Tunes for a Monday Morning


I've been listening to a lot of Nordic folk music while Howard has been in Helsinki, so let's start the week with music from our European neighbours to the north....

Above: "When the Land is White With Snow" by the Finnish band Frigg, from their album Joululaulut (2018).

Below: "Return from Helsinki" by Frigg, from their album Keidas-Oasis-Oase (2005).

Above: "Typhoon Nozaki" by Väsen (Olov Johansson, Mikael Marin, and Roger Tallroth), from Sweden. The song appears from their album Rule of Three (2019).

Below: "Kind of Polska" by The Gjermund Larsen Trio (Laresen, Sondre Meisfjord, and Andreas Utnem), from Norway, and Nordic (Anders Löfberg, Erik Rydvall, and Magnus Zetterlund), from Sweden. The tune appears on The Gjermund Larsen Trio's album Salmeklang (2016).

Above: A Swedish herding song performed by Jonna Jinton. She says: "The singing technique called kulning was used by women long time ago to call the cows and goats back home to the farm in the evenings. It was also used as a form of communication, since the high pitch sounds can be heard through very far distances. I sang this one to the cows one last time before they went back to their winter farm. I love seeing them running towards me as I sing, especially my favorite cow, Stjärna (Star), who is always the first one to come."

Below: A Swedish herding song performed by Åsa Larsson (of Resmiranda). "We went for a walk in the magical midsummer night and met these beautiful cows who came close when I started to kula.  Midsummer's eve is associated with mystery and magic in Swedish folklore tradition. One ritual that lives on until today is to pick seven kinds of flowers and put them under your pillow. The person you dream of that night, is the person you will spend your life with." (To watch Larsson kula to a wild swan, go here.)

Above: "Timelapse" by Norwegian violinist Mari Samuelsen, with the Trondheim Soloists, from her album Nordic Noir (2017)

Below: "Devil's Polska" by the Finnish/Irish trio Slow Moving Clouds (Aki, Danny Diamond, and Kevin Murphy) from their album Os (2015).

Cows here on Dartmoor

Howard returned from Helsinki this weekend and is now in London for the next month, teaching Commedia at East15 Acting School. His Fool's Journey continues throughout the year (the next training session is in France in December) -- so our Funding for Foolery campaign continues too. Can you help us reach our funding goal? Our entire family sends a big thank you to all of you who have contributed already, along with enthusiastic tail thumps from Tilly.

Images above: A traditional nycklelharpa; and cows here in Chagford, waiting to be sung to.

Tunes for a Tuesday Morning

from The Wolf Conservation Center, New York

My week is starting a little late due to health issues, but I'm back in the studio again on quiet, grey, melancholy day. Tilly is dozing at my feet, a squirrel is peering at us through the window glass, and the hills are turning yellow and gold as the days grow steadily colder.

A Window to Other WaysOn Sunday night, I was lucky enough to see my Modern Fairies colleague Marry Waterson perform with Emily Barker in an old Devon church (accompanied by Lukas Drinkwater and Rob Pemberton), so I'm focusing on their music today. "Having met on a writing retreat," writes Neil Spencer, "it is perhaps no surprise that England’s Marry Waterson and Australia’s Emily Barker found their voices made a harmonious fit. Both women have a history of collaborative projects. That their respective personae also gelled was more unexpected. Waterson, a scion of Yorkshire’s Waterson-Carthy dynasty, sings much like her late mother Lal; stoicism and lowering northern skies are never far away. By contrast, Barker has inclined to upbeat Americana; her last album, Sweet Kind of Blue, recorded in Memphis, bristles with soul and country influences. Together, the pair have cooked up a dozen songs that blend light and dark, helped by the cello parts of producer Adem Ilhan, encountered at the same retreat."

In the video above, Marry and Emily perform four original songs -- "Be Good," "Twister," "I’m Drawn," and  "Perfect Needs" -- for Pirate Live (2018). All of the songs can be found on their wonderful new album, A Window to Other Ways.

Below, Marry and guitarist David A. Jaycock perform their beautiful song "Two Wolves," from the album of the same name (2015).

from The Wolf Conservation Center, New York

Above: "Lord I Want an Exit" by Emily, recorded for The Toerag Sessions (2015).

