Cover song by Martin Suckling
Alongside the launch of his debut disc This Departing Landscape on NMC, composer Martin Suckling shares the process of choosing an album cover.
Even when planning was in its early stages, I already knew that I would like an image of Edmund de Waal's ceramic art to be the cover for my NMC Debut Disc, This Departing Landscape.
De Waal describes his craft with characteristic humility:
'The gamble of making fragile objects out of porcelain and placing them near each other and inscribing a name in the air over the whole enterprise.'
It's a type of magic how his titles bind these collections of individual objects together and invite you into a particular space for contemplation. His installations aren't pushy. They don't demand to be read in a particular way, or even 'read' at all, but they make certain connections possible and generate a field of potentiality.
And they have rhythm, these sequences of vessels, they breathe.
I think this is how music can work: sounds placed near each other as an invitation to hear meaning into them; and while the nature of the meaning may be opaque, like some forgotten ritual, the precision of the placing and the energy and life thus generated can be powerfully meaningful.
The sounds in my music are, I hope, as lovingly formed as de Waal's pots, and like them are sometimes clearly referential, sometimes abstract. Song and dance and driven narrative can share a space with more meditative contemplations of sonority. Purity is overrated.
My flute concerto The White Road – a title borrowed from de Waal's 2015' pilgrimage of sorts' – is where the connection is closest to the surface, but all the pieces on the album have been touched by his work as a writer and visual artist. So I was delighted when de Waal generously gave me carte blanche to choose from his huge collection of images for this cover (see www.edmunddewaal.com/making).
There were a few possibilities – the dramatic contrast of white porcelain against red steel in some of de Waal's earlier work was sorely tempting – but eventually NMC and I settled on this enigmatic detail from a collection that forms part of library of exile (2019), beautifully photographed by Hélène Binet. The light striking the objects seems to me to be dawn, or perhaps dusk, but either way suggests a moment on the cusp, on the edge of a magical change, of anticipation, of hope…
Martin's album This Departing Landscape is available from the NMC Shop and across all digital platforms.
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