The Zephyr and the Swallow

The Zephyr and the Swallow

A collaboration

I am a Krzyzis fan—pronounced “kr-zh-iz-uh-s” (“zh” as in “azure”) or alternatively, “crisis”. When I first heard Sustainability (2016), I knew that I wanted to work with him. There is a rawness about his music, a sound I admire that does not come to me naturally. Krzyzis creates deep, dark, droning soundscapes whilst I have shifted my focus to tranquil, quiet and tuneful compositions. His melodies are subtle and spectral, whilst mine are distinct and expository. In a collaboration, I saw the perfect opportunity to borrow his genius and in The Zephyr and the Swallow, our two approaches come together.

A meditation

Living in the Overberg, a predominantly rural region in the Western Cape province of South Africa, I am surrounded by vast stretches of countryside. There are mountains, rivers, valleys and hills, but my imagination has always been captured by the fields. They are like oceans of grass that change colour with the seasons. Early in life, I learned to appreciate their beauty and in an attempt to express my admiration, I turned to poetry and music.

The idea of using these two art forms for this purpose took shape around the time I first spoke to Krzyzis about my vision for new music in 2016. I had in mind a project that would take advantage of the unique opportunity track titles presented for poetic exploration. I wanted to treat them as lines of verse and set their poetic content to music to create a vignette of rural beauty, a meditation on a pastoral theme, and so the collaboration was born.

An ode

For this reason, the project began with poetry. The lines had to be descriptive and of a contemplative nature, setting the tone for the music whilst also functioning as track titles. I drew inspiration from traditional Chinese music where the titles often have an illustrative, even lyrical, quality. Examples of these are “Fei Hua Dian Cui (Floating Petals Decorating the Green Leaves)” and “Ping Sha Luo Yan (Wild Geese Descend on the Smooth Sand)”.

Filled with a Romantic adoration for the pastoral, I turned to a poem by Richard Adams in Watership Down in which he describes the wind blowing over the grass. It brought to mind the summer when barn swallows visit the Cape from Britain. They dash across the fields, diving into the grass to catch insects disturbed by the breeze. The grass itself blows like waves in the wind, full of movement yet strangely restful.

I perceive in such imagery a visceral beauty and wanted to reproduce it in verse; and so the EP was conceived as an ode, an ambient idyll in verse and music, celebrating the loveliness of a fleeting, familiar moment in the countryside. With this in mind, I wrote The Zephyr and the Swallow—a simple verse describing a simple scene in simple language:

Over the field the zephyr blew,
Into the sky the swallow flew.

A synthesis

The music became an extension of the verse and in spirit illustrates the scene with melody, mood and lyric content, attempting to preserve in a soundscape the transience, tranquillity and ordinariness of the moment. It drew from the verse not only its theme but also its character, including the addition of vocals—for in describing the EP as an ode and having written a lyrical poem, setting the words to music followed almost naturally.

The verse also inspired the simplicity of the composition and its arrangement. We went so far as to remove the strings I had written, once Krzyzis delivered the pad sections. They rendered strings superfluous, perfectly occupying that space and providing the obbligato part of the instrumentation. His drones rise and fall like the wind, gently transporting the narrative tunes upon textured echoes, sweeping the music along.

Thank you

It has been a wonderful experience working on this project with Krzyzis. We hope you enjoy the outcome as much as we did the production and I wish to thank everyone who made this project possible, namely: Krzyzis for his mesmerising drones and generosity, Lofthill for his creativity and incredible voice, Taylor Deupree for his insight and mastering expertise, Mike Langman for his exquisite illustration of the swallow, and everyone who will hear this music for their quiet contemplation.

The Zephyr and the Swallow is available on all music platforms, including Apple Music and Spotify.

On Collaboration

Road with Wildflowers by Francesco Gallarotti

The value of a vision

Over the past few months, dark ambient musician Krzyzis (rhymes with Pisces) and I have been working on a collaboration. We first spoke about the project at the end of 2016 when I began outlining an idea for new music which I knew would benefit from his atmospheric approach. I presented my vision to him at the beginning of this year and was delighted when he announced that he was on board. Once production started, we found that having a clear vision was extremely helpful, especially in making key creative decisions. Not only did it keep the project on course but it also kept us in check: it encouraged Krzyzis (who can be surprisingly feral) to practice a little restraint and me (restrained to a fault) to be a little more adventurous.

Creative room

Collaboration added an interesting dimension to composing music, especially in the initial stages, because it meant creating an incomplete work. There had to be room for Krzyzis to occupy. Conceiving of music in this way was an intriguing experience. As a solo musician, I compose every aspect of the music but as a collaborator, I had to imagine what my collaborative partner would add to the composition and forecast what arrangement would best compliment that addition. I had to be flexible but clear, true to my ideas but mindful of his. Ultimately, the challenge was to combine the themes that define our individual styles into a cohesive whole and we learnt a lot about ourselves as musicians in pursuit of that goal.

We look forward to announcing our collaborative EP in the weeks to come and in the meantime, I invite you to listen to Krzyzis’ haunting body of work at krzyzis.bandcamp.com

Image by Francesco Gallarotti

My Pastoral Romance

A Field of Yellow Flowers - Matteo Silvestri

Home

One autumn evening, I drove from the city to the countryside to visit my parents. I stopped beside the familiar road, got out the car and stood in the darkness—listening… It was quiet all about except for the gentle bleating of sheep in the distance. I could see every star in the Milky Way and the air was cool and clear. A wave of longing swept over me. I had been weary of living in the city and I knew the time had come to move back home.

Inspiration

Nearly a decade later, I have not once regretted that decision. The countryside is my home, the rural landscape an extension of my being. It is the setting in which I write my poetry and compose my music and it profoundly influences what I want to create, namely a combination of poetic and musical works that reflect my love for the bucolic. I am a Romanticist, compelled to extol the beauty of the pastoral and (by extension of that movement) the virtues of emotion and imagination.

Muse

My recent works for Forgotten Fields express this fascination and weave into it the melancholy and nostalgia that inevitably emerge in my compositions. They describe simple moments of rural beauty I wish to preserve, translating them into a poem or a piece of music in order to extend and sustain them. I am attempting to create a container for the heart and mind in which poetic metaphors and ambient soundscapes capture emotion, memory and time.

Theme

The collaboration with Krzyzis will be the first release dedicated to this subject, conceived as an ode to a windy summer’s day. It will be followed by a track inspired by the winter rain, composed for the upcoming Astoria Sound collaborative project. I am also working on the new Forgotten Fields album, which will be the fullest expression of these ideas in poetry and music.

Image by Silvestri Matteo