Below: "Some Old Salty" by Marry's late mother, Lal Waterson, from her album Once in a Blue Moon (with Marry's brother, Oliver Knight). Marry, Emily, Lukas, and Rob sang this one acapella on Sunday night to close their set, and it was so gorgeous my heart was in my throat.

from The Wolf Conservation Center, New York

The wolf photographs are from the Wolf Conservation Center, an educational foundation and wolf refuge in South Salem, New York. For more information, go here. For wolves in folklore, fairy tales, and fantasy, go here.

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Airborn by Andrew Wyeth

I'm starting the week with music from the beautiful, troubled, complicated country I was raised in and still love....

Above: "The Line Between" by the English/American roots duo Son of Town Hall (Ben Parker and David Berkeley), from their fine new album The Adventures of Son of Town Hall. I love these guys and hope the new album brings them more attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

Below: "Morning Fields" by Son of Town Hall, recorded at a Studio Session last year.

Above: "Down in the Water" by Mipso (Wood Robinson, Libby Rodenbough, Jacob Sharp, Joseph Terrell), an American roots quartet from North Carolina. This performance was filmed in Saxapahaw, NC, in 2016.

Below: "My Burder With Me" by Mipso, performed in New York City in 2017.

Above: "Scrape Me Off the Ceiling" by The Steel Wheels (Eric Brubaker, Brian Dikel, Kevin Joaquin Garcia, Jay Lapp, Trent Wagler), an American roots group from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The song is from their album Wild As We Came Here (2017).

Below: "February Seven," an old favorite from The Avett Brothers (Scott Avett, Seth Avett, Bob Crawford, Joe Kwon), from Concord, North Carolina. I love the underlying theme of this video: examining the process of songwriting (or another kind of creative work), and reminding me of this advice for writers from Hilary Mantel:

"If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient."

And one more to end with, below: "Marching On" a song of hope and persistence during these difficult times by Phoebe Hunt & the Gatherers, from Austin, Texas.

March on, everyone. March on.

Apples on the Windowsill by Andew Wyeth

The art today is by the great American painter Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009).

Tunes for a Monday Morning

John Dowland 'First booke of songes or ayres' London, 1603

I'm in the mood for a little John Dowland this morning, so I hope you are too....

Above, Dowland's "A Fancy," performed by the great English lutenist Julian Bream, the very best  of Dowland's contemporary interpreters. His classic album Lute Music of John Dowland, recorded in a Dorset chapel in 1976, introduced many people to Dowland's compositions, and to Early Music in general.

Below, Dowland's "Lachrimae Pavan," performed on the classical guitar by Nataly Makovskaya. The piece was composed sometime before 1596 for solo lute, and then re-appeared as a song, "Flow My Tears," in Dowland's Second Booke of Songs or Ayres (1600). This guitar version is perfectly lovely.

Above, "Weep You No More Sad Fountains," from Dowland's Third and Last Booke of Songes or Ayres, 1603 -- which, fortunately, wasn't his last at all -- performed by Paul Agnew (tenor) and Christopher Wilson (lute), from the album In Darknesse Let Me Dwell (1996).

Below, "Now, O Now I Needs Must Part" from Dowland's First Book Of Songs Or Ayres, 1597 -- performed by Les Canards Chantants, a choral group from America dedicated to Renaissance polyphony. Although they're based in Philadelphia, the video was filmed on a steam train on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway in the north of England. They say: "See if you can spot the station used as 'Hogsmeade' in the Harry Potter movie. All aboard the Hogwarts Express!"

Tunes for a Monday Morning

The lane to Chagford

American and Canadian roots music today, both old and new....

Above: "Better for You" by Kalyna Rake, in a video filmed by Myles O'Reilly in West Cork, Ireland (during the Clonakilty International Guitar Festival) earlier this month.

Below: "The Art of Forgetting" by Kyle Carey, from her album of the same name (2018).

Above: "Glory Bound" and "Wildflowers" by The Wailin' Jennys (Ruth Moody, Nicky Mehta, and Heather Masse), performed for the Attic Sessions (2018).

