The Odyssey of These Days and its place in the tradition

For some listeners, Odyssey of These Days may appear to be quite a different undertaking from The Clearing. Is Dréos taking off on a different track, or is Odyssey consistent with the vision of the ensemble?

Brandon responded to this inquiry with the following:

"Dréos is first and foremost an ensemble of performing composers that specializes in Celtic musicThis means that we will continue to write and perform music that uses a traditional vocabulary.  By “traditional vocabulary,” I mean the musical language of jigs, reels, strathspeys, and aires - music that’s directly linked to traditional Celtic forms of singing and dancing.

However, we are also interested in pushing the boundaries of the tradition, and placing traditional music and traditional instruments in non-traditional contexts.  That’s what Odyssey of These Days is about.  The project is a multi-media presentation of modern art and original music, scored for string orchestra, vielle à rue (think fancy hurdy gurdy played by Glen Waddell), and hardanger fiddles, with soloists Eliot Grasso (uilleann pipes) and Brandon Vance (violin) from Dréos. 

For a lot of people, I think the beauty of pure folk music is it’s very lack of self-awareness.  There’s a certain magic that happens when you’re sitting in a small pub in the country listening to traditional musicians playing seemingly endless sets of tunes, while you sip on your pint of porter).  The musicians aren’t there for you - they’re doing their own thing, and you get to witness it from the sidelines.  

However, as soon as we create a folk music presentation or concert, we find ourselves in the position of trying to fit these traditional tunes into some sort of narrative.  It is no longer pure folk music at this point, because it has been lifted from it’s traditional setting.  The goal is now not only to play music for personal enjoyment, but to entertain an audience of people for a fixed period of time.  We are now in the business of storytelling.

The Odyssey of These Days takes that degree of narrative to the next level.  So instead of a series of lovely short stories (which is what most folk music concerts are), the experience is more similar to reading a single novel. 

While the formal setting of Odyssey of These Days might seem to veer from Dréos's more traditional fare, I do think this project fits into Dréos’s overall vision, going forward.  We will continue to write our “short stories,” standing firmly in the tradition.  But we will also be expanding some of those short stories in to longer narratives.  It’s up to you to decide which you prefer.  You might even find that you like them both."

Learn more about The Odyssey of These Days HERE.

Eliot Grasso