Ian Stewart


Rock That Burns

Alto Saxophone : pre-recorded voice and electronic tape
(12 minutes 45 seconds)
Based on the folklore of the Pennsylvanian coal regions

First performance : Saturday, 27 September 2014
St. John's Notting Hill
London - U.K.

Kyle Horch - alto saxophone
Alistair Parnell - sound projection

Rock That Burns

Kyle Horch : alto saxophone (studio recording)

The pre-recorded, tape part includes spoken texts about the mining folklore, geography and geology of the Pennsylvanian coal region, electronic transformations (some subtle, some more extensive) of two sound effects taken from working mines, and synthesized electronic textures.

Voice - Stephanie Schmalzle
Voice recorded and tape mastered by Nick Sykes at Rooster Studios, London

Many thanks to geologist Hazel Gibson (Identification Officer for Earth Sciences, Natural History Museum, London), for checking, and advising on, the geological information in the spoken texts.

Programme notes:
Saxophone player Jason Laczkoski suggested I write a work based on the coal region of Pennsylvania, as no such work had been written using that rich source of folk music.
In researching the history and culture of this area, I am indebted to folklorist George Korson. I gained valuable insight, guidance and inspiration from his many excellent books on the subject.

The four folk tunes used as the basis for the saxophone writing are:

1. Millgow's Reel
2. Opusceny Banik z Wilks Barroch
3. Two-Cent Coal
4. Katzejammer.

Spoken texts on tape part:
Did you ever hear of finding coal seams
Lying tens, and hundreds, and thousands of feet,
Below the earth's surface,
By "sight or smell"?

No one can explain what it is
But there are miners who can sense
By trees, hills and atmospheric signs,
Coal seams beneath the snow covered ground.

She didn't know who made this song
About Slovakian miners,
Who left their homes in Central Europe
To work in Pennsylvania's mines.

The song's so sad and beautiful,
It almost makes her cry;
The song expressing lonely mines
That unjoined so many families.
The Central Appalachian Mountains;
Lackawanna, Luzerne, Columbia, Carbon,
Schuylkill, Northumberland, Dauphin County,
The Commonwealth's coal region.

The hard coal of Pennsylvania is different.
An anthracite miner with a pick,
Can sometimes make no impression,
On coal so hard.

In stagnant swamps,
Where plants decayed,
Coal formed.

Carbon, hydrogen,
Oxygen, nitrogen,
Sulphur; embedded in
Sedimentary rock,
Storing the energy
Of plant matter,
During the Pennsylvanian Age.

Between the inland sea's
Advancing/retreating shoreline,
And the still developing
Appalachian Mountains,
Vegetation turned into
Rock that burns.