Going to seed – er, CD

Mutterings from the Wheal Alice studio.

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Unfortunately, health issues make it very difficult for me to get out to play at present, and gigging doesn’t seem at all practical. On the other hand, at least not being able to get out has given me time to start working on a CD or two, though the chances of their becoming commercially available are pretty slim. Still, the details of the one that’s nearest to done are here: Selective Symmetry. If I can get some moderately decent packaging, I suppose I’ll give it away at the musical events I’m probably not going to get to…

Next up is a collection of my bluesier things (demos only),  to be called Low In The Water.

Other possibilities are a collection of 1980s tracks recorded at CentreSound in the 1980s, a collection of material written/recorded with other people, some settings of verse by Housman, Yeats and Kipling, and a follow-up to Selective Symmetry (if SS ever gets out into the wide world) called How To Say Goodbye.

Cheer up. It might never happen. 🙂

David Harley

The Wild Swans at Coole [demo]

This is my setting of a poem by William Butler Yeats. I posted a recording of it in 2015, when I was essentially making it up as I went along, but coming back to it after a year, I’m feeling a lot more comfortable with it.

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

David Harley

A Smuggler’s Song

I suppose it’s appropriate to go back to this given the part of the country I now live in. 🙂

A setting of the poem by Rudyard Kipling. I have in mind a guitar accompaniment I’m not quite comfortable with yet, but this version is unaccompanied with some harmonies. The words and a few notes are available from this page. I believe Peter Bellamy used to sing a version set to ‘The White Cockade’, which I guess would readily lend itself to a more chorus-y version. In the 70s, I remember hearing a version to a different tune sung in Berkshire that used the second verse as a chorus.

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World

Breathe, My Lute

Words by A.E. Housman, tune and arrangement by David Harley, 2015. All rights reserved.

One of my Housman settings. However, this one isn’t from A Shropshire Lad. Every so often, a tune just pops into my head and demands to be written. Strange how often that’s happened when reading Housman… I don’t own a lute (and haven’t tried to play one in decades), so I used my classic. I do love the lute, though I long ago gave up trying to play anything by Dowland.

Version with harmony vocal (demo for collaborative venture, but I might develop that.)

The  poem was apparently written by a very young Housman (15) for a play, as a song to be sung by Lady Jane Grey while in prison awaiting execution. It somewhat resembles a lyric by Louisa McCartney Crawford (1790–1858) set to music by George Arthur Barker as part of a sequence of Songs of Mary Queen of Scots – The Captivity opens with the line ‘Breathe, breathe my Lute that melting strain My soul delights to hear’. Clearly there are parallels in the context of the two lyrics. There again, filtering thoughts about one’s l poems to or about one’s lute is almost de rigeur for poets: consider ‘My Lute Awake’ and ‘The Lover’s Lute cannot be blamed though it sing of his Lady’s Unkindness’ by Thomas Wyatt, and even ‘Thou Art My Lute’ by Paul Lawrence Dunbar. (However, I am not currently considering an ode to my Strat.)

Returning to Housman, the first verse also reminds me somewhat of Byron’s We’ll go no more a-roving.

Breathe, my lute, beneath my fingers
One regretful breath,
One lament for life that lingers
Round the doors of death.
For the frost has killed the rose,
And our summer dies in snows,
And our morning once for all
Gathers to the evenfall.

Hush, my lute, return to sleeping,
Sing no songs again.
For the reaper stays his reaping
On the darkened plain;
And the day has drained its cup,
And the twilight cometh up;
Song and sorrow all that are
Slumber at the even-star.

David Harley