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.
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.
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.
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.”
I would like to share the name I have chosen for the label: Lonely Swallow. The swallow has become a major theme in my work and I have come to see it as both a metaphor for the Artist and a personification of the Muse. Things are slowly coming together and I hope to announce Artists, soon.
The image of the “lonely swallow” is taken from the second verse of the thematic poem of the Forgotten Fields album—a poem with its origins in the verse I wrote for The Zephyr and the Swallow. My work is inspired by my rural surroundings, something I wanted to honour when naming the label.