Below: "Trouble and Woe" by Ruth Moody, performed for Live from the Great Hall (2013).

Above: "St. Elizabeth" by Kaia Kater, from her album Nine Pin (2016).

Below: "Cuckoo" by Rising Appalachia (sisters Leah and Chloe Smith), from their new album Leylines (2019).

Devon gate

(If you'd like one more today, I recommend "Colorado" by the Brother Brothers with Sarah Jarosz, which cannot be embedded here.)

Tunes for a Monday Morning

St Kevin and the Blackbird by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

It's a quiet, rainy morning here in Devon, I'm back in the studio at last and starting the week with beautiful music from Wales, both old and new....

Above: "Pan O'wn y Gwanwyn" by Alaw (Oli Wilson-Dickson, Dylan Fowler, and Jamie Smith). The song is from their second album, Dead Man's Dance (2017). The video was filmed at Twyn y Gaer hill fort near Abergavenny.

Below" "Breuddwyd y Wrach/Nyth y Gog" by Alaw, performed at Acapela Studio in 2013.

The Prophet Fed by a Raven by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Above: "Cardod" by Gwilym Bowen Rhys, a singer-songwriter from North West Wales. This piece, blending 17th century poetry and 18th century fiddle music, appears on his fine new album, Arenig (2019). Also, "Arenig," the title song from the new album, featuring poetry by Euros Bowen (Rhys' great-uncle) about the Arenig mountains of Snowdonia.

Below: "Dig Me a Hole" by Gwyneth Glyn, a singer, poet, and playright from Eifionydd on the Llŷn Peninsula. The song appears on Glyn's solo album Tro (2017).

An illlustration from Gawain and the Green Knight by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Above: "The Cliffs" by Isembards Wheel, a folk band based in Cardiff. The song is from their EP Autumn In Eden (2016).

Below: "The Fisherman" by The Gentle Good (singer-songwriter Gareth Bonello) from Cardiff -- with Callum Duggan on double bass and Jennifer Gallichan on vocals. It appears on Bonello's fourth album, Ruins/Adfeilion (2016).

An illlustration from Gawain and the Green Knight by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

The imagery today is by one of my favourite artists (and favourite people), Clive Hicks-Jenkins, who was born in south Wales, and now lives on the Welsh coast near Aberystwyth. After a distinguished career as a director, performer, choreographer and puppeteer for stage, film, and television, Clive turned to making art in a wide variety of forms, including painting, drawing, printmaking, ceramics, maquettes, animation, and artist’s books. His work -- inspired by myth, Romance, folklore, poetry, Biblical stories, and the history and landscape of Wales --  can now be found in museums, galleries, libraries, and private collections the world over.

Hansel & Gretel toy theatre by Clive Hicks-JenkinsAs his biography notes: "In 2016 Random Spectacular published Hicks-Jenkins' dark reworking of Hansel & Gretel into a picture book; and the following year Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop in Covent Garden commissioned a Hansel & Gretel toy theatre kit based on it. In response to the two publications, Goldfield Productions engaged the artist, to direct and design a new version of the fairytale, with music by Matthew Kaner and a libretto by the poet Simon Armitage. Performed by a chamber consort, a narrator/singer and two puppeteers, it premiered at the Cheltenham Music Festival in July 2018, earning a four-star review from The Guardian before beginning a five month tour of music festivals. The London premiere at Barbican was recorded by BBC Radio 3 for broadcast in December 2018. Hansel & Gretel was the second collaboration between the artist and poet, coming on the heels of Faber & Faber publishing Armitage’s revision of his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, illustrated throughout with the fourteen screenprints Hicks-Jenkins made in collaboration with Penfold Press."

To see more of Clive's absolutely gorgeous work, please visit his website and art blog.

Hanel & Gretel illustration by Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Sir Gawain & the Green Knight illustrated by Clive Hicks Jenkins

Tunes for a Monday Morning


Yesterday was the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II, and so I'm looking at songs of soldiers and the march to war. May we remember the stark lessons of the past.

