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.
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.
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.
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.
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.