Joining forces with the Swedish orchestra, Composers Edition’s Colin Riley reflects on the process of developing his new work Earth Voices in this age of environmental concern.
Whilst large parts of the planet burn, drown, starve or are at war, many of us are rushing from one activity to the next, and spending more and more time in a virtual online world.
Quite likely, we need to re-connect ourselves to the time and space of our lives through slower and deeper experiences. This is especially important right now, as many of us are asking ourselves what can we do to help the climate crisis.
A few months ago I saw the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Sustainable Music’ call out to musicians to find new ways of working at this pivotal moment. I suggested that, since flying was out, I travel by train from London to Sweden, making the journey part of my creative process. I would gather ideas about connectedness to form a piece of music. Making this journey, with its emphasis on the transformation of travel rather than the speed of arrival would provide me with a particular viewpoint about what connects our landscapes, languages, and place-names.
I have just come back from my visit to Sweden, taking two days to travel out there and the same coming home. I met the musicians and directors of the orchestra, a heard them perform, I learnt about Sámi culture, I spoke with local people, and I got to know a new city. But even more special was the fact that I was able to take time out and put space around this journey. I learnt so much about what the piece might be from the travelling; the sense of connection across five countries and the musical nuances of five different languages.
Especially exciting for me is that this piece will be performed several times by the orchestra. As a five-movement suite, each component will be performed in turn, adding in the next movement as the season proceeds.
Taking time to notice, absorb and appreciate the detail of our experiences and our surroundings enables us to value them more, I think. Acknowledging their beauty, and how they connect together, also provides us with a chance to celebrate and preserve them. My job now, is to find a way to express this in my new piece, which is called ‘Earth Voices’.