Listening to sound

“And our whisper is like the breeze in the leaves

and the birdsong that pauses you in its pausing”

from ‘Angel Whisper’ - JAY RAMSAY

I'm teaching composition to a 9 year old student. Today she added an accidental (a note not in the key) to her composition, and carefully played it again, listening with intent. She said how important it is to 'like' the note she was choosing. The simplicity of this event was touching and It was a lovely moment to see her discriminate and 'choose' the sound she wanted.

To me it's a question of finding the notes that correspond with an inner ‘sound’, feeling or intention. Sometimes these notes arrive in a natural flow like conversation, and sometimes they drop in 'by accident' that surprise me, but I think, yes that's exactly the right sound I need! Over the years I've found my own language of notes has developed, and my own choices have created a particular sound.

Recently I've been thinking more about the sounds I like, their meanings, memories and feelings they invoke. A blackbird has become a regular visitor to my garden and is inspiring me with his song. I’ve noticed how thoughtful his singing is. I’m particularly touched with how he is obviously listening before he sings and how sweet and pure his tone is. Then he pauses, listens again, then presents the next part of his joyous song.

With the English Summer here,  I’ve been noticing the sounds of nature generally. I love the sound of Canada geese as they fly in V shaped formations on their way to a nearby reservoir, and the sound of rooks as they flit around their 'village of nests' high up in trees (both sounds I grew up with). On a recent walk, the songbirds were filling the woods with rich sound. Again, I realised it's a sound I grew up, having lived near woods, but the sound was particular because of the time of day too. It was early evening and the birdsong seems to particularly intense at this given time. This intensity reminds me of the richness of sounds around us that we are bathed in.

Weather conditions also affect sound. I like sounds I hear in high pressure. A favorite is the sound of the scooters in town, because when they are a certain pitch I know it's going to be or stay hot weather which I love. Different as they are, I like the sounds of city as much as sounds of country.

The 20th century French composer Oliver Messiaen is famous for transcribing actual birdsong into his compositions, and many composers have been inspired by birdsong and nature sounds. For instance, Respighi's The Birds, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (no.6).

I don't try to copy the sounds of nature into my composition, but they remind me of the connection we all have to sound in our lives, how they can enrich and color our day, a walk, create feelings, connections and uplift us. Sounds we love create a soundtrack to our lives, and my love of streams and water, has definitely come through in my music. People often comment on hearing the sounds of water in my compositions. An obvious example is the series of piano pieces I have written called 'Streams'. To listen please click on the links below:

Streams I Streams II - Streams III Streams IV

To read more about ‘Streams’ please click here

Read about the CD “Streams” 

Thank you for visiting this site, and I do hope you will browse the other pages and listen to some of my music.  To read more about my piano music please visit scores


Other articles:

A thread so fine...

I've been writing more piano compositions recently, one of which is a short piano piece called "A thread so fine...." The title touches on a feeling I have with all of my compositions. read more.....

My process of composing

People often ask me about my composing process... read more.....

The Journey of Soul - why create music?

much time is spent on ‘how’ to make music, but how much attention is given to ‘why’ make music?


My trip to Deià, Mallorca

Inspiration from landscapes (inner and outer)

read more.....

Process of composing music 3

Listening to Sound

Other articles

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