All this extra time on my hands is giving me some space to step back and reflect on music-making over the past few years. An occasional series …
I am currently reading Recollections of a Tour Made in Scotland, A. D. 1803. This is a travel memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth about a six-week, 663-mile journey through the Scottish Highlands from August–September 1803 with her brother William Wordsworth and mutual friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It is a compelling read and I recommend it highly. Here is a particularly interesting paragraph:
The sun had been set for some time, when, being within a quarter of a mile of the ferryman’s hut, our path having led us close to the shore of the calm lake, we met two neatly dressed women, without hats, who had probably been taking their Sunday evening’s walk. One of them said to us in a friendly, soft tone of voice, “What! you are stepping westward?” I cannot describe how affecting this simple expression was in that remote place, with the western sky in front, yet glowing with the departed sun.
Brother William was not averse to reading through D’s journals, on the lookout for ideas for poems. The passage above provides a foundation for one of his best works, “Stepping Westward”. Here is an extract:
The dewy ground was dark and cold;
Behind, all gloomy to behold;
And stepping westward seemed to be
A kind of heavenly destiny:
I liked the greeting; ’twas a sound
Of something without place or bound …
[From Stepping Westward by William Wordsworth]
I have my own stepping westward story. In the 1950s, when I was very young, I was taken to the cinema for the first time – to see a cowboys and indians film. Of course, I knew about the Wild West from books and comics (this was the pre-televison era), but nothing could have prepared me for the visual and aural impact of seeing film for the first time. A huge screen projecting in glorious technicolour, supported by a thunderously loud soundtrack. This confirmed my suspicion that cowboys and indians were not just fictional images; they really did exist – in a land far away.
This idea of lands beyond the horizon was a revelation. Like most of my peers, I had assumed that the world ended just beyond the top of the nearest hill. I now realised it went on a bit further and, as Wordsworth was suggesting, stepping westward seemed to be/ A kind of heavenly destiny. I’ve only become aware of the Wordsworth poem very recently, but that has not prevented me from metaphorically stepping out in a westerly fashion – since walking out of the cinema all those decades ago …
My reflections on this story forms the basis for Stepping Westward – a track on my forthcoming album Spots of Time