Phil Legard: Angelystor

Angelystor, score (c) Phil Legard, 2014

Composed by Phil Legard

Performed by Phil Legard, Layla Legard & Briony Yorke

“Estimated at 4,000 to 5,000 years old, the ancient yew in the churchyard of St. Digain, Llangernyw may be the oldest living thing in the British Isles. It is strangely apt that such a long lived tree – immortal by comparison to our own lifespans – should grow next to a church reputed to be haunted by an ‘angel of death’, known in local folklore as Angelystor. It is said that the spirit visits the church on All-Hallows’ Eve to announce the names of those who will die in the parish over the coming year.

This work developed from a series of field recordings made by Layla on a visit to Llangernyw shortly after we were married in October 2013. Sadly, we lost an unborn child on the day of the winter solstice: the piece is at once a meditation on folklore, a journey from dusk to dawn, and a cryptic memorial to the ‘non-child’ who had briefly been with us. For the most part, Angelystor is a foreboding, dark, heavy, saturnine piece, although the ‘dawn’ section beginning around 26:00 is brighter and more diaphanous in tone. It is also a long work, which prompted me to devise a graphical listening score to help listeners orientate themselves to what is a long, sometimes challenging work.

The tonal material for Angelystor was developed from the field recordings themselves, from the spectral analysis of two crow calls, which yielded a hexatonic ‘crow scale’, played by the piano and organ. In the middle sections, the human voice is also convolved with the crow calls to suggest the presence of the spirit Angelystor. The closing sections incorporate the chant Adol-rwng-fa, which was said by the Welsh mystic Charubel to be the mantra of the yew tree, and a powerful ‘soul remedy’ against depression and ‘morbific effluvia’.” (Phil Legard)

Angelystor is published by Wounded Wolf Press as a CD and 72-page hardbound book, containing the graphic score, photography by Layla Legard and further explorations on the themes of the composition. woundedwolfpress.co.uk/portfolio/angelystor

About the Artist

Phil Legard is a senior lecturer at Leeds Beckett University, and has a background in experimental music, particularly in the fields of generative and algorithmic composition. Since the turn of the millennium he has explored the influence of ‘place’ (and particularly history and folklore appertaining to places) as the fundamental ground for composing and improvising. This has led to a number of solo and collaborative multi-disciplinary works involving sonic art, oral history and photography as well as research into the implications of cognition on the creative, or poetic, imagination. 

Recent creative outputs include the multi-media projects Almias (Harrogate International Festival, 2010), Angelystor (Wounded Wolf Press, 2014) and Hawthonn (2015). He is currently contributing to The Alchemical Landscape, a research project initiated by the Cambridge University Counterculture Research Group, exploring the creative, aesthetic and political implications of the contemporary ‘turn’ toward ‘enchanted’ geographies.