Apparition in the Woods

November 2, 2009

I’ve made a new record and it’s available, signed, today at the website: here . If you don’t want it signed do say so. Now I’m going to tell you a bit about it.
In 2006, and this may not be where you expect me to start, my kidneys packed in. I ended up on dialysis and was hitched to a life-saving machine for 18 months. The time crawled by. It was a pretty crappy period in my life. I managed to make ’57 stars’, a record I am very fond of, as an escape. After it’s release I got more and more unwell, and the music that I wrote was starker, more somber. My usual method of writing is to do the music first, then to foist a tune and finally a lyric on top. I’d written around an hours worth of music by September 08, but hadn’t the energy or desire to write words. They wouldn’t come. Was I getting writer’s block?
On September 21st I got a late night phone call inviting me in to my local hospital for a kidney transplant. The next month was a time of great joy and astonishment. I recovered quickly, the kidney didn’t reject, and hope, a fragile sensation, returned.
Once back home I started playing the music I’d written. I still really liked it but I now couldn’t put myself into the words – my elation wouldn’t fit onto these elegies. I was even more stuck.
Speaking to David McAlmont he introduced me to the oddity that is Julia Cameron’s The Artists Way. Not for everyone. And for cynical atheistic me a great challenge. But I stuck with it, it got me writing, and things moved forward, helped also by not being at doctor work.
David talked to me about his Lyrical VeritĂ© ideas – of writing about news events. And as I’ve said elsewhere this got me going.

I’ll tell you about the songs if you like. Today, Track 1, A Lark Descends.

This was the first piece of music written for the record, around the time I was finishing up ’57 stars’. Finding a tune to go with it was a real challenge. The words were originally going to be about my illness, but instead I wrote about someone else’s. In this case it’s Frederik Delius, British-born composer of delights like Mass of Life. As he got older and blinder and more broken it became apparent he needed help to carry on his writing. His protege, what he called his amanuensis, was his eventual biographer Eric Fenby. He was the channel, the pair of hands, to get Delius’ ideas down on paper. He could be trusted because he somehow knew and understood how to capture the muse that pulled Delius in his particular direction. It’s a touching story, and what moved me was that Fred carried on writing despite his health problems, as if it mattered. As if the world needed what he had to say. His legacy is a huge amount of extraordinary music. I know I don’t match that, that’s not the point. It’s the trying and the persisting I like. The first line – ‘My back feels broken these limbs are tight and still. But God’s voice is still sounding these notes in my head’ – sets the scene. The title is a misappropriation of a Vaughn Williams piece, a composer who took Delius’ heritage and then bounced off into his own glorious world. Please go and listen to these composers works, Vaughn Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is a good place to start.

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One Response to “Apparition in the Woods”

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