Making ‘The Year, She Turns’ – April
April 10, 2017. No comments.
‘April is my Friend’ is the first song on the album that I wrote on the harp. Just harp and voice. I was lucky enough to record it with the former Senior Engineer of Real World Studios, Marco Migliani. Just being in that hive of creativity and place of natural beauty is enough to inspire and uplift.
On one particular day, I was messing around on the harp in the lovely Lydian mode. For all you music theory types, Lydian is like a major scale but with a raised 4th. To me it sounds airy, uplifting, and ungrounded… just floating around in the ethers. It’s a bit heady. I wanted to write a song in that mode.
Back in my student days I learned about the modes, and having been immersed in the folk scene for many years I am pretty familiar with them. The aeolian, dorian and mixolydian modes are often found in traditional music and I have written songs and tunes using those modes. ‘The Net’ from my last album ‘Carnforth Station’, incorporates all three (and I am delighted to see it has now had 173000 listeners on Soundcloud!).
It is particularly useful as a lever harp player to understand how modes work so you can add colour and contrast without awkward modulations involving athletic semi-tone lever changes. You can set the the harp to a scale – say C – and play in C, Am, D dorian, G mixolydian, and F Lydian for starters… and not have to change one single lever.
Three months into the year, and the project, I wanted a change. A change of instrument and to write something that reflects that sense of transition into a new season. New beginnings beckon. The sun shows up the dirt, the flowers do what they always do and keep blossoming as nature intended. April… a month that invites you to wipe the dust away from your life (or even chuck out some serious crap!) so you can see more clearly and look towards a brighter day.
‘April is my Friend’ is not strictly in the Lydian mode as I alternate between C and C# (ok, a lever change after all) but I think it is implied, and along with the use of major 7th chords it has that openness in the sound. We are so used to those Western Art Music cadences that I found the pull back ‘home’ to be surprisingly strong. I kept having the urge to ‘resolve’ back to the comfort of the root chord of the major scale… but I resisted. I wanted to keep it ‘up in the air’…until finally, on that last chord, when I sing the words:
“in the end I say April I will”