Over the past few months, I have been working on a new album. It began at about the same time as my collaboration with Krzyzis in late 2016. Early on, I knew that both projects would share a theme and have a similar concept. These were first explored in The Zephyr and the Swallow—the collaborative EP with Krzyzis—a combination of poetry and ambient music inspired by my love for the countryside. The EP was built around a couplet, a short poem of two lines I wrote to inspire the music; but for the album, I wanted to expand on the idea and write a larger work, a series of verses for a ballad.
The Zephyr and the Swallow EP illustrated a pastoral scene—the wind blows over a field and a swallow dashes into the sky—an idyllic moment of beauty set in a rural landscape. In my youth, at the height of summer, I would spend hours in the fields watching the wind making waves in the grass and the swallows flying overhead. Even now, I find this simple pastime a most enchanting and vivid experience. It is just such a scene I describe in the couplet I wrote for The Zephyr and the Swallow—“Over the field the zephyr blew, / Into the sky the swallow flew”—lines I set to music to create an ode.
Writing the Poem
I started writing the poem for the album in late 2016, going through numerous drafts until I eventually found a form and approach that felt appropriate. In much the same way one agonises over the notes of a musical composition, one pores over a poem—every syllable of every word carefully chosen to exquisitely articulate a meaning or express an emotion. After three months of assembling and dismantling verses, I finally produced “Forgotten Fields”, a self-titled ballad with six verses. In the poem, a daydreamer nostalgically recalls a happy moment in time, surrounded by fields and swallows.
Central to the theme of the poem is the feeling of wistfulness—a longing tinged with regret—conveyed by the imagery. It describes a world of endless fields, swallows impossible to catch, a memory forgotten and rediscovered. The lines are gentle and flowing—the musings of someone lost in thought. They are beautifully read by English narrator Chris Lateano for the compact disc release. “Forgotten Fields”, the all-encompassing title, is alluded to in the final verse:
Far away and left untrodden
Under summer skies
Lie the fields I had forgotten
Where the swallow flies!
This is part one of a three-part series about the new self-titled album. Read part two, “A New Album, Part Two: The Music”, next. Forgotten Fields will be released on 17 November 2017.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.