This March

Sheep on the Hill, 16 March 2018. Copyright 2018 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
I took this photograph of a flock of sheep peacefully grazing on a hill.

I was tricked by a bird!

I have been working on the last of a set of three poems titled “The Batis” for the greater part of March. The Cape batis is a small bird with one of my favourite calls—three simple notes which it measures out in the sweetest whistles: foo-foo-foo, foo-foo-foo. I have been enamoured with the creature ever since I first heard its call and was compelled to adore it in verse! The subject of the third “The Batis” poem was not, however, this particular three-whistle call, but another: cherooo-weet-weet-weeeet. I had attributed this call to the batis because I had seen the bird sing this song last year, and in the “The Batis III” verses, describe both bird and call (and the joy it brings on autumn mornings) based on that incident.

A few mornings ago, hearing again the cherooo-weet-weet-weeeet, I ventured out to see if I could spot the bird. To my surprise, I discovered it was not a batis singing but a robin-chat! Puzzled, I set out to learn how I came to misidentify the songster and learned that robin-chats sometimes imitate the calls of other birds. I realised how I may have been tricked. When I identified the batis, last year, two things must have happened: the robin-chat sang the batis foo-foo-foo at one point and its own cherooo-weet-weet-weeeet at another, and I mistakenly attributed the latter to the batis, thinking it another of its calls; and since the birds look somewhat similar at first glance, subsequent sightings evidently compounded my error.

A Batis in the Tree, 5 May 2017. Copyright 2017 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Cape batis (Batis capensis) in the garden.

Robin-Chat in the Tree, 5 May 2017. Copyright 2017 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Cape robin-chat (Cossypha caffra) in the garden.

This meant I had written an ode to the wrong bird and it had to be changed! Upon evaluating the poem, I found that only the title and two lines needed replacing. “The Batis III” became “The Robin-Chat” and I exchanged two descriptive lines in the second verse—“A little bird of black and white / Brushed with reddish-brown”—for new ones more suitable, given what had transpired. Thus far, “The Robin-Chat” (heretofore “The Batis III”) has taken the longest to write and is still being revised in light of the new edits. Its four verses, though short, have, thanks to the subject matter, proven a fount of poetic possibility. Whether it becomes part of the final publication or not, it has been an adventure to compose!

I discovered an early poem.

This month, a year ago, I wrote “Rains and Roads”, the first poem drafted specifically for my poetry publication when it was still a distant idea. I came across the poem whilst organising my notes. It was dated 16 March 2017, a rough sketch borrowing somewhat from an earlier 2012 poem, “Autumn”. “Autumn” was the first poem I had ever written on a pastoral theme; in retrospect, my first essay at the format I would ultimately embrace: the Romantic lyrical ballad. “Rains and Roads” continues the theme of “Autumn” but applies it to winter. It consists of two verses and describes a wet day in the countryside: the sun breaks through the clouds after a shower of rain and rivulets trickle beside the gravel roads.

I spoke to David Armes about the poetry publication.

David Armes of Red Plate Press created and produced the handmade letterpress sleeves for the eponymous Forgotten Fields album. I spoke to him earlier this month about publishing the poetry as a handmade booklet—a paperback edition that draws on the minimalist theme of the aforementioned album. In my experience, looking into production early on has a positive effect on a project, and it has certainly been the case here. It has helped me define the concept of the work and thereby the nature and form of the publication. I function best when I have a clear framework for my creative pursuits—it liberates me from the tyranny of carte blanche—and so, articulating my thoughts to David was a boon.

I received the Origins masters and commissioned its artwork.

Taylor Deupree of 12k Mastering has done wonderful work with the recordings for Origins, the first release of contemporary classical pianist Affan and the inaugural release of the Lonely Swallow label. Origins is a collection of six impromptus recorded in low-fidelity. It has all the makings of an intimate, melodic and atmospheric listening experience which Taylor has expertly brought to life in the masters. During the aforementioned conversation with David Armes, we also touched on the visuals for Origins. He will start producing ideas on the press in April, bringing us another step closer to announcing a release date.

