LIGHT ON WATER – by Sophie Joint

Artwork by the wonderful Orcadian painter and pianist Jennifer Austin

In May 2023, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to record my debut solo album, Light on Water. The album was recorded at Wee Studio in Stornoway by Keith Morrison. I was surrounded by beautiful landscape – the studio looks out onto the gorgeous Lewis coastline which fittingly