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The Meditations

"I had wanted to do something that would always be a work in progress as a way of focusing my creativity which seems to arrive in huge waves at times and really the idea of composing a series of meditations grew very naturally out of that. I have always read a lot of poetry especially work by obscure European writers when it is available in a translated version, and I came across Gerhard Fritsch, this was many years ago in fact and I was then and continue to be completely captivated by his beautiful and profound writing, also the depth of his suffering and his insights into nature…

...I was also lucky enough to meet the publisher responsible for making his work available here so Fritsch’s work was very much in my mind when I started working on the ideas for the first three meditations and they are dedicated to his memory."

The First Meditation - A Moon Vigil
"I have always had a love affair with all things lunar and I wanted to pay homage to the moon somehow. I was also thinking about eclipses and how they fascinate the whole world and we will watch for hours to get a glimpse of something rare and magical, and so the title A Moon Vigil just happened from those thoughts really, also I like the idea of vigils in general and I was thinking how I could create a vigil for the moon for all the ‘moon watchers’ like me. I also wanted to try and suggest ‘her’ global presence, I often gaze at the moon wondering what other people think of ‘her’ around the world, what does ‘she’ represent to them for example... I wanted to try and convey fragility, power, longing and especially the moon’s unreachable beauty and when I heard the young girl’s voice when I was listening to one of my samples I knew that she would come to represent that unreachable beauty.

Her voice is so haunting and pure and there’s a quality in her singing that is exceptionally special, it is a kind of half singing half speaking vocal and I wanted her to be at the centre of the piece. I composed the piano and strange bass/drum like sound which seems to keep some kind of irregular time first of all, and then went on to build the choir notes, I liked the deep male vocal sound of ‘hom hom’ as they also keep a kind of irregular time. The female choirs I used because of the contrast they create and of course they sound celestial too which I wanted. I wasn’t sure at first if I could put all the different vocals together in a way that would work, but, then I played it to B who designed the beautiful sleeve images and he was convinced by it straight away so I knew I could keep developing it I used a bell keyboard to create the deep tones that ring at different times throughout the piece and decided to have the young girl’s voice drifting in and out rather as the moon does as ‘she’ moves in and out of the clouds, sometimes it seems that ‘she’s’ being quite playful at night and towards the end I use the female choir to suggest ‘her’ little game. In keeping with a vigil I wanted to use the young girl’s speaking voice as well as the little ‘prayer song’ that keeps repeating. Some of the words are: ‘Oh God how happy I am’ and ‘Keep returning this happiness’ I like the way the bells and voices do suggest some kind of vigil, someone said it was like an incantation which it is I think, I added the lunar wind sound relatively late it’s ‘borrowed’ from one of my tracks on ‘Atmosferiks’ and I added more effects to it until I felt it was ‘unworldly’ sounding."

The Second Meditation - A Late Afternoon Solitude
"Gerhard Fritsch’s poems are very subtle and he has an incredible gift for describing details with a simplicity that is very moving, his collection ‘Between Evening And Night’ is one that I do keep with me always and it is the kind of book you want to dip into when you are deep in your own solitude. I go to Cornwall a lot and usually during autumn, the light at that time of year is very special in the way it makes the landscape look. I was once in a church near a little place called Lamorna and I was wandering around both the church and its grounds and I felt I wasn’t alone somehow, I don’t mean this in any religious sense at all, it has more to do with the kind of noises you hear in deserted churches, lots of clicks, rustlings, wood creaking, birds flapping around in the eaves, pews that seems to reverberate when you step on them, those kinds of noises….I wanted to try and capture that atmosphere, and also the way that in the late afternoon especially when there is low cloud and no visible sun it is as if time is suspended for a while.

I remember walking around that church and imagining a choir singing and then I started to think of a visit I made to Poland some years ago, I am Anglo Polish and I had taken a trip to a salt mine in Katowice also during the late afternoon. At the very bottom of the mine there was a chapel and a choir was rehearsing there, it was so beautiful and so unexpected and it stopped me in my tracks for several minutes. I wanted to try and bring those experiences together somehow and also acknowledge somewhere in the style of the singing my love of Allegri’s Miserere and Geoffrey Burgon’s Cathedral Music, again I used a bell keyboard, a different one this time, slowed it right down and then reversed it to try and get that suspended in time kind of feeling. The various clicks and rustling sounds you can hear are obviously all to do with creating the atmosphere of the visit to the lonely little church, they are both accoustically and digitally created. You can hear ‘Vita Virtual’ singing the main vocal with me but ‘she’s’ not on the second vocal which is me from a distance as it were. I think the track allows you to go into your own solitude, I hope so anyway.

The Third Meditation - On Sorrow Hill
"This meditation was also inspired in part by a trip to Poland and a particular place that I visited which is completely overwhelming and everyone has their own reaction to it. I also wrote about two artists a few years ago whose installations were shown at the Imperial War Museum, one of the installations had a very profound effect on me; it involved a man returning to a place of extreme horror after many years and still being able to recall quite remarkable details about the place. I have also been deeply disturbed by the horror of all the wars currently being fought around the world and I suppose my creativity allows me to express some of my feelings about this.

It was the most difficult meditation to compose even though it might sound more simple as it is created around the same few notes that are repeated throughout. I used digital choirs again but this time I decided to sing with the choirs which I have not tried before, it took about 14 hours for me to get a recording of my vocal that I was satisfied with, though I guess you are never really completely satisfied and I can hear what I might have done differently every time I listen to it I wanted to create a feeling of expanse somehow rather like a painter does when s/he looks at a landscape, painters often start with small details and then, rather like when you are on a coastal path you can turn a corner or pass a large rock and suddenly you see the huge ocean...

...the start of the piece is slow and detailed with the little bell that heralds the beginning of the track, the bell returns and then a much fuller sound is heard which I developed by using more keyboards, the digital choirs and my solo vocal. People have said they think it sounds oriental which is interesting though if anything the track is influenced by Gorecki who is a fellow Pole. I think the solo acoustic vocal sounds very much as if it is emerging from the digital instruments and choirs which is a relief because I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to marry the two sounds successfully."

Click to listen to excerpts from The Meditations

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