The highlight of June was Origins, the inaugural release of the Lonely Swallow label: a collection of six contemporary classical impromptus for the piano composed, performed and recorded by Affan at his home in London. The pieces ebb and flow with delightful melodies and tempos that gently transport you along—now light and lively, now quiet and reassuring. (Of these, “Origin IV”, the fourth track on the album, is undoubtedly my favourite.) I am honoured to have worked with Affan on releasing his first album. I hope you enjoy the work of this very talented musician.
I drafted an essay.
The subject of Art fascinates me. A graphic designer by profession, my field of study was the Visual Arts; yet, notwithstanding the theory, my conception of Art has always been nebulous, nuanced and pliable. I consider it fortunate that my pursuit of music and poetry has since forced me to think more intelligibly about the nature and purpose of Art. As a result, my understanding has become more clear, and to elucidate this emerging view, I have drafted a simple essay in which I attempt to demystify the matter. When completed, I shall post it here.
I resumed work on my poetry.
In the meantime, I continue revising the poetic sketches for the collection of poems I want to self-publish. Some are completed, some await rewriting, and some have been discarded. At the present time, I am writing “The Pines”: two verses about the sound of the wind as it moves through the trees. Even as I think of this theme, I smile. Writing these poems is a deeply fulfilling occupation. They are little celebrations of Nature—short, simple and sincere outpourings of admiration and awe. I cannot wait to share them in time!
I prepared for the Lonely Swallow label’s first release.
May was dedicated to the final preparations for the first release on Lonely Swallow, my experimental label: Origins by Affan. The event is particularly special because it is also his debut. Affan is a young self-taught pianist from London. When I first heard his compositions, I was captured by their illusive simplicity. He weaves together melodies and tempos in improvised pieces that move from theme to theme with elegance and ease. When the label was ready to induct its first artist, Affan was a natural choice. His work embodies the ethos of the label: a minimalist celebration of melody, emotion and atmospheric beauty.
Red Plate Press impressed yet again.
Letterpress artist David Armes of Red Plate Press created the cover art for the album (Origins) and single (“Origin I”). Part of his task was to establish an aesthetic for the label’s releases. Minimalism was an important consideration when commissioning the artwork, and David’s solution is excellently so. It combines a simple visual concept with an elegant model for future releases. For this album and single, he used the Roman numerals from the track titles (“Origin I”, “Origin II”, “Origin III”, et cetera) and scattered them in the format to suggest the spontaneousness of improvisation. They are rendered in textured low-ink prints to represent the low-fidelity recordings, one “I” on the single cover, six on the album.
I felt grateful.
A novice in the music business, I am guided by my devotion to Beauty and Virtue, and rely on the knowledge and skill of others for everything else. I was fortunate in the creation of Lonely Swallow to work with artists and experts who are committed to excellence. It has made the process of establishing the label and coordinating its first release a rewarding experience. Thanks to everyone at Wolfe-Coote Incorporated for guiding me through the process of incorporating my first company. Thank you Affan for entrusting me with your first album, Taylor Deupree for mastering the label’s first release, Garreth Broke for transcribing “Origin I”, David Armes for capturing the music in visuals, and you dear reader for your faith and interest in my endeavours, your generosity is my inspiration.
Following the discovery of my Cape robin-chat Cape batis confusion, I have at last finished “The Robin-chat” (previously, “The Batis III”). The image below shows how the composition developed: “The Batis III” version is nearly complete just before the image of the bird (evidenced by the neatness of the verses); then, a new wave of exploration, prompted by the discovery of my error, as the poem becomes “The Robin-chat”. I am delighted to report that I have since also completed “The Leaves” (previously, “Poplars”) and have tentatively started revising a sketch titled “The Pines”.
I spoke to David Armes about the artwork for the first Lonely Swallow label release.
