Posted on May 5th, 2010 by

Extract from ‘Shibboleth’, by Jim Aitchison

Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great

 West Smithfield 

  Giuseppe Tartini –  30 Tasso Sonatas

  Peter Sheppard Skærved – Violin 

  Summer Series

 Wednesday May 19th  7.30 pm 

 Tartini Sonatas 1-5

 + Ignaz Franz Biber, Jim Aitchison & Judith Bingham

 Admission: £12. (£6 concessions)

   The public art event of 2008 was Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth, the chasm which, it seemed, suddenly split Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in two. This extraordinary piece had a profound impact on the public imagination, inspiring countless private and public responses.

 Jim Aitchison’s passacaglia, Shibboleth was stimulated by a visit the composer made to the installation, and composed in a single burst of creativity immediately afterwards. Its first performance, on the 25th March 2008, was an extraordinary private drama. After weeks of negotiations, the composer, with Peter Sheppard Skaerved and filmmaker Immo Horn, were given access to the piece in the early hours of the morning, before the gallery opened. The piece was played walking along the entire length of the Salcedo’s fissure, and filmed on a hand held camera.

 A few days later, the installation was over, just a memory, but leaving this extraordinary piece of music, which draws a creative link between the  arc of the artwork, and the historical trajectory of the passacaglia, from Biber, through Bach, to Brahms and Webern to now.

 Shibboleth is not the first great ‘walking’ solo violin work of our times; that honour goes to Philip Glass’s iconic Strung Out. But it charts a giant  emotional curve, climaxing in a ‘great barbaric yawp’, which might point to hidden truths lurking beneath the ciaconna/pasacaille tradition.

To see Immo Horn’s Film of this unique first and only performance with the installation, go to: Link



Appropriately enough, Shibboleth is being played alongside Heinrich Franz Ignaz Biber’s Chaconne, which bears the title Guardian Angel, companion of Mankind. The manuscript of this iconic work of the 17th century carries an engraving of the Schutzengelwalking with its ward – a child, for children we all are.

Biber 'Guardian Angel, companion of Man' (from the Manuscript)

 Jim Aitchison will be talking about his work the day before the concert at the Royal Academy of Music.

 Soundbox Tuesday May 18th 1230   

String Gallery, Royal Academy of Music  

Marylebone Road, NW15HT (Admission Free)

More on Jim:

Nicholas Clapton, Jim Aitchison, Anthony Gormley, with the Kreutzers


For more information on the series, go to: