febail on a rather intriguing journey. Edmund explains the title in this interview, and also describes how studying medieval literature has enriched and informed his subsequent artistic life.  

Argatnél  certainly seems to have dazzled one Telegraph critic when it recieved a premier in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Lodnon, on 9th June; you can read the review here.

We'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate Edmund and to wish him well with all his future endeavours. 

Friday 20 June 2014

From the BBC: why Icelanders are wary of elves

Plans to build a new road in Iceland ran into trouble recently when campaigners warned that it would disturb elves living in its path. Construction work had to be stopped while a solution was found. Read more on the BBC website here

Monday 9 June 2014

Taking England back to the Dark Ages? An ex-ASNC writes for the BBC

Tom Shakespeare, a former student of ours, has written an interesting, ASNC-inflected article on regional political identities in England.  You can read it on the BBC website here.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Important new Anglo-Saxon coin

Dr Rory Naismith writes:

Later in June 2014, an important Anglo-Saxon coin is due to be sold at auction by Dix, Noonan and Webb in London. It was discovered in March this year by a metal-detector user who promptly brought his find to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge for identification. There, it was quickly identified as the fourth known penny of Æthelberht II, king of the East Angles: a ruler who was executed by order of Offa, king of the Mercians (757–96), in 794, and who went on to be the object of veneration as a saint. It was also included in the Corpus of Early Medieval coin-finds.

The three pennies of Æthelberht known before this find all carry a well-known design showing the king’s bust on one face and a wolf and twins on the other, recalling Romulus and Remus, the twins responsible for the founding of Rome, but possibly also playing on the name of the traditional East Anglian royal dynasty, the Wuffingas (‘Wolfings’). This new coin carries a completely new design of elegant cruciform motifs on both obverse and reverse, as was common on the coins of other contemporary rulers, not least Offa. It demonstrates effectively how even one new coin might modify understanding of a poorly known ruler. In this case, the new coin indicates that Æthelberht’s coinage was more diverse than had previously been supposed, and that not all his coins carried such symbolically charged iconography. They emerge as something more than a special one-off issue to call attention to the king’s status. That said, Æthelberht apparently only ever had one moneyer – a man named Lul – working for him, whereas Offa had several at any one time in the same (or a nearby) mint-place in East Anglia. Æthelberht’s coinage was a relatively small enterprise, and its relationship to Offa’s own coinage remains unclear. Its proclamation of a rival king’s royal status surely would not have gone unnoticed by Offa. On the other hand, Æthelberht’s execution in 794 was only the final stage in their interactions: things may not always have been so antagonistic, and a comparatively diverse coinage for Æthelberht perhaps points to toleration on Offa’s part, conceivably over a period of several years. Further clarification can only come from further new coin-finds.