Tuesday, 19 April 2011

To everything in its season

Two days ago I finished my trio for flute, bassoon and piano. It has been very hard work. Up at five every morning to get those precious early hours when you can be alone with your music and only the birds for company. And they are wonderful this year in our garden! Of course we don't use any chemicals on the soil. And so we have no pests - apart from legions of rabbits and Muntjac Deer. Gardening here is a constant battle against the little loves - as any countryman will confirm. Anything precious has to be protected by rings of hawthorn clippings.

The trio has been slow, very slow. It has taken two years to emerge. I have pages of rejected ideas to bear witness to the struggle. And yet the finished work seems to flow with the ease of a limpid stream, in its best moments. Finding that simplicity is the hardest task for any artist. If you see and hear a forest of notes going nowhere, that's a sure sign that you have lost the thread.

I am very fortunate that the trio has been already earmarked for performance in July by a very talented group of local musicians. Their encouragement and belief in me have been a real strength in those dark moments - and there have been a few - when you wonder if you will ever compose again.

At 21' and with three movements, it is a substantial piece. The starting point for me were the wild and watery marshlands near Acle and Wickhampton. I love these places, in the grandeur of winter, the stillness of summer and the throbbing energy of spring.
The last movement is a sort of Aubade. I shall never forget, as a boy sailing up the river Deben in Suffolk at dawn, with the curlews and the redshank flying over. It was magical. This music is an attempt to catch that feeling of awe at the beauty of nature.

As Gerald Manley Hopkins, my favourite poet, put it:

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

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