Margaret Bennett's lovely memoir of her son, Martyn - It's Not The Time You Have came to musical life in the Spiegeltent, as Cathal McConnell and Alan MacDonald among others, including Margaret herself recollected one of Scotland's most remarkable musicians. For those whom the last twenty years have passed by, or who still think Scottish traditional music is stuffed in the cupboard along with the Harry Lauder records, Martyn Bennett's complex re-mixing of competing traditions and contemporary sound-scapes would be a revelation. Pulling back the curtain and blowing away the cobwebs along with the pre-conceptions and prejudices surrounding folk music, Bennett was lord of a dance into a bright challenging future for Scottish music.
Latterly only able to work from a mixing desk, Bennett continued to produce material which is likely to stand the test of time and become a permanent memorial. Both as a piper and fiddle player, Bennett would deserve consideration and respect. His talents, however, were wider, and in his short thirty three years of life he produced compositions and arrangements which would be achievements for men twice his age. A perfectionist who nevertheless generated great affection as well as respect, his passing has left Scottish music much the poorer, but with a tremendous legacy on which it's hoped other can build.
A packed Spiegeltent was testimony to the affection and regard in which Bennett was held, not only by his fellow musicians but also by the Scottish public. Notoriously hard to please and unimpressed by reputation alone, the response to Bennett's musicianship crossed boundaries of age, background and experience. Even those who think they've never heard Bennett play very possibly have - his credits include a TV advertisement for Scott's Porage Oats. But it's possibly for his last album 'Grit' that he will be best remembered, and for the track 'Liberation' from it, in which Gaelic psalmody and the voice of Michael Marra combine beautifully and disturbingly One comment on his passing sums up what's been lost and what's been left behind - 'Think of Martyn in your heart, not in your head. He's not far away. He never is.' As long as his music is played, he never will be.
[i] Martyn died on the last night of Celtic Connections 2005—January 30.
"It's Is Not The Time You Have…" Note and Memories of Music Making with Martyn Bennett, compiled by folklorist and singer Margaret Bennett (Martyn’s mother), the book is a collection of evocative, informative and amusing anecdotes from a wide range of contributors including Brian McNeill, Cathal McConnel, Sheila Stewart, Martyn’s piping teacher, fellow musicians and friends.