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Dwr Taith/Water Journey Project

dwrtaithDwr Taith or Water Journey, is a research and development project to look at secular music of the 15th century, in particular the dance form and new musical instruments of the time, and place it in both historical and contemporary musical contexts, by initially undertaking a journey and then working with musicians and a composer from Slovakia.

Inspired by the extraordinary discovery in 2003 of a medieval ship in the mud of the river Usk in Newport when excavating the foundations of the Riverfront Theatre, the project, supported by the Festivals in Levoca, Presov and Kosice (City of European Culture in 2013) in Slovakia and the  Riverfront Arts Centre Newport Wales has many creative stimuli.

The ship dated to the mid 15th century and was a trader that transported goods between Wales, England and Europe, and plied its trade at a time of enormous exploration, discovery, opportunity and developing diversity in culture and society. 'People's' music was increasingly being heard, new instruments developed, and much movement of population stimulated change and invention.
The crew would have met the peoples of these countries and empires, and listened to the new guitar, the tamburitza, bagpipes and drums on their difficult but lucrative trips. Placing these instruments into contemporary contexts, one still sees the balalaika (sister to the tamburitza) played in much of the Slav countries today, the guitar is prodigious in all its modern forms throughout the world, and drums and bagpipes are played throughout the Celtic cultures in Europe.

Through this project I want to bring this time of excitement and change to life by placing myself in the position of one of these seamen. The journey at the core of this project therefore is to follow an imaginary but possible route of the trading ship which ended its days in Newport, South Wales, and experience the cultural mix of Celtic, Islamic and Eastern flavours the mariners themselves would have been exposed to in Wales, France, Iberia and the Balkans.

By listening to the music and musicians, absorbing their ideas and musical forms, melodies and rhythms, what unites and what differentiates, and using the whole experience, I hope to construct a time capsule of sounds with musicians and a composer from Slovakia, working with guitar, old and new keyboard instruments, percussion and bagpipes. The characteristics of the music will be diverse, the instrumentation group unusual, but from this eclectic mix I hope will come creativity and exploration of new musical ideas, which will combine historical and contemporary sounds and styles.

Mark Latimer January 2011