Last month, I mentioned that I had briefly spoken to letterpress artist David Armes about the cover art for the Origins album by Affan. This month, we had a detailed conversation about the nature of the visuals, how they are to create the aesthetic of the label, and how this will apply to visuals for artists and their releases. Our objective is to present in the artwork the concept of the music and the minimalist philosophy of the label. This will be the challenge in the coming month.
I spoke to Garreth Broke about transcribing Origins.
For his first album, Affan has composed a collection of six contemporary classical impromptus that effortlessly move from theme to theme with elegance and ease. Not only do I think of these pieces as beautiful and engaging to the ear, but also to the eye and hand; and so I have asked one of my favourite pianists in the genre, Garreth Broke, to transcribe them.
When I was eleven years old, I became obsessed with the piano. At the time, my best friend was taking lessons and I was captivated by his ability to play. Eager to learn myself, I asked my mother to enroll me with my friend’s tutor. To my surprise and delight, she agreed! However, there was one complication. I was living with my friend’s family, that year. Whilst he was allowed to practice on his grandmother’s beautiful old upright, I wasn’t. So, it was arranged that I would practice at a neighbour’s, which I did with enthusiasm! That poor household. Twice a week, I played the same little repertoire over and over: the mundane beginner pieces, the endless repetitive scales… How relieved they must have been when I finally got my own piano!
When the time came for the Royal Schools of Music examination, my tutor was confident that I would do well. Being a perfectionist, I was determined not to disappoint her. Thinking back on this, I never told my parents about my progress, chiefly because they never asked—and yet my tutor at the time was one of my mother’s oldest friends! Perhaps she didn’t ask because she learnt from my tutor, but I always assumed she wasn’t all that interested. As far as I was aware, her only involvement was buying my piano and paying for lessons. As for my alcoholic stepfather, he saw my talent as a source of entertainment for him and his drinking friends. Be that as it may, concerning my first examination, I had every reason to be confident in my ability to do well and it makes what follows all the more puzzling!
On the morning of the examination, I was overcome with misgivings. I experienced what I now think was a panic attack. It was without a doubt the most nervous I have ever been in my entire life. I was shaking, pacing about the house, dreading what was to come. When my mother told me to calm down, I burst into tears! In an effort to bring me to my senses, she instructed my stepfather to take me around the house and “surprise” me with an unexpected slap in the face! Unbeknownst to them, I overheard this exchange. My young mind was horrified! I was too immature to realise what was happening inside me, but subconsciously I must have wondered why my parents didn’t take the time to find out why I was stressed, why they were so dismissive of my feelings, why they made me feel like there was something wrong with me. By the time my stepfather walked me to the back of the house, I had collected myself, firm in my resolution never to lose it again. There was no need for a “surprise”.
I passed the examination. But, that morning stayed with me. At my most defenseless, my mother had neither the instinct nor the capacity to reassure or comfort me. Her cruel and unsympathetic response left me feeling helpless, unprotected and worthless. Incidents like that litter the landscape of my childhood. My stepfather, an alcoholic for most of my life (now recovered), used to make me play the piano when he brought his drunk friends home. I cannot express how humiliating that was to me. My regard for him already hanging by a thread, these situations compounded my anger and resentment towards him. I came to despise him. Had he slapped me in the face that morning, he would not have violated me more than he did by all the insidious ways in which he (and my mother) damaged me psychologically.
There has always been a distance between my parents and I. So much bitterness has built up in me towards them. It’s taken a long time to come to a place of forgiveness. Now that I am older, I am able to talk to them about how I experienced my childhood. I can allow myself to feel the anger and pain I suppressed, back then. It’s not easy to realise that there’s nothing wrong with you when you’re that young and in the thick of a dysfunctional family. But understanding and coming to grips with what happened to you, goes a long way towards healing the pain of a broken upbringing. It requires a lot of introspection and it’s exhausting, but at some point, it dawns on you: the people who treated you badly were the unworthy ones, not you. You were the pearl, they were the swine.