Tenderness and Night - Aspen Leaves and Wonderment

Beauty: a time and chance for love



Solo Piano, Cello, Clarinet, Oboe d'amore, Bassoon, and Strings

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Aspen: from the old English 'aespe' or 'aepse' for shaking poplar tree, with flexible leaf stalks that flutter, even in a light breeze.

Underworld: the supernatural sphere as expressed in religious traditions and myths, located below the world of the living.

A colony of aspen trees are interconnected through their root system so that when one of their community is in need of water, minerals, or other nutrients, other aspen trees up to ten meters away work to pass these through their root system to the tree in need.

In some traditions, a crown made from aspen leaves gives its wearer the power to visit and return safely from the Underworld.

In this work I consider the aspen metaphorically and as part of our world where the spirit and body exist in harmony together.

Two notes begin this piece, the higher returns furtively throughout its duration. Strings lay their quiet bed as the night moves across the sky. The music is shaped by flowing melodic lines that emerge from the play of piano and cello. Like the natural world, this piece is an evolving journey rather than a return to frequent and familiar patterns of sound. The clarinet blossoms from the gentle conversation of piano hammer and cello bow like the branches of a tree that broadens with each breath and bar. Other instruments arrive as if the creatures and life of night that live upon and that surround a tree under the faint light of stars. The piano's restless movement continues throughout the piece until it is eventually calmed by the cello as sleep takes hold and the tree returns to its quiet place of dream and belonging.

As I gaze at the visual design of this work I think of aspen leaves caught in a moment of their fluttering in the shallow breeze. My completed work started when I photographed a group of aspen trees that I looked up at on a walk near my home in late autumn as their shimmering golds and yellows met the blue sky. Although my early drafts were more representational, I came to develop a carpet of leaves and abstracted branches to form a rich and complex fabric that reminded me of nature's beauty. This was eventually shaped into an interlocking symmetrical design. As you will see from the full size extract (the penultimate image below), the design is however far from perfectly symmetrical once the viewer approaches it closely. For me, this more honestly represents the beauty of natural forms.

An extract from a study of aspen trees; the draft 'Midnight Aspen'; a full size extract of the finished work; and the complete view of 'Tenderness and Night - Aspen Leaves and Wonderment'. The art above is used for the music cover and is a centre extract from the complete work.