"War is what happens when language fails." - Margaret Atwood

Above: "Solider, Soldier" performed by The Witches of Elswick (Becky Stockwell, Gillian Tolfrey, Bryony Griffith, and Fay Hield), from their debut album Out of Bed (2003). The lyrics are from a poem by Rudyard Kipling; the music is by Peter Bellamy.

"Crow on the Cradle" peformed by Lady Maisery (Hazel Askew, Hannah James, and Rowan Rheingans), from their second album Mayday (2013). The lyrics are attributed to Sydney Carter, adapted from an old folk song.

Above: "High Germany" performed by Tell Tale Tusk (Fiona Fey, Laura Inskip, Reyhan Yusuf, and Anna Lowenstein) at Sofar London, 2017.

Below: "Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier" performed by Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, from her album Foxglove & Fuschia (2017)

Above: "The Gamekeeper" by Show of Hands (Steve Knightley, Phil Beer, and Miranda Sykes), from here in Devon. This very beautiful song, about a Dartmoor gamekeeper sent to the trenches of World War I, appears on their album Centenary (2016).

Below: "Cable Street" by The Young'uns (Sean Cooney, David Eagle, and Michael Hughes), from their album The Ballad of Johnny Longstaff (2019). It's a song about our elders' great fight against facism, here in England as well as on the continent. How disheartening that we must do it again....

And one more song to end with, above: The Young'uns sing Billy Bragg's "Between the Wars" at the Folk Alliance International Conference, 2015.

Trouble times, says Toni Morrison, are "precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal."


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Leaves of the wood

Many of our friends and colleagues in the fantasy publishing field have been in Dublin over the last several days for the World SFF Convention, and so music and poetry from Ireland seems an appropriate way to start off the week. All the videos here were shot by filmmaker Myles O'Reilly, who specializes in documenting the work of Irish musicians at home and abroad. I love his work, which beautifully captures this moment in time in the Irish music scene.

Above: O'Reilly's short film Backwards to Go Forwards (2019), which he describes as "a little snapshot" of contemporary Irish folk music. The film features This is How we Fly, Cormac Begley, Saileog & Muireann Ní Cheannabháin, Radie Peat, Cormac Mac Diarmada & Brian Flanagan, Ye Vagabonds, Slow Moving Clouds, The Bonny Men, Zoe Conway and John McIntyre, along with interviews conducted by O'Reilly, Martin Mackie, and Donal Dineen.

Below: "Rí Rua" by This is How We Fly, fusing traditional music of Ireland and Sweden with jazz improvisation and clog dancing. The performance was filmed at Fumbally Stables in Dublin, 2017.

Above: "I Courted a Wee Girl" performed by Ye Vagabonds (brothers Brían and Diarmuid Mac Gloinn), who grew up in rural Carlow but are now based in Dublin.

"In the summer of 2018," says O'Reilly, "I was invited to document a tour with Ye Vagabonds who were performing on six islands off the coast of Ireland. The result is Seven Songs On Six Islands, a musical and visual odyssey through some of the most remote and beautiful edges of the country."  The full film can be viewed O'Reilly's Patreon page, where, if you make a pledge, your funds will help him to make one similar music documentary per month. 

Below: "Willie O Winsbury" (Child Ballad #100) performed by Ye Vagabonds in Dublin, 2014.

Above: "Factory Girl" performed by two stalwarts of Irish music: Lisa O'Neill (from Cavan) and Radie Peat (of the band Lankum, from Dublin). The video was filmed for O'Reilly's This Ain't No Disco series showcasing Irish music and spoken word.

Below: "Morning," a gentle song by the folk duo LemonCello (Laura Quirke and Claire Kinsella), who started performing together at university in County Kildare. Cello, harmonies, scones, adorable dogs...there's a lot to like here.

And one more to end with:  "iomramh" by Dublin poet and playwright Stephen James Smith, filmed for the Ain't No Disco series. "The poem," says Smith, "was written at Cill Rialaig in County Kerry. An iomramh is a class of old Irish tale concerning a hero’s sea journey to the otherworld. Each of these journeys ostensibly takes place in the physical world, but in parallel with this they are, on a deeper level, also journeys to oneself."

