Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Sometimes the work of another artist helps me to reflect on my own work. Earlier this week, I came across the work of experimental artist Sam Firth who, in her project Stay The Same, films herself every day at the same time in the same place. Her work has not only made me realise how repetition can facilitate intimacy and reflection, but also how artists often use images of nature to reflect their inner feelings.

In my project Songs of the Earth I set out using composition as a means to exploring my relationship with the woodlands and fields around my home. Repetition, making the same walk several times a week, has helped me develop an intimate bond with my local natural environment, a bond that I do not feel when I visit places that are unknown to me. Likewise, repetition helps Sam Firth to track seasonal change. The changes in light and weather make her think about the passing of time and the process of ageing. Though I tend to focus on changes in foliage, seasonal changes are important for me as well. When I walk in an area unknown to me, I tend to focus on the larger forms in the landscape. Only when I am familiar with an area I notice changes in this landscape.

Composing music inspired by my local walks has, however, changed my experience of my local environment. Not only do the compositions and accompanying writing make some everyday experiences extra-ordinary, they now also make me remember these experiences when I revisit the places to which they are related.

The creative writing that accompanies most compositions has helped me deepen my experiences. In a similar manner as that Sam Firth relates her nature experiences to the passing of time and ageing, I impose my feelings on my environmental experiences. In Silver the incoming weather somehow gives me a sense of calm, in A Different World I leave daily worries behind when I enter the woodlands, and in Unfolding I describe a sense of wonder and relief that winter is past. Such imposition of human feelings on nature is a common trait in music as well as poetry and painting. In Das Lied Von Der Erde, Mahler made the seasons stand symbol for the cycle of human life.

Last week I listened to some of the compositions I wrote last autumn and was struck by how, in a trio for French horn, violin and piano, I had transformed the theme of autumnal leaves dancing on the wind (the middle section) into a melancholy theme (towards the end) reflecting the summer that is past. Here a Sibelius recording of this composition (in Sibelius the instruments seem to blend less well as they're likely to do in reality):

Copyright text and music Petra Vergunst

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