. the wild song .
Below is The Wild Song release video. Order the album here.
The Wild Song is an innovative recording that combines spoken poetry, classical and new electronic music. It alternates between Benjamin Britten’s beloved folksong arrangements, poetry by W.B. Yeats recited by the great Shakespearean actor Simon Russell Beale, and new electronic music by the Oscar-winning film composer, Mychael Danna. Marci Meth and Anna Tilbrook perform Britten’s songs. The album was recorded at the Britten Studio in Snape Maltings, Suffolk, where Britten lived, worked and founded the Aldeburgh Festival.
It is an old song and yet it is timeless.
Born of the Earth, its melody pulsed upward from the soil, into the roots of a tree, up its trunk, through its branches and into the air. Men and women who laboured the soil and were close to the Earth knew it.
It is ‘the wild song.’
It’s everywhere when we listen: in the sound of the wind, the waves, our hearts.
It is within us and around us. Both silent and deafening, it is the space before the breath, the rhythm of Nature.
It is who we are.
Benjamin Britten was very attached to the land in Snape, Suffolk. He said that all of his music came from there—from its marshes, river and birdsong. This is perhaps most true of his folksong arrangements. He began composing them while abroad and nostalgic for his beloved Snape in 1941 and continued to compose them until his death in 1976. They were the work of a lifetime. The songs on this album are a small collection of the sixty-one folksong arrangements he composed in all. They are a tribute to his relationship with nature. They remind us that we are part of something bigger and more beautiful that we can see, and that each of us has a duty to cultivate a physical and spiritual connection with this Earth and leave it more beautiful than we found it.
Marci paired each of the poems by W.B. Yeats on this album with one of Britten’s folksong arrangements with a similar theme. She chose Yeats’ poetry, and these poems in particular, because Yeats’ language resonates so naturally with the lyrics in the folksongs.
When the final edit of Britten’s songs and Yeats’ poetry was complete, Marci came across an article in The New York Times written by James Rebanks, a shepherd and Oxford University graduate who lives and works in the Lake District of England. Fascinated by the article, she read his New York Times best-selling book The Shepherd’s Life and sent him a handwritten letter, asking if they might meet. For Marci, James embodies the ideals of The Wild Song. He lives and breathes them.
When they met, she told him she wanted to share his book with Mychael Danna, which she did. Mychael later told her his music for The Wild Song was inspired by a very moving paragraph in James’ book:
“There is no beginning, and there is no end. The sun rises, and falls, each day, and the seasons come and go. The days, months and years alternate through sunshine, rain, hail wind, snow and frost. The leaves fall each autumn and burst forth again each spring. The earth spins through the vastness of space. The grass comes and goes with the warmth of the sun. The farms and the flocks endure, bigger than the life of a single person. We are born, live our working lives and die, passing like the oak leaves that blow across our land in the winter. We are each a tiny part of something enduring, something that feels solid, real and true.”
Mychael Danna created sonic scenes based on ambient signatures for each of his six Interludes on the album. All of the ‘harmonies’ one hears are quotes from Britten’s piano accompaniment which have been stretched, slowed down, and/or looped. Mychael’s compositions are therefore an ‘arrangement’ or gloss on the suite of folksongs. Some quote the piece before, some ‘continue’ the piece before, some quote the next piece and some are just nature scenes.
Text adapted from the liner notes of The Wild Song.
(The paragraph from James Rebanks’ book quoted above has been reproduced from THE SHEPHERD’S LIFE by James Rebanks (Penguin Books, 2015) by permission of United Agents LLP on behalf of the author. Approximately one hundred and nineteen (119) words from THE SHEPHERD’S LIFE: A TALE OF THE LAKE DISTRICT by James Rebanks (Allen Lane, 2015). Copyright © 2015 James Rebanks.)