Of Bare Roots, Buds and Buckthorn

4th March 2020 – New music inspired by and dedicated to the new growth of the season

Spring is just about here in Devon. It’s still raining and fairly cold a lot of the time, but the days are getting longer, the daffs are out and some buds are just starting to open. This then seems like an appropriate time to add my first post to this blog…

I have a lifelong interest in the natural world, and being in the open air working with plants is a joy and constant source of inspiration to me. At this time of year there begins a shift from dormancy towards growth, and it’s with this in mind that I’ve written and arranged some new music.

Inspired by two days (one dry, one very, very wet) spent planting bare root fruit trees and bushes, Of Bare Roots & Buckthorn is a pair of tunes arranged for cittern and guitar, and written in 5/4 time for the Kabm Pymp or Cornish five-step dance.

A key dance in the Nos Lowen repertory of Cornwall, the Kabm Pymp can be danced as a circle or serpent dance, and has become a popular vehicle for new compositions by current exponents of Cornish traditional music. I’m sure a few of these musicians will be playing for dances this weekend, as St. Piran’s day (Cornwall’s national day) is on the 5th. I’m hoping to make the trip down the peninsula for a dance myself.

In the video below there is a short clip of a group I taught dancing Kabm Pymp at the Tunelink TradFest, a day-long traditional music and dance event which took place in July 2019 at Ashburton Arts Centre. Skip to 2.15 for the Kabm Pymp.

With one bar of music corresponding to the entire set of steps, one upshot is that unlike set or ceilidh dances, tunes written for Kabm Pymp don’t have to conform to a specific structure when it comes to the number of bars. Although the two themes in Bare Roots & Buckthorn do follow a very straightforward AABB structure much like many jigs and reels from the Irish and Scottish traditions, I have written others which play with the possibilities of irregular structures a little more. This old track is a sketch of some ideas along those lines from a bout of composing around this time last year. There must be something about the spring that makes me want to write dance music…

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