A happy solstice to everyone in and around the Old Weird Albion. For years I’ve wanted to make a recording of Laurie Lee’s brilliant pagan-landscape poem, ‘Christmas Landscape’, and this year – thanks to a few creative friends – it’s come together. Here are two versions, one with beautiful, hopeful, minimalist piano accompaniment by Project 5am (aka Jason Kofi-Haye); the other with a bible-black take, made on analog synths, by Teleplasmiste (aka Mark Pilkington and Michael J. York).
It’s all free to listen or download – payments will be considered donations, and given to the good people at Centre for Ecotherapy – a charity in Brighton that does community ecotherapeutic work.
The Project 5am version is read by myself and Lucy Greeves, who rightfully pointed out that the final stanza was rhetorical and made somewhat redundant by the hopeful, angelic-whispering tone we took with that recording – as well as the peace-on-earth sound of Jason’s music. So we cut it out. The Teleplasmiste version is just read by myself, doubled and trebled in Waitsian modes to give it the fire-and-brimstone Lee saw side-by-side with the picturesque amongst the English landscape.
It’s been a strange year on the Essex/Suffolk borders. I haven’t been out on the paths near as much as I’d like to, and the result is a feeling of darkness and isolation from the landscape at solstice – it’s not right, and must be remedied in 2019. Then again, that might not be the separation from the walks – that might just be the state of Britain and of the world: one of drastic individuation, nationalism, fear and anxiety. I hope to stamp down on such things – to embrace more often, to collaborate, as a means of dealing with the dark. I hope you’ll come with me in such movements – walking, listening, being in the moment and rifling through the cultural archive as we do so.