Beginning of the New Winter: detailed background notes to the compositions

Introduction

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Release date: 18 November 2008

Format: CDR in a card sleeve with original artwork and typography by Landschaft.

Each piece explained

The album was given a working title "October Sketches" during composition. It comprises a series of lightly composed or improvised pieces commenced late September and completed early November 2008, just as winter's bite set in. I started the project with no particular aim, and the moods and pictures developed and coalesced, forming, by the third piece into a tightly wound concept - of season and the mood evoked by the onset of winter.

Pastoral in theme, Sketch No 1 "The Smell of Wet Leaves" is a live improvisation that just flowed out of my hands, taking no more than a few minutes to record and edit. Pure stream of consciousness, and the way I like to compose. The inspiration was drawn from a countryside walk in a glorious autumn morning, a chill in the air and the musky smell of wet leaves sat low against the earth.

Sketch No 2, "Promises Remembered" completed 25/09/2008 is a reflection on commitment. The mood hangs off single sustained notes, that pause as if in thought.

Sketch No 3, "Reflection on Hope" a partner piece to Sketch No 2 completed 17/10/2008. A longer work for church organ that meanders, ascends and plunges, wrapping itself around a tonal progression and simple melody, finding it's way. Allegorical, casting about seeking resolution - then gathering together to a melodic conclusion, finding itself. I like the fragility of this piece. It nearly crumbles to nothing, but in there is a vestige of optimism -

Sketch No 4, "I Hear the Bells Peal at St Leo's Across the Low Ford" is about place and memory; a 12th century church tucked away near my home surrounded by a road, railway and industry - a little piece of rural England overtaken by the city. I recall the toll of the bells when, as a child I listened to Tuesday evening practice from my bed, their comforting cycles sending me to sleep, slowing and gathering momentum, blown on the wind.

Sketch no 5, "The Cracked Willow: cannonical, reflective, building and then subsiding. The shattered body of a willow where waters flow no more, of the Leen, a river upon which once Byron cast rose petals by Newstead Abbey in England's heart.

Sketch no 6, "A Valediction: The magpie's dawn" is a blustery, robust work. A beech wood torn by the wind thrashing the moon with it's outstretched limbs on a turbulent autumnal daybreak, with a tiding of magpies as witness to a goodbye.

Sketch No 7, "Limpid Winter's Call" and Sketch No 8, "A Tree for a Man" both explore, in improvisation, a single theme. The first is spare single live take with no edits or overdubs; the second, drawing on the same tonal references, a more orchestral and composed work, shimmering, ascending.

Sketch no 9, "Crows Wing Nailed to a Gate" completed 5 November 2008: A big, blustery conflicted piece with two parallel themes fighting against each other for ascendency. It has a tension unlike the other pieces on the album. It is a warts and all improvisation with no corrections or edits whatsoever! The flaws add to rather than detract from the piece I think.

Sketch no 10, "The Beginning of the New Winter", title piece of the collection. Long, mesmeric, as gently contoured as the mysteries of a new drift of snow.