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

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…

New Beginnings

April is a joyful month – a cocktail of elemental delights. It exudes the promise of the summer sun yet to come, as the clocks leap forward and draw out the evenings. The evenings finally lose their gloom, and the days feel longer. Our spirits begin to lift.

We are brought to our senses and jolted out of our reverie by the fresh, sudden outpouring of an April shower. It is exhilarating nonetheless, even though it wakes us momentarily from our dreams of a summer holiday. It is a relief that the seasons still seem to be in order, rather than the monotony of one damp characterless period of time.

The sun appears over the hills, a bright and cheerful face, which is mirrored in the friendly faces of the primroses which adorn the hedgerows. A deeper yellow is found in the impressive celandines which boldly appear in glorious, buttery carpets.

Pink and red waxy camellia are still showing their amazing array of gorgeousness – they have been around since Christmas, and are still going strong. They are in it for the long haul.

A lone bumble bee is a surprise garden visitor as it drones hopefully around the plants, most of which are still dormant and waiting for their special time to emerge.

It is a time of hope – the shackles of winter are being cast aside, although the chill of the night air and the grey clouds which bring forth an icy shower are still a reminder.

Here in Cornwall, the sudden appearance of a traffic jam reminds us that the holiday season has begun, as people start to visit our fantastic location.

I sit in a queue of cars, wind down my window, and feel the hesitant warmth of the spring sunshine as it beams down on my face. A couple of jackdaws hop about with a large crust of bread in their beaks. This is a time of hope and new beginnings.

The Emergence of Spring

After a day of carefully choosing who was going to master my new EP, ‘Winter Keys’, I prepared to go for a very necessary walk.

I had spent too much time indoors just lately, carefully listening to my new recordings and making notes about what needed doing. The fresh, Cornish air beckoned, and I hastened to wrap myself up in layers of warmth. I was just about to leave the house, when a message arrived informing me that my tracks were now mastered and ready to be listened to. I was torn. I needed to listen to the tracks, but I was in a rush to go out!

I found it difficult to apply myself to patiently concentrate and check the music back – I always found this excruciating as I imagined all sorts of things occurring in the music which no one else could hear. After a brief listen, I finally set off on my walk in an attempt to unmuddle my mind.

A quick walk around the block on this crisp afternoon was the plan. The sun shone brightly, giving the impression of warmth, but it was no warmer than looking at the light which came on as you opened the door to the fridge! The season was on the cusp between winter and spring. Fresh, bright green leaves were sprouting up optimistically amidst the dead, dry twigs which littered the verges.

Here and there, clumps of buttery primroses showed their pretty, dainty faces. Explosions of golden gorse buds burst forth out of the thorny tangles. The fields all around were lit up by glorious daffodils in their hazy hues. Occasionally, as I walked along, delighting in the emergence of spring, the remnants of winter remained as the brambly earth guts wrapped their spilling tendrils around my feet, urging me to trip over.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could make out the pom pom shape of wrens as they bumbled and flit about in the dense branches. They were the embodiment of nature’s cartoonish cuteness. I paused to take some video clips for my vlog, and noticed as I checked it back, that there appeared to be strange glowing orbs whirring about on the footage, which I hadn’t noticed when I was filming. Perhaps it was just the reflection of the strong glare of the setting sun – or maybe an innocuous insect – quite drab in reality, which had somehow managed to reflect the sun’s rays.

Hope was in the air, and the smell of a new season filled my nostrils. The sweet scent of spring was breaking through the earthy musk of winter.