Diary of A Coastal Composer

A Flash of Fire

February 7, 2016
Robin takes flight in Cornwall

A cold snap of weather, and the landscape plunged into a chill of hibernation. At least it feels like Winter has arrived at last. The thrill of going outside and being engulfed by freezing air, instead of a mild drip of warm rain, is invigorating. An opportunity to wrap up in wooly socks and oversized jumpers – the comforting feeling that you are wearing your bedding as you go about your business.

It is an icy start to the day – a seemingly endless darkness when getting out of bed. I open the patio doors next to the piano and let our two cats out into the moonlit morning. The sky is clear, and the night time creatures are still flitting about, just out of sight, but I can hear the rustling in the hedgerows. I stare into the pitch darkness, and feel as though my cats will never return – but they soon do, bright eyed and frisky with excitement.

Dawn breaks at last, the rouge red light bleeds into the weak powdery blue sky as the sun summons up strength to make its presence felt. It is still early enough on in the year to be buoyed up with resolve to maintain good habits, and I open my violin case in order to practise first thing, before the rush of the day takes over. At this time of year I usually decide to play Bach in order to strengthen my violin technique. To me, this has all the fun of a high fibre diet – which I am also sticking to. Instead of bach, I opt for the Philip Glass violin concerto. The mechanical repetition of the endless cycle of notes whirling under my fingers lulls me into the somnambulism that I am trying to fight. My eyes gaze through the window and the mass of greyish brown twigs of a bush next to our front garden forms the resting place for my hypnotic stare. The music continues to churn out ad nauseum, then suddenly my attention is hijacked by an unexpected flash of fire. A robin is tucked away inside the heart of the twiggy tangle outside. The cadmium red of his breast is like a beacon of hope in the still of winter.The warmth of the colour radiates a glow within the darkness of the branches, and echoes the rosy tinge of the sky above.

There is always beauty to be found in the darkest of mornings.

Diary of A Coastal Composer

A Dark, Desolate Lake.

January 7, 2016

There are a few places which send a chill through my body, and a shiver down my spine. One such location is Stithians Lake, near Redruth, Cornwall.

I have visited this place several times, and on each occasion I have felt uneasy. It is a desolate, yet compelling place, and is greatly at odds with the cheery, bright images one sees of it on brochures which advertise the activities that take place there. And yet I love this place, and am drawn to it.

On my first visit, I parked near to the dam. I was alone, and was looking for somewhere to stop and have a picnic. The weather was overcast, and there was a nip in the air. The only other person around was a lone dog walker. I remember deciding to remain in my car to eat my lunch, with the idea that I would return at a later date.

I returned the other day. Despite a pleasant start to the morning, by the time Phil and I arrived, the grey pervading clouds cast a gloom on the proceedings. We decided to go on a short walk at least, but it wasn’t long before the wind whipped up into a whistling, high pitch scream – the shrill sound seemed to cut through the landscape all around.

Our attention was drawn to the sky, as the silence was smashed by a pair of hawk jets practising their manoeuvres over the reservoir. Meanwhile, out on the lake, a solitary kite surfer dipped and bobbed about. All the while, the landscape loomed, silent and still, despite the human activities taking place within it. We followed the lake round to the right, the ground beneath our feet was marshy and sodden. The view around the natural curvature of the water, was that of a depressing ink well of moving water – dark, desolate, yet enchanting.

It was time to head back. I love bleak landscapes – there is a beauty to the starkness. We walked past the building which was used by the rowing club. Past the moored boats we walked, I loved the percussive metallic tinkling of the rigging as it knocked against the masts. It sounded rather like a mechanical blackbird. It occurred to me at that moment, that there had been a complete absence of any wildlife on the lake. The sails were fluttering in a frenzy as they unfurled in the stiff breeze. I made a resolve to revisit the place again – on a bright, sunny day!

Art & Poetry, Diary of A Coastal Composer

Seasonal Poetry – My December Poem

December 31, 2015

Here is my final poem for the year, inspired by St Michael’s Mount, near to where I live in Cornwall. Every year the castle is illuminated at Christmas, and it casts a magical glow in to the sea which surrounds the island. The people who work on the island live in the cottages at the foot of the hill. The castle shines out in the darkness, like a magical beacon, and is an awe inspiring sight to behold.

Diary of A Coastal Composer

Nature’s Music

December 16, 2015

In the fading light of a November afternoon, I step outside and venture out into my garden for some air. I potter about, tending my flowers, when suddenly a noise draws me from my hazy state and I look up into the sky.

The sound – a shimmering sigh, like someone drawing back silk curtains – is caused by the solidarity of a murmuration of starlings. A ‘murmuration’ – such a strange word – to me , it sounds like the ‘murmuring of nature’. Which is exactly what it is. Such a beautiful display to behold – hundreds of beating wings, all moving as one. How many of us miss this, going about the humdrum of our day. It was the eerie sound which drew my attention skyward. I stand there, waiting, and I’m not disappointed. A minute goes by, and another body of birds throng and swoop in another part of the sky, this time slightly further away.

I am metres away from the telegraph wire where I saw my birds grouped together last year. This inspired my ‘November Skies’ piano piece. A few days ago, I was outside sketching the beach at Trebah, when a gust of a breeze and a beating sound jolted me from my artwork. A friendly robin, who I had noticed earlier, had flown past my head and landed close to me on the stone wall. I have always appreciated birdsong since I was a small child listening to the sounds of nature as I fell asleep, but I had never before noticed the delicate sound of birds in flight, as their wings beat a soft rhythm in the air.

The more I immerse myself in nature, the more I am drawn to do it more and more. It is like a spiritual vocation. Sitting in solitude, observing the landscape, the weather and the creatures which inhabit the world with us – these things have become my muse. My urge to create something from that stimulus is passionate and true.

Latest Shows

Sue Aston Show Christmas Special 2015

December 6, 2015

Recording of my Christmas Special From  Sunday December 13th

  • Music : Castle of The Black Prince
  • Words of Wonder : Season Songs by Ted Hughes
  • Fiddling with Food : My Mother in law’s ‘Mince Pies’
  • Diary of a Coastal Composer : Artwork

Sue x