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 in the form of a musical commentary which draws attention to some of the remarkable secular carvings which can be found hidden in many of our churches and cathedrals. A misericord is a ledge attached to the underside of a hinged seat in a medieval church choir stall. This was to provide physical support for monks standing during long hours of prayer. Underneath this ledge you will often find intricate carvings made by master craftsmen. Because these carvings are hidden from view, the carvers were usually free to carve what they pleased. These scenes would often be of a secular or pagan nature, entirely at odds with the more visible and respectable Christian iconography which surrounds and rises above them. Miserere Nobis explores this dichotomy.
Opening the piece is a sombre, contemplative melody for solo guitar in slow triple time which attempts to set the scene: a cool, sombre and majestic church interior. This single note melody feels very exposed and so to maintain the tonal consistency of each phrase, I play along the strings rather than across. Whenever you cross from a thicker to a thinner string there is always a discernable change in tone. The thinner strings [especially the unwound ones] have a brighter sound with more clarity. The lower thicker strings have a richer, darker tone.
Another voice joins in on the repeat – later we hear an octave harmony weaving freely and slowly on this folk like theme*. This continues to underpin a more elegiac soaring melody, superimposing four beats to the bar. This tries to describe the beams of jewelled light streaming through stained glass, illuminating a dark interior. The scene is set.
Exactly half way through the piece, there is a change to a rich chordal texture with much background/foreground interchange as over the course of the morning, more light and warmth enters the building and the richness of the interior becomes more visible.
Without warning a rapid switch to a more energetic more secular music as the misericord scenes ‘come to life’. We hear a succession of funky guitar boogie parts, muscular and strong and a twisting sinister melody which evokes further misericord happenings. Then the original elegiac melody suddenly returns. The misericords are once again hidden from view.
Do programme notes like these help the listener? Maybe, maybe not. However these images certainly helped me in attempting to describe the scene through musical composition. By selecting just a few strong images from a church interior I have enough to provide a rich stimulus for bringing together various musical ideas into a coherent framework.
• the danger with writing folk style melodies is that there is a good chance someone may have beaten you to it. It has been pointed out to me that the opening bars sound a bit like Scarborough Fair…it’s a fair cop.