Mentioned in this post:

Batis capensis, Cape batis (Wikipedia)
Cossypha caffra, Cape robin-chat (Wikipedia)
“Autumn” (Forgotten Fields Blog Post)
Red Plate Press (Official Website)
Affan (Soundcloud)
Lonely Swallow (Official Website)
12k Mastering (Official Website)

This February

Late Summer Hills
I took this photograph as the gentle light of late summer rolled over the hills of the Overberg region. February has come and gone, and it is now autumn in South Africa, my favourite season.

I officially decided to create a small book of poetry.

Over the past year, I began composing a series of simple rhyming verses inspired by the sights and sounds of my rural surroundings. Altogether, I have written twenty-nine sketches which I started developing into complete poems in January. I now have enough material to present as a small publication and since the compositions share a theme, they should work as a collection. In the coming months, I shall devote all my attention to completing the poems, a task I very much look forward to!

Forgotten Fields Poetry Publication Progress, March 2018
A summary of the poetic sketches and my progress. “Autumn” was the first poem I ever wrote about the natural world which I hope to revise and include in the collection.

I realised that I may not release new music in 2018.

Whilst I am pleased to be working on the book, it does mean that I am not working on new music. I prefer to focus on one project at a time and consequently, a new release depends entirely on when I finish the publication. All the same, there are many new and existing musical ideas I am eager to develop, be it this year or the next, that further explore the Romantic themes of my work.

I made progress on the Lonely Swallow label.

Though I may not release music myself, this year, I will help others release theirs. I have mentioned before that Lonely Swallow has welcomed Affan, a young contemporary classical composer from London who I am very excited about. His first EP, Origins, will be the first release of the label. It is presently in the capable hands of mastering engineer Taylor Deupree. There is no official release date, yet. The label is in its infancy and I am in the fortunate position of not having to rush the process.

Lonely Swallow Label Aesthetic Mood Board
Some of the design work inspiring the aesthetic of the Lonely Swallow label.

Mentioned in this post:

Affan (Demo of “Origin I”, Soundcloud)
Lonely Swallow (Official Website)
Taylor Deupree at 12k Mastering (Official Website)

This January

Landscape, 2 January 2018
I took this photograph on 2 January 2018 in the rural surroundings that inspire my work. It is summer in South Africa from November to February and the fields are awaiting the rain.

I returned to Twitter after a month-long hiatus.

Previously, I had a list of blocked words the length of my arm as people found increasingly more innovative ways to moral grandstand. The artistic community feels compelled to comment on political and social issues in the most petulant manner imaginable on a platform wholly unsuited for productive conversations on such matters. This counterproductive behaviour detracts from an artist’s work and has become a blight on the artistic landscape. For this reason, I follow no one—it eliminates unnecessary unpleasantness whilst I continue to follow artists where it matters: their shopping carts.

I spoke to the first artist for the Lonely Swallow label.

I was introduced to the music of Affan, an unsigned neo-classical composer from London, six months ago. He contacted me long before I had any thoughts of launching a label. Earlier this month, I approached him about making Origins, his forthcoming and first EP, the inaugural release of the Lonely Swallow label. His improvisational style is exemplified by this composition for the piano titled “Origin II”:

I started working on new poetry.

Last year, I composed a number of poetic sketches inspired by my rural surroundings. This month, I started refining them. The first sketch, “The Sunbird”, was written at the end of May in 2017 and the last, “The Bush Shrike”, at the beginning of this month—both have since been completed. The poems are my latest attempt at extolling the beauty of nature in verse. I have long thought about releasing a small publication of poetry and these verses could work as a collection, but it is too soon to decide on how they will ultimately be presented—for now, I shall focus on completing them.

Piano & Coffee Co. wrote about the Forgotten Fields album.

Blake Parker of Piano & Coffee Co. wrote a thoughtful review of my most recent album—an experiment in expressing poetic themes in ambient music. There is nothing more fascinating to a creator than seeing their work through someone else’s eyes and this review summarises the self-titled album, beautifully:

“The themes of Forgotten Fields deal with memory as an emotional catalyst.”

Mentioned in this post:

@forgottenfield (Twitter)
Affan (Soundcloud)
Lonely Swallow (Official Website)
“The Sunbird” Poem (Blog Post)
Piano & Coffee Co. (Album Review)