5. Coming off Orton



A track by track blog on the music from “Days of Sun and Days of Rain” – a consideration of the music and some reflections along the way


This is essentially an exercise in painting with sound. Orton Fell in Cumbria is a favourite afternoon walk, and the music attempts to describe the mood of descending from the fell at dusk, as ‘light drains off the fell like water’. Simple stories and recollections can make great starting points for making music.

When I ‘paint’ with sound, it is important that I first of all find the right colours or timbres. The sounds you use are often more important than the scales, rhythms or tempo for conveying the musical mood. The piece begins with a meandering duet for mallet instruments, supported by contrasting longer, sweeping organ lines which strengthen and enrich the harmonic underpinning. These organ lines are actually drawn out melodies. Yes, they provide important layers, but by being essentially ‘forced’ against the upper melodies, they can provide a rich and subtle backdrop. This introductory section attempts to evoke the contrast between some images which are still clear [such as pools of water and the sky trails of aeroplanes] against a murkier background of hedges and verges – losing definition and colour as the light slowly fades.

Eventually a reflective guitar part joins the others. Walking as dusk is often a time for reflection. This solo is quite formless and totally improvised. The higher phrases are straightforward, based on a D mixolydian scale. By changing one note in the lower phrases, in this case substituting a G# for a G, the mood changes significantly with a whole tone [or possibly Lydian] scale suggesting something darker. Painting is often an exploration of light and shade, across a range of meanings.

A further guitar part emerges playing repeated arpeggio patterns over a denser and darker background of keyboards. The regular, steady movement of tired feet trudging towards a waiting car…

Much is made of background and foreground movement in this piece. Again, an analogy with painting. Using the technology to control very gradual fading in and out of musical lines and textures brings backgrounds to the fore and vice versa – blurring the boundaries between melodies and accompaniments.

Posted in Days of Sun, Uncategorized

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