Afro Celt Sound System was formed by Simon Emmerson in 1995. The sound is a FUSION of African, Celtic, European Folk and Western popular music/EDM elements. Core member Jo Bruce died and Sinead O'Conner joined the band and recorded some vocals for what would become the set work 'Release'. The album 'Volume 2: Release" came out in 1999 and the group were nominated for a Grammy in 2000.
The instrumentation (forces) used in this song are key to its production and will almost certainly be a primary focus of GCSE questions on this set work. Make sure you can remember the instruments and how they link to either African, Celtic or EDM.
African: KORA (a harp-like instrument) TALKING DRUM
Celtic: HURDY-GURDY, UILLEANN PIPES, BODHRÁN, WHISTLE
European Folk: FIDDLE, ACCORDION
Pop/EDM: MALE & FEMALE VOCALS, SYNTH, SAMPLES (breath for example), DRUM MACHINE, SHAKER, TAMBOURINE.
The harmony of this piece is essentially STATIC meaning there are no chord sequences as such. A drone on C provides a tonal anchor. However be aware that:
The AEOLIAN mode is hinted at by the use of B♭ in many parts. Chords in the SYNTH PAD sometimes sound CHROMATIC due to shifting MODES used. It is still anchored around C though. During the Uilleann Pipes solo the DORIAN mode is generated by the use of A♮ in the synth and pipes.
The rhythms of this set work are fundamental and are likely to feature prominently in GCSE questions. The piece is in 4/4 time. The BODHRÁN plays a 1 bar OSTINATO throughout (after the free time introduction.) It is elaborated on at times such as adding TRIPLETS at the end of the bar but is still the backbone of the rhythm. This ostinato interacts with other loops and rhythms from the various instruments such as the ACCORDION. This creates POLYRHYTHMS. The accordion part accents different semiquavers within each beat to create SYNCOPATION.
The melodies in this piece are MODAL. O'Connor's melody lines are based on her opening motif. MALE VOCALIST Ó Lionáird's are more developed and cover a wider range. The instrumental melodies are highly IDIOMATIC of the instruments' use in FOLK melodies. The HURDY-GURDY solo shifts between the Aeolian and Dorian modes - this shifting tonality is common in folk and rock music.
Modern recording techniques are at the heart of the production. Many of the instrumental parts would have been recorded and then positioned in the song and repeated as LOOPS. A SYNTH provides chordal PAD sounds and DRONES. A FILTER is used to add interest and movement to the TIMBRE. The many parts are layered using MULTI-TRACK recording. The STERO FIELD is used to position parts (PANNING) and they are MIXED dynamically, louder during solos and then quieter. REVERB and DELAY are added to create a sense of space and for creative effect.
Questions are most likely to focus on how the different Celtic, African and Western styles are combined to create a FUSION. The STRUCTURE is determined mainly by the TEXTURE but can be listed as:
Intro - Vs 1 - Break - Vs 2 - Uilleann Pipe solo - Whistle solo - Break - Hurdy-Gurdy solo - Vs 3- Outro