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Part 6 – Bansuri, Duduk and the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra

I studied clarinet at the City of Belfast School of Music and for two years I played 2nd clarinet in the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra. In 1985 the orchestra toured Germany and Austria playing the music of Mahler, Rossini and Copeland. My clarinet tutor was Arthur Acheson and he was an inspiration to me and also introduced me to the world of jazz and improvisation. I learnt alto saxophone and ended up playing in the City of Belfast School of Music Stage Band.

CBSM Stage band director Arthur Acheson (me, front row third from left).


Woodwind instruments have always been very close to my heart and I was keen to introduce the timbre into my Troubles soundtrack. Rather than use the traditional woodwind of an orchestra I opted for instruments from around the world. The more conventional woodwind instruments did not feel right to me for a score to do with The Troubles and Northern Ireland. I wanted an earthier tone: something that had a rawness and edginess. I brought in woodwind player Dirk Campbell and his wonderful collection of woodwind instruments.

A selection of instruments used in the score, played by Dirk Campbell.


My intention for the woodwind in the soundtrack was to have these moments where they would feature and the listener would not really know what they are listening to: fragments of motifs. Sometimes it would be a duduk (similar in tone to a clarinet, but more haunting) and other times the raw overtones and abrasiveness of the bansuri flute.


The earthy quality of the flutes was a lovely contrast to my purer electronic soundscapes…they seem to ground the music and give it a sense of place and meaning.


I used the following instruments in the soundtrack, all played by Dirk Campbell:


Fujuara – Slovakia

Duduk – Armenia

Kaval – Balkans

Bansuri Transverse Flute – India

Dizi – China

Suling – Japan


Read the final part of my 7-part series on Scoring The Troubles: A Secret History here.


Read about The Troubles Suite here.