It will take many years until we become familiar with this work and get an understanding of its significance. Like a city, we will visit many times, often returning to familiar passages and districts from the same point of entry. Most often it seems this will be in autumn, and we establish a truth around this, finding seasonal connections and atmospheres around change, transition and recollections. But looking back through notebooks and diaries, we see also that there have been many visits in spring time, when colours are new and bright, or at the height of a verdant, warm summer when the air sits heavy. Occasionally and sometimes we will explore somewhere new. Take a different turning or cross a different street.
Sometimes we will be alone, to walk among memories and rekindle emotions. Other times we will seek old friends and stand among them in places that remain unchanged. Perhaps we will seem them in the market or a coffee shop, remarking that somehow its different now. But we will always return.
This incredible suite of music has a beguiling sense of place. It has a physical presence, though indistinct and barely tangible. We think we know it, but parts of it remain hidden and others scare us and we don’t want to go there. We will sit among its sweeping phrases, movements and symphony, remembering. We will not recall most of it at all and notice different things every time, and yet we will assure ourselves that it is familiar and we know where we are. Memories will be evoked, enjoyed and discarded. We know the landscape, the bigger picture – it’s the detail that evades and never quite comes into focus. But as we sit and listen and engage, they becoming crystal clear for moments, as if they have always been there and we have somehow overlooked them. Little details among the composition will suddenly stand out like architectural features or photographs, subtle and beautiful, adding to the whole. Yet with an enchanting, individual beauty of their own.beauty of their own. We will trace them gently with our fingers and wonder about them, then look up and out again at the surroundings, as if we want to share.
“Look, hear. See this – have you noticed it before? How charming it is.”
Cathedral Oceans is most often described as music for a vast, submerged cathedral and we have come to associate it with crumbing walls, grandeur and greenery. Overgrown and overlooked. Pastoral, somehow rural and perhaps even ‘English’. There are trees, leafy lanes. Rain and romance. Yet it is equally urban, its mood and evocation suggesting a labyrinthine city, sweeping highways and skyline high rise. A place to get lost. Is it enclosed, or open? Are we looking out over a vista, or up from the bottom of the sea. Is that smoke, or clouds? People, birds and fish become one. An imagined reality fused with fiction and truth. Trees and tower blocks. The forest is a factory.
Autumn beholds spring and summer. We will grow older and then young again, spending time with earlier versions of lovers and ourselves.
The true secret of its identity and situation – an thus of our own – lies hidden among all these things, and it will never be quite the same whenever we come. And we will never quite know how to get here – we will just arrive. Like a memory. As we age, they become a more integral part of our present, invoked unforeseen. It will always be a place of tranquillity among chaos, an arrangement of moments threaded together in intricate generous patterns of longing. Instances of quiet splendour and intense complexity among a broader, expansive release.
To appreciate the fabric and the craftsmanship of its weave, we must take time to sit, and just to be. To let the music and space embrace us, and drift away on its tides. We must wear the suit for many years, becoming whoever we are when we put it on. Wondering and wandering. Engaging with the slowness of time.
Longing, breathing and quiet…
The first movement opens with a scene-setting instrumental, a gentle introduction of rising, light synthesised string washes reminiscent of pastoral, classical musical.
We have come to some kind of vast church or cathedral. It rises before us, resplendent and huge. There are steps, and columns, and we gaze upwards at the ancient architecture rising from the vegetation at its base.
There is a pair of iron gates across some kind of overgrown path. One is closed, entangled and rusted; the other hangs loose, fallen and open…
City As Memory
Exploring all the above themes: people, places, experience and identity. This piece evokes an internal space, as if we have walked into a huge, dark hall. Why is it dark? A treated, layered and spectral voice reverberates off the walls, filling the space with echo. Imposing.
Contains scenes of mild threat and uncertainty.
Through Summer Rooms
Altogether lighter, gently. We are seated now, having brushed some dead leaves off a dusty bench overlooking a pond. It used to be a bath, and there are marble steps going down into the silent water. The vocal is more affirmational and re-assuring than the last piece, it has more air and seems to be rising from the water below us. There is a graceful elegance about the single voice. Devotional and calming.
There is also a faint whirring, and an image flickers onto the wall opposite, as if it were projected. It is unclear, half-formed. A woman?
Geometry And Coincidence
Simply structured notes that call our attention to something. That glimpse, that half-imagined film. Was it there before? Focus. Past times returning. A bell tolls repeatedly in a distant cloister. What IS that? There is a suggestion of something specific, precise. A corridor lined with identical doors. We listen more closely too, as if something is about to appear but the Latin is still just a little too blurred and unclear. It is as if the voice is now communicating with us directly, rather than part of the ambience. The harder we try to remember, the more distant and evasive the memory becomes.
Here, and Gone.
Our mood darkens for a moment, and we are now alone with a familiar longing. The voice has gone, and this passage is an instrumental reprise of the opening sequence. An interlude, as if we have looked up from the bench to a high, broken window through which filtered sunlight falls on the flagstones. By lifting our gaze and feeling a gentle breeze in the air, we become aware of the fondness and affection of someone we know. Her fingers are cool, and we take her fragile hand.
Refreshing and splendid.
The longest piece on the album. Built around a repeating melody that is at once comforting. We are walking and talking with her, dancing in an empty ballroom under a mirrorball. A Man and A Woman. There is rhythm, and in its arms we can just ‘be’. Introspective and beautiful. Lost for a moment. Adrift in 1983.
The camera switches to a panorama of the sweeping city outside. We do not even know it is there and think only that the lights we sometimes see at night are stars. Dance with me…
Every time we meet there is an ending.
The music wanders off, the voice lingers. Isolated for a second.
She is gone.
Sombre. Mournful. Which way did she go? and where did we come into this place?
Tearful and anguished by a sudden, wrenching sadness. The voice is ours.
Infinite In All Directions
In our meanderings and despair, we have come to a balcony and stand now overlooking an immense, unfathomable vastness. Watching the world turning round below us.
Endless horizons. Endless possibilities.
Each of them as unlikely as the next.
And just as wonderful.
Focusing again. A close-up. The first reference in the landscape to a point of entry – a tangible place that we recognise. The voice is lighter, affirming and re-assured. We are perhaps less of a stranger here than we thought, and by returning to each familiar place we build a clearer picture of somewhere we have always been.
There is a sense that we will be Leaving soon.
We feel empty because she is gone, but full and alive because she has been.
The voice is singing to us now, waving.
Coda and summation.
Forgotten chapters revisited. Things we always meant to do, down that passage overlooked. This is the shadow we thought we saw briefly on that wall, and all that Might Have Been. Strong, choral harmonics rising to fill the space.
One of those things that lies behind one of those doors that we never open.
Looking out from the heath across the City of Endless Lights. Everything is falling back gently into some kind of order. There is a voice, but it is wrapped in swathes and resonance. Woven into the fabric of the suit among the glimmer and washes. Gently focused and reflective. Organise, re-arrange and consider.
Sequencing events and memories.
Mapping the city.
There is birdsong. It is dawn.
We’ve been standing in The Garden.