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Presence of Absence - Oscar Bettison

by Ensemble Klang with Michaela Riener & Matangi Quartet

  • Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album

    Includes 20 page booklet, with notes by Aaron Hostetter, photographs, texts from the works, and a Q&A between composer Oscar Bettison and Ensemble Klang's guitarist Pete Harden.

    Includes unlimited streaming of Presence of Absence - Oscar Bettison via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
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  • Digital Album
    Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      €9 EUR  or more

    You own this


A sight An imprint A fold. A sight. Sighted, Sprung, Extant or Corporeal. Wave and impulse, Defined and encompassed, Visceral and electric. A sight An imprint A fold. An imprint. A trace, A surface. Splinter or Specter. Mark and weather, Sharpen and cover, Flow and fletch. A sight An imprint A fold. A fold. A façade, A shroud. Shrines or Satellites. Envelop and weave, Warp and luster, Smother and break. A sight An imprint A fold. A sight A shroud A shrine. A sight A trace A crease. Lull Lulled Lulling.
In Shards 05:15
Fixed, In shards In heimal shards. Affixed, In tendrils of time. An array of arcs. Filaments.
The Ruin 17:00
(Traditional Anglo-Saxon) Wrætlic is þes wealstan, wyrde gebræcon; burgstede burston, brosnað enta geweorc. Hrofas sind gehrorene, hreorge torras, hrungeat berofen, hrim on lime, scearde scurbeorge scorene, gedrorene, ældo undereotone. Eorðgrap hafað waldend wyrhtan forweorone, geleorene, heardgripe hrusan, oþ hund cnea werþeoda gewitan. Oft þæs wag gebad ræghar ond readfah rice æfter oþrum, ofstonden under stormum; steap geap gedreas. Wonað giet se ...num geheapen, fel on grimme gegrunden scan heo... ...g orþonc ærsceaft ...g lamrindum beag mod mo... ...yne swiftne gebrægd hwætred in hringas, hygerof gebond weallwalan wirum wundrum togædre. Beorht wæron burgræced, burnsele monige, heah horngestreon, heresweg micel, meodoheall monig dreama full, oþþæt þæt onwende wyrd seo swiþe. Crungon walo wide, cwoman woldagas, swylt eall fornom secgrofra wera; wurdon hyra wigsteal westen staþolas, brosnade burgsteall. Betend crungon hergas to hrusan. Forþon þas hofu dreorgiað, ond þæs teaforgeapa tigelum sceadeð hrostbeages hrof. Hryre wong gecrong gebrocen to beorgum, þær iu beorn monig glædmod ond goldbeorht gleoma gefrætwed, wlonc ond wingal wighyrstum scan; seah on sinc, on sylfor, on searogimmas, on ead, on æht, on eorcanstan, on þas beorhtan burg bradan rices. Stanhofu stodan, stream hate wearp widan wylme; weal eall befeng beorhtan bosme, þær þa baþu wæron, hat on hreþre. þæt wæs hyðelic. Leton þonne geotan ofer harne stan hate streamas un... ...þþæt hringmere hate þær þa baþu wæron. þonne is ...re; þæt is cynelic þing, huse ...... burg.... (English translation, Aaron Hostetter) These wall-stones are wondrous — crumpled by calamity, these city-sites crashed, the work of giants corrupted. The roofs have rushed to earth, towers in ruins. Ice at the joints has unroofed the barred-gates, sheared the scarred storm-walls have disappeared— the years have gnawed them from beneath. A grave-grip holds the master-crafters, decrepit and departed, in the ground’s harsh grasp, until one hundred generations of human-nations have trod past. Subsequently this wall, lichen-grey and rust-stained, often experiencing one kingdom after another, standing still under storms, high and wide—it failed— The wine-halls moulder still, hewn as if by weapons, penetrated [XXX] savagely pulverized [XXX] [XXX] shined [XXX] [XXX] adroit ancient edifice [XXX] [XXX] bowed with crusted-mud — The strong-purposed mind was urged to a keen-minded desire in concentric circles; the stout-hearted bound wall-roots wondrously together with wire. The halls of the city once were bright: there were many bath-houses, a lofty treasury of peaked roofs, many troop-roads, many mead-halls filled with human-joys until that terrible chance changed all that. Days of misfortune arrived—blows fell broadly— death seized all those sword-stout men—their idol-fanes were laid waste — the city-steads perished. Their maintaining multitudes fell to the earth. For that the houses of red vaulting have drearied and shed their tiles, these roofs of ringed wood. This place has sunk into ruin, been broken into heaps, There once many men, glad-minded and gold-bright, adorned in gleaming, proud and wine-flushed, shone in war-tackle; There one could look upon treasure, upon silver, upon ornate jewelry, upon prosperity, upon possession, upon precious stones, upon the illustrious city of the broad realm. Stone houses standing here, where a hot stream was cast in a wide welling; a wall enfolding everything in its bright bosom, where there were baths, heated at its heart. That was convenient, when they let pour forth [XXX] over the hoary stones countless heated streams [XXX] until the ringed pool hot [XXX] where there were baths Then is [XXX]. That is a kingly thing— a house [XXX], a city
Eigengrau 09:36
The hue of iteration, Coruscating. A mark Without order Without coordination. An action Moving Changing place. The hue of iteration, The saturation of relics, The chroma of dust. A haloed perception Altogether Extant And ashen. A filament. The chroma of dust.
The index of time. A Babel. Each room darker, Darker still. The icon, stronger than word, The figure as imprint. The index of time. A column of traces. The shadow holds the weight, the breadth, the heft. Breath in a realm of figments. A kingdom of traces, of auras, Resplendent in gloom. A figure, A trace, A mark, A filament, An index. The scraped residues of time.


Oscar Bettison’s (1975) five-movement Presence of Absence reflects on Western Civilisation as builder and destroyer of cities. A soprano and ten musicians weave together contemporary and ancient texts to evoke the cultures’ ruins: observations through the gauze of what remains. The interspersal of excerpts about these physical spaces of absence – Roman ruins, oceans, and interstellar space – roots the work both in our moment and in the remove of time.

Liner notes and extra context can be found here: www.ensembleklang.com/oscar-bettisons-presence-of-absence/


released September 10, 2021

Michaela Riener, soprano

Ensemble Klang:
Erik-Jan de With, saxophone
Michiel van Dijk, saxophone
Anton van Houten, trombone
Joey Marijs, percussion
Saskia Lankhoorn, piano
Pete Harden, guitar

Matangi Quartet:
Maria-Paula Majoor, violin
Daniel Torrico Menacho, violin
Karsten Kleijer, viola
Arno van der Vuurst, cello

Micha de Kanter, sound

Recorded by Micha de Kanter on 12 October 2020 & 16 November 2020
Mixed, edited & mastered by Micha de Kanter
Produced by Micha de Kanter & Pete Harden
Design by Duel (www.studioduel.nl)

Ensemble Klang Records Nr 12

Made possible with financial support from Sena Performers
Ensemble Klang Records is a production of Stichting Ensemble Klang which is financially supported by the City of The Hague and the Performing Arts Fund NL.

Presence of Absence was commissioned by the Eduard van Beinum Foundation at the request of Ensemble Klang, Festival Dag in de Branding and Stichting Dans en Muziekcentrum Den Haag. It was premiered at Festival Dag in de Branding on 15 October 2016 in the Nieuwe Kerk, The Hague. www.dagindebranding.nl

Texts are all written by, and copyright, Oscar Bettison, except The Ruin (anonymous Anglo-Saxon).

Oscar Bettison’s music is published by Boosey & Hawkes. www.boosey.com


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