The Cill Rialaig artists' retreat in County KerryThe Cill Rialaig Artists' Retreat, Co. Kerry, Ireland.

Tunes for a Monday Morning


This week, I am feeling the need for quiet, focus, and to find my creative centre again --  so I'm turning to the music of the great Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, for whom a love of simplicity and silence inspired the musical style he calls tintinabulli.

"On the one hand, silence is like fertile soil, which, as it were, awaits our creative act, our seed," the composer explains. "On the other hand, silence must be approached with a feeling of awe. And when we speak about silence, we must keep in mind that it has two different wings, so to speak. Silence can be both that which is outside of us and that which is inside a person. The silence of our soul, which isn't even affected by external distractions, is actually more crucial but more difficult to achieve."

Above, Pärt's exquisite "Spiegel im spiegel," performed by Sally Maer (cello) and Sally Whitwell (piano), accompanied by the very beautiful art of American painter Jeanie Tomanek.

Below, Pärt's "Summa," performed by The Carducci Quartet: Matthew Denton (violin), Michelle Fleming (violin),  Eoin Schmidt-Martin (viola), and Emma Denton (cello).

Below, an English-language piece by Pärt: "My Heart's in the Highlands," performed by Danish soprano Elsa Torp and English organist Christopher Bowers-Broadbent, recorded for Pärt’s Triodion CD (2003). The lyrics come a Robert Burns poem written in 1789.

Allt a' Mhuilinn in the Scottish Highlands

"Is it possible to make a living by simply watching light?" asks American writer Terry Tempest Williams. "Monet did. Vermeer did. I believe Vincent did too. They painted light in order to witness the dance between revelation and concealment, exposure and darkness. Perhaps this is what I desire most, to sit and watch the shifting shadows cross the cliff face of sandstone or simply to walk parallel with a path of liquid light called the Colorado River....This living would include becoming a caretaker of silence, a connoisseur of stillness, a listener of wind where each dialect is not only heard but understood."

In the Wild Country by Jeanie Tomanek

For more Arvo Pärt this morning, I recommend Even if I Lose Everything, a short film on the composer by Dorian Supine. The art above is: "Wingspan" and "Wild Country" by Jeanie Tomanek. The Terry Tempest Williams quote is from her excellent essay collection Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert (Pantheon, 2001).

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Sir Orfeo illustrated by Errol le Cain

I periodically turn to Child Ballads for our "Monday Tunes," not only because I love them, but because they are full of stories that have also inspired other forms of mythic art, from fantasy novels to poetry and comics. The songs I've chosen to play today are ones that haven't yet been featured on Myth & Moor, but of course there are many, many others. If you'd like further recommendations, go here for previous ballad-related posts.

Above: "Orfeo" (Child Ballad #19) performed by the Scottish folk band Malinky, based in Edinburg. The song is from their lovely new album Handsel (2019).

Below: "The Forester" (Child Ballad #110), performed by Malinky, also from the new album.

Above: "Lady Diamond" (Child Ballad #269) performed by Scottish singer and harpist Rachel Newton. The song appeared on her solo album The Shadow Side (2012).

Below: "Edward" (Child Ballad #13) performed by the Scottish folk band Old Blind Dogs, from Aberdeen. The song appeared on their seventh album, The World's Room (1999).

Above: "The Gardener" (Child Ballad #219) performed by the great English folk singer June Tabor. The song appeared on her solo album A Quiet Eye (2000).

Below: "The Cruel Mother" (Child Ballad #20) performed by Scottish singer Fiona Hunter (from Malinky). The song appeared on her first solo album Fiona Hunter (2014).

Above: The Dowie Dens of Yarrow" (Child Ballad #214) performed by Scottish singer/songwriter Karine Polwart, based in Edinburgh. The song appeared on her third solo album Fairest Floo'er (2007).

Below: "Lord Baker" (Child Ballad #53) performed by Susan McKeown, a Dublin-born singer based in New York City. The song appeared on her solo album Lowlands (200).

Thorn Rose by Errol le Cain

Art: Illustrations for Sir Orfeo (a Middle English narrative poem related to the ballad "King Orfeo") and Thorn Rose by British book artist Errol le Cain (1941-1989).