Researching the magical nature of the English landscape has led me to a fascinating article on the influence of the landscape and pagan themes on British composers by violinist Sue Aston who has produced a number of CDs of her music including ‘Sacred Landscapes’. Read the full article and see details of her music here. Here is just a sample:
Recording my violin album ‘Sacred Landscapes’ took me on a journey that went far beyond my passion for the Landscape that inspired it. As a composer I have absorbed a great deal of inspiration from the natural landscape, particularly the isolated areas of Cornwall which are rich in legend and folklore.
My journey is also very much a spiritual one and I have felt compelled to find out whether any other composers had felt the same way. My research into this subject is startling, as it uncovers a wealth of well known composers who also had an affinity with the landscape and with nature based spirituality. This article focuses on Bax, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Bantock and Butterworth, all composers who were heavily influenced by nature and mysticism.
Our quest begins towards the end of the 19th century, when there was a reaction in Britain against Victorian restraints and outmoded religious practices.
In parallel with the philosophies and activities taking place throughout the continent and Russia, visionary people were seeking a new kind of spirituality based on the old nature based belief systems.
When contemplating the ingredients that make up the essence of Paganism, the images that come to mind are being in tune with nature, the spirit of the wild landscape, and the powerful energies that permeate the ancient sacred sites. Such influences were found in the works of many British composers. Despite their more formal religious backgrounds, ranging from Catholicism to Hinduism, the common link between them all is the sacred aspect of being at one with the natural world.