there is still time

Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths

Frances-Marie Uitti and Paul Griffiths, together for the first time on disc, both making their ECM debuts as performers.Cellist Uitti is an innovator, creator of many new techniques for her instrument. The great composers of new music have collaborated with her – from Cage to Scelsi, from Carter to Nono, from Xenakis to Kurtág. She is herself a composer as well as an inspired interpreter, and also an improviser of the first rank. Paul Griffiths was the librettist for Elliott Carter’s opera “What Next?”. He is also one of the best-known – and one of the most highly-respected – writers on music, and has a growing reputation as a writer of fiction. His novel “Myself and Marco Polo” won the Commonwealth Writers Prize.
“There is still time” resists categorization, but the recording is special, and these “Scenes for Speaking Voice and Cello” should be heard.

Featured Artists Recorded

August 2003, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date


  • 1I cannot remember
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 2think of that day
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 3how I wish
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 4without words I
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 5call from the cold
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 6touching
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 7there it was
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 8the bells
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 9some where
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 10without words II
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 11for you
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 12I did look
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 13without words III
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 14my one fear
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 15without words IV
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 16the door
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
  • 17when this is over
    (Frances-Marie Uitti, Paul Griffiths)
Consigliato da Musica Jazz
This concept album defies categorization, even by the eclectic standards that producer Manfred Eicher has made the hallmark of his venturesome label. Frances-Marie Uitti is a French cellist and composer who specializes in contemporary and 20th Century music. Paul Griffiths is a British music critic, author and librettist who shares her passion for new music. Together they have devised these 17 "scenes for speaking voice and cello" that fuse his poetic reflections with Uitti's music to form a kind of meditative melodrama for today.
Griffiths' carefully controlled delivery gives the words their primacy in the dialogue. Rather than simply mirroring the text, the cello creates its own scenario of furtive cries, whispers and scurryings, some of which sound as if they have been electronically altered - although, given Uitti's amazing virtuosity, one cannot be sure what she plays actually has been altered.
In Griffiths' slow, contained delivery, words and images circle each other, taking on new bite and urgency each time they recur. The power of his poems lies in their severity. They speak dispassionately about passion - or, rather, about the doubts and hesitancies of people living in an electronically "connected" world who are isolated from their emotions but still need desperately to reach out. The poems, combined with Uitti's minimalist cello undercurrent, give There is still time its wistful, rueful, often bleak tone.
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
On a new ECM disc, There is still time, Uitti plays her own music while Paul Griffiths reads his poetry. Griffiths … has a voice that sounds like Uitti’s cello … and he uses it the way she plays: intense, throbbing, now and then breaking off and darting in some unexpected direction. … There are 17 poems in There is still time, some of few words, some crammed with words and breathless. When its 55 minutes are past, it is nearly impossible to resist playing the disc immediately again.
Alan Rich, LA Weekly
This recording gets into your head and into your thoughts in ways most don't.
Uitti's music is a combination of drones and extra-musical effects, such as tapping on the cello's body, that fits the discursive words well. She's not accompanying him, he's not fitting the words to her music; they're equal partners in messing with your head.
Marc Geelhoed, Time Out Chicago
This unique collaboration between cellist Uitti and speaker Paul Griffiths creates an intriguing blend of text and music. Griffiths, deriving his inspiration from Ophelia’s speeches in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, shapes his lines in a series of poems, soliloquies and statements. Uitti weaves her musical magic to provide an intimate balance.
Gavin Engelbrecht, Northern Echo
Kaum jemand vermag mit seinem Instrument ein derart dunkles Leuchten zu erzeugen wie Frances-Marie Uitti auf ihrem Cello. Im Zusammenhang mit der Lyrik von Paul Griffiths gewinnt ihr Ton eine weitere Dimension. ... Die Intensität, mit der Griffiths einzelne Worte und Brocken zwischen den Cello-Klängen hindurchlässt, bestimmt, wie weit sie ins Bewusstsein des Hörers vorzudringen vermögen. Das einzelne Wort klingt, als würde es in einem unendlichen Klang gerade erst erschaffen. Für diese CD muss man sich Zeit nehmen. Sie muss sich entfalten, sich über die Sinne einen Weg bahnen in den Verstand und von dort geläutert zu einer reinen, unverstellten Sinnlichkeit zurückfinden. ... Was bleibt, ist ein Gefühl unvergleichlicher Intensität und Erleichterung.
Wolf Kampmann, Jazzthetik
Cello und Sprecherstimme sind gleichberechtigt einander zugewandt an der Gestaltung beteiligt, es gibt weder einen Dialog noch eine musikalische Begleitstimme, es gibt nur verschiedene Seiten einer Persönlichkeit. Ein spannendes Projekt, dem sich auch der nicht perfekt Englisch Sprechende langsam über die Schönheit der Klangsprache nähern kann.
Margarete Zander, Rondo
Griffiths ha espunto le parole che evocano immagini dell’esperienza sensoriale trattenendone solo alcune particolarmente potenti e capaci di proiettare un’atmosfera su un intero segmento. Lavora su quelle che evocano flussi interrogativi tesi a scandagliare e definire una situazione psicologica ma esse vanno a urtare invariabilmente contro una parete invisibile che le rimanda come echi, mutilate o distorte nel significato originale. Vengono riformulate, accresciute o diminuite semanticamente da spostamenti a volte solo impercettibili, instillando nel processo l’angoscia che, se le parole non fossero filtrate dal prisma della passione, assoceremmo all’universo di Beckett.
Ma è il violoncello a collocare definitivamente queste scenes in una dimensione drammatica. È l’invisibile interlocutore di Ofelia l’origine degli echi che ingenerano il dubbio e lo smarrimento; è il sipario che si apre e si chiude su un segmento; è l’impulso discontinuo ma irresistibile che a volte le parole invocano per essere sostenute e sospinte; è il pandemonio di forze e di colori di un cielo temporalesco che una frase o una parola o solo una pausa ha il potere di far balenare.
Musica Jazz
A recording unorthodox even within the wide-ranging context of ECM New Series, “there is still time” is subtitled “Scenes for speaking voice and cello”, which may be as close as one can come to a succinct description of its contents. The disc is a premiere on several levels and provides the first public evidence of the artistic collaboration between American cellist Frances-Marie Uitti and British writer Paul Griffiths. “This is a cherished project that has been close to my heart for many years,” says Uitti, “and I celebrate that it has found its rightful home.”

Paul Griffiths is well-known as a writer on music, a novelist, and, latterly a librettist (see Elliott Carter’s “What Next?” and Tan Dunn’s “Marco Polo”). This is his first recording as a performer, reading his own texts, yet “there is still time” cannot be consigned merely to the “spoken word” category, nor does it fit into the current vogue for “audio books.” It is more than this. The original impulse for the project came from Frances-Marie Uitti, the extraordinary cellist whose musical sensitivity and innovations in extended technique have inspired composers from Kurtág to Cage, from Andriessen to Ferneyhough. “There is still time” is also Uitti’s New Series debut.

On this recording, music and speaking voice work in partnership. “It’s as if there are two people, “ says Griffiths, “and you’re listening to them both. And there’s no background and no foreground.” Uitti notes that “spoken text and music can clash. They are two different media going out at the same time. So: how do you make a musical statement that is not an accompaniment? That was the challenge.”

“There is still time” has a long history. In 1997, Uitti came to New York to lead a festival based around the music of Giacinto Scelsi, the reclusive Italian composer with whom she had worked closely, and in whose rediscovery she had played a significant role. Paul Griffiths, then a music critic for the New York Times, interviewed her in this context.

In further exchanges between musician and writer, Uitti said that she’d been reading and enjoying Griffiths’ novel, “The Lay of Sir Tristram”. Did he have any material she could use for a piece for voice and cello? Griffiths gave her part of a work-in-progress that had been preoccupying him for years, a work in which all the words are derived from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Ophelia’s speeches provide the entire word-stock for “there is still time”. Shakespeare only gives Ophelia a vocabulary of 482 words. Paul Griffiths uses these, in fresh permutations, and with very remarkable fluency, to create something new.

In an introductory note in the CD booklet Griffiths (and Ophelia) give a foretaste of the process in action:
“Words and music. Two in some chamber. Before and now. Speech and play. Composed and done as it comes. That time when you and I were we. The shaking, and then the memory. To speak of all that in no more than these words. And for music to tell what it will.”

The unidentified protagonist of “there is still time” is able to say a lot. Griffiths: “What was interesting to me was the idea of having somebody kind of imprisoned, unable to use any other words, and trying to express herself, but constantly knocking against the wall. Somebody who is trying to articulate her state of mind as clearly as she possibly can, but constantly being constrained. Obviously there’s an element of game involved, but there’s a psychological element as well…”

Uitti responds to the text, its repetitions (almost like ‘themes’), finding their counterpart in music that is structured, but includes elements of improvisation: “It’s like having a tree,” she says, “wherein the leaves blow.”

Working primarily within one “slightly melancholic” modal tuning to create a harmonic unity through the work, she realizes a quiet but concentrated chamber music of real emotional power. Frances Marie-Uitti plays three different instruments, including an electric cello, on the recording, “to add timbral contrast as well as pitch contrast” and also makes discrete use of her revolutionary two-bows technique. “But simplicity, a minimalistic quality and sometimes almost a whispering music were called for. Complexity was not an option, without waging war with the words.”