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Aiden O’Rourke & Kit Downes: 365 Project

Wed 15 May, 8:00pm at Red Brick Auditorium

Tickets: £14 (£12 concessions) , approx running time: 90mins

Age: 12+

Aidan O’Rourke, the multiple BBC Folk Award-winning fiddle player and founding member of Lau (probably the most avant-garde and dynamic experimental folk supergroup of our time) spent a year writing daily musical responses to James Robertson’s short story collection: 365 – one song every day!

As a result, he has now teamed up with BBC Jazz Award-winning piano and harmonium player Kit Downes and together with O’Rourke’s innately Scottish traditional musical backbone crossed with Downes’s jazz influences they bring you an unforgettable evening of powerful live music.


Aidan O’Rourke says:

It all began with short stories. James Robertson, one of my favourite Scottish authors, wrote a short story every day for a year, and each story had exactly 365 words. Quite a task! I was given the collection for Christmas in 2015, and began reading the stories every day.

I loved reading those stories: a daily dose of poetry and wisdom. And I loved the writing. The language is emotional, concise, apposite. Somehow the words and the pacing of the stories felt musical. I was intrigued by the discipline of setting such a quantifiable daily creative ritual. Would the same be possible in music…? 

By February 2016, I had decided I would take on a similar writing challenge each day for a year. I told James and he replied, ‘don’t do it!’, then suggested I give it a month and see if it drove me mad. By 28 February 2017, I had 365 new tunes, each one linked to a story from James’s collection.

There’s no doubt the tunes are based in Scottish folk music; that’s my backbone, the place I come from, the traditional language I love. There’s a parallel with James here, too, because he loves old Scots words and tales. But, like the music I make with my trio Lau, I’m always interested in new ways of playing with old forms.

Meanwhile, I had started an exciting new duo with piano/harmonium player Kit Downes. He has an extraordinary ear for harmony, informed by jazz and Ravel and the church organ repertoire he grew up playing. Occasionally I would send him rough solo recordings of the tunes and he would respond by harmonising them. He did complex and wonderful things with them, took them places I hadn’t imagined.


We got together in the studio in Edinburgh in the spring of 2017 and spent several days going through the tunes. We made a demo — the process felt adventurous and intuitive. From there, I booked a series of rural village hall gigs in Scotland in July 2017, and every time we played the tunes they seemed to grow and change and keep surprising us. 

My aim is to record all 365 tunes (made possible with support from Creative Scotland) and to release selected highlights as two double albums (365: Volume 1 in 2018, then 365: Volume 2 in 2019). In the summer of 2019 I plan to build a touring installation that will present all of the tunes, stories and audio recordings together.


James Robertson says:

“I am amazed that Aidan O’Rourke went through an entire year composing his daily musical responses to my 365-word stories. I am even more amazed, and deeply impressed, by the beauty and variety of these recordings by Aidan and Kit Downes. It has been a joy working with them in live performance and I look forward to doing so again in 2018.”