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Autumn's Progress

After recent experiments with some ‘minimalist’ inspired works relating to environment and technology and a composition inspired by a visit to Whitelee Windfarm, I wanted to delve into some more natural elements and environments to help inspire the compositional process. It is certainly commonplace for composers to draw upon the seasons and elements for inspiration and focus. 'Thea Musgrave' wrote a series of works inspired by a collection of paintings by J. M. W. Turner, 'Antonio Vivaldi' composed four violin concerti based around the four seasons and 'Paul Simon' wrote A Hazy Shade of Winter, which follows the story of an unpublished poet wrestling with his own achievement.


Autumn is more than upon us and I find it a very unusual time of year and a transitional time which has always sat uneasily with me. Of course, our Autumns differ year in year out but as Peter Marchand suggests in his book A Season of Change, ‘Something occurs in this time which seems to affect us all which may be tied to our human nature.’ When looking at some of the compositions relating to the seasons it is difficult to pinpoint a specific format or pattern to follow when attempting such a task yourself. I found myself trying to picture scenes when listening to Beethoven’s 6th ‘Pastoral’ Symphony but suddenly realising that I didn’t see what Beethoven had in mind when he began to write and am only party to the finished product. Paul Everett in his book ‘Vivaldi: The Four Seasons and other Concertos, Op. 8’ mentions that Vivaldi’s inspirational triggers remain an enigma as we do not know if the programme ideas were Vivaldi’s own or if the Sonnets which went with the music were the inspiration or written after the musical score was finished. When looking to the work of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, however, Beethoven said that the seasons were ‘more the expression of feeling than painting.’


When beginning my own process for creating some compositional ideas, I began to look not only at the place I found myself in but also for some words which might inspire a feeling I wished to express musically.


Leaves Falling Quietly Falling by Norman Bissell

Leaves falling quietly falling

from great willow and ash

long green leaves

falling quietly falling

no wind stirs today

must be late morning frost

gnawing at their stems

leaves falling quietly falling

green brown golden heaps

piling up where they drop

beneath bare-armed branches

leaves falling quietly falling

mind drifting slowly

in and out of non-self

following the breath

leaves falling quietly falling

from Ruchill to Carntyne

Knightswood to Nitshill

this day all over the city

leaves falling quietly falling.


The image created in this work is certainly a powerful example of Autumns effect on the environment but it was a certain ‘bleakness’ to some phrases which spoke out to me compositionally. ‘No wind stirs,’ ‘beneath bare-armed branches’ and ‘leaves falling quietly falling’ resonated with me and my own perceptions of Autumn and its journey to winter.

On a recent walk, around ‘Lainshaw Woods’ in the town of Stewarton, East Ayrshire, I suddenly noticed the change in season with a thump. After walking through quite dense woodland for a minute or more I suddenly noticed the crunch of the leaves under my feet. Stopping, I heard the light clicking and scraping of leaves falling and landing on those below, then I noticed the change in colours. I was hit by a feeling of immediate awe…. followed by downcast melancholy.

I began to explore some compositional ideas where I repeated a chord pattern three times, each time adding something else into the mix. I wanted to look to using some varied instrumentation and used sounds from the Arturia Keylab 49 along with Classical Guitar, and Electric Guitar. I decided to call this work ‘Autumn’s Progress’

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©2017 by Jacob Hodge