Natural Pathways was recorded at Abbey Road Studio 1 in January 2020 for Audio Network, just as the Covid Pandemic started to dominate the news.

# Title Time
1 Balance of Nature 3:15
2 Mountain Spirit 2:44
3 In Suspension 2:29
4 Beyond the Peak 3:40
5 From Northern Lands 2:34
6 In From the Cold 2:24
7 Upland Breeze 2:44

I had a project in mind for some while before that to write an album with what to me seemed like an outdoor pastoral landscape feel. By that, I didn’t mean a kind of quaint romanticised ‘green and pleasant land’ homage to the countryside but something a little bit more rugged and solitary with just a hint of the celtic or nordic about it. In a technical sense, I tended to use modal scales and harmonies (eg Mountain Spirit uses the D Dorian scale) which help to reinforce that particular sound world. Modal harmonies are useful in creating an ambivalent mood which can feel positive, noble, serene and yet have a slightly melancholy or desolate feel at the same time. It’s interesting that conversely the harmonies that result from using standard major or minor scales often gives rise to music that is more polarised in whether it seems happy or sad.

I suppose the track that is the biggest giveaway (if only by it’s title) that I was after a slightly celtic flavour is From Northern Lands which features a kind of repeating pentatonic motif on the harp (played by Helen Tunstall) which is underpinned by slow moving atmospheric strings. Possibly my favourite track of the set is Beyond the Peak which unusually for a production music track builds to a climax but then subsides to a quieter more reflective ending in a different key to the opening of the track. There’s a real sense of journey (travelling from A to B musically) with this piece and it features Ben Dawson on piano.

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