The relationship between landscape, nature and our own human creativity has always intrigued me, it has indeed formed much of the basis of my musical life.
The journey into this relationship started for me at Redpoint in Wester Ross with the release of my first solo fiddle album and would take me subsequently to the north of Spain, through the ancient Chisholm clan lands of Glen Strathfarrar, Glen Cannich and Glen Affric and most recently to Sandwood Bay in the north of Sutherland.
This is a relationship that fascinates me and something that drives me to find new inspiration for my own music wherever I can find it. To somehow find the music that lies underneath.
Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881) famously said “If you look deep enough you will see music; the heart of nature being everywhere music.”
I believe, like Carlyle, that immersion over many months within an untouched natural landscape and the thought process that follows, can and will bring forth music. Music that not only speaks of a particular place but also, in a much deeper sense, music that speaks of your own character and your relationship to the natural world around you.
Just as a painter would paint their interpretation of a place on canvas, we musicians paint our interpretation on silence and the clarity in such an undertaking can be honest, true and beautiful. For me the places where Earth is unmasked, those places that are untouched by human hand, are those that seem almost pregnant with inner creative force and set a true challenge to interpret musically. This challenge is to let your imagination run with what you experienced in such places, to let your mind create dependent upon on the emotions you felt while you were there, together with the stories and the history associated with a place.
Since I started touring in the late 1980’s I have been intrigued by the way indigenous music from around the world somehow seemed to ‘fit’ with the landscape it was borne from. For me this has to be a pure human response by the people who lived there to what was experienced, to what was seen, heard and felt by the individuals who had written this music throughout the centuries. This human response can be felt by the listener in the 21st Century as clearly as it would be by the writer in the 16th Century with both creator and listener experiencing a part of the world in sound, centuries apart.
During the writing of the ‘Sandwood’ album, inspired by Sandwood Bay in Sutherland, myself and Hamish Napier wrote the majority of that album in retrospect of visits we had there. Almost none of the music was written at Sandwood or even written to the many pictures and films we took there. It was, in the main, written from the memories we had of visits to Sandwood. This formed the basis of the inspiration to the music. In many respects we were writing to the feelings we experienced at Sandwood rather than to the landscape itself and therein for me lies the answer to much of this relationship.
It was as much about the rain we felt on our faces as it was about the cliffs of Cape Wrath, it was as much about the remembered colours in the sky as it was about the sand beneath our feet. It was the experience of just being there that would shape the music, of tasting the salt air, of being alone on a beach in Sutherland in November and placing your mark in the sand.
Imagination being stoked by memory in the creation of music has its own honesty. The emotions felt are not false and it is why I believe music created in this way resonates so well with audiences, because they too have shared this human response to untouched natural beauty.
I believe that staying true to these emotions will result in music that sits within a landscape as if it always belonged.
In a very beautiful way landscape, nature, history, imagination, time and music then become inextricably linked forever.