Composer’s Notes – February 2017

February – a time for storms here in Cornwall. A mixture of a month – hovering between the chills of winter, with the false promise of snow, and leaning further towards the gentle relief of spring.

A time for germs and viruses too! I have been off my walking feet for over two weeks, and have missed my daily meanderings. I was lucky to capture some shots of a rainbow over Porthmeor Beach in St Ives. That was dramatic and uplifting!

The gentle rays of the late winter sun are heart-stoppingly beautiful, as they shine through the bare branches of trees, forming ghostly silhouettes. The deep pink waxy petals of the camellia in our garden have appeared later than last year – a sign that we must have experienced a colder winter this year. They are always such a joyful sight as their compact buds burst forth – luxurious against the dark blue green leaves of their foliage.

February – a time for staying cosy at home and enjoying simple pleasures. Always the coldest, sharpest month down here in Cornwall. As the nights get lighter, it is a time to look forward to warmer months, and plan the year ahead.

Sue Aston

 

Composer’s Notes – Reflections of January

composers notes
January – a month where, on first glance, all can appear to be dreary and lifeless. However, since the passing of the colour and bustle of the festive season, this month can be a necessary time for reflection, contemplation and stillness. A time to reconsider former activities and to plan strategies for the year ahead.

For me, the discipline of going on a daily walk, has much in common with my life as a composer and musician. Making the commitment to undertake a task on a regular basis – be it practising an instrument, adding music to a composition or taking some form of exercise – is a way to achieve goals in a steady and methodical manner. I adore being out in the natural landscape. Not only is it an opportunity to notice how the seasons change, but it is a way to breathe in the clear air and refresh one’s mind. It adds clarity to one’s thoughts.

January has been far from dull – the calmness it brings in moments of solitude is revitalising. The fiery sunsets which unexpectedly explode into a myriad of burnished colours is a gift to behold. The reflections of the deep reds, yellows and oranges form a contrast with the darkening clouds, and create a molten seascape. The colours of the sky enhance the surprisingly vivid greens of the farmland and vegetation which has been drenched with rain. Wild flowers and berries brighten the hedgerows.

A morning walk taking in the crisp air is the way for music to grow in my mind. The cerulean blue sky behind the skeletal shapes of the trees is the catalyst which transforms the start of my day into a productive hive of activity.

Sue Aston

November Skies Music Video

Here is my new music video for ‘November Skies’.
It was inspired by the positioning of birds on a telegraph wire outside my window, which looked like music notes, and from this I created the opening motif on the piano.

Phil Aston has captured some stunning images of the starling murmurations over Marazion Marsh near where we live, and a gorgeous sunset over St Michael’s Mount which is opposite the marsh.

Massive thanks also to my son Dan Aston, who played the beautiful electric guitar solo which compliments the birds soaring in the sky.

Enormous thanks of course go to my wonderful team of patrons! You all keep me inspired and able to create my work. I hope you enjoy it! X
https://www.patreon.com/sueaston

November Skies is taken from the Winter Keys EP and can be downloaded from here

Murderous Jam

Since sneaking too many chocolates from my children’s advent calendar, I decided to walk off the stodge and I embarked upon a twilight meander.

Low grey clouds seemed to absorb all the ambient sounds, like a clump of cotton wool. The rich smell of wood smoke pervaded the air, and enticing thoughts of Christmas came to mind. A telegraph wire full of hunched rooks teased me into analysing their forms into music notes. I resisted in an attempt to relax and enjoy my walk, but a nagging feeling persisted – what would that music have sounded like? Opportunities to create music are everywhere in nature, both in a visual sense as well as by listening to the natural soundscape.

I love the skeletal forms of bare wintry trees and I marvel at the backdrop of the sky behind the awkward shapes of the twigs and branches. No rich colours in the sky today – everything was a palette of white, grey and black. The silvery green lichen on the twigs created a christmassy sparkle, however.

An abandoned car in a country lane was a striking sight, particularly as the boot had been left up. Perhaps it belonged to someone who was attending their allotment and about to harvest their bounty ready for Christmas. Or perhaps the car belonged to a criminal, who was about to deposit their wicked load into their car and drive off unnoticed – apart from by me.

Since writing my blog, I have realised that my thoughts turn either to music or dramatic – and hopefully unlikely – imaginings. It would explain the fact that when I’m not creating music, I am preoccupied with reading Agatha Christie novels.

Almost home, and I notice some homemade jam for sale outside someone’s drive. Thoughts of a cosy kitchen straight from Laurie Lee’s ‘Cider With Rosie’ came to mind, and then this changed into a concern that the jam could be poisoned. Murderous jam. That sounded like a group of jazz players improvising to their death.

Enough of these mental ramblings – time to go home and reign in my mind. Time to sit at the piano and compose for a while. Time first though for a welcoming scone, with cream…and jam…

composer TV and Film Sue Aston Cornwall

The Freedom to Compose and Record

Since setting up my home studio, I have been able to create freely and without restraint.

I have worked with some fantastic producers in the past, and it has been a pleasure to have their input, but being able to record my work at home has meant that I can get my ideas down quickly, and work on my music whenever inspiration comes to me. Sometimes in the middle of the night!

As a classically trained musician, I studied the piano alongside my main instrument, the violin, as it was required in order for me to get a place at music college. Playing the piano as a solo instrument led to me writing a lot of my music as a result of improvising. What I love about the piano, is being able to play in a natural, fluid way, and in a commercial studio setting, I often felt that playing along to a click track was at odds to this, particularly when the music I was writing was atmospheric and soloistic in nature. Having my own piano at home – which I have played on since the age of twelve – feels comfortable when composing and recording. Many studio keyboards do not have the range of notes that a piano has, and having the use of two pedals to create an impressionist soundscape is also an important factor for me.

Nature and the landscape is an enormous source of inspiration for me, and musical ideas come quickly to me when I am able to tune into them. My studio at home is surrounded by a farmer’s field, and has views overlooking the hills. It is a wonderful base to work from – I just have to make sure the farmer isn’t driving his tractor when I’m trying to record, but that is a small price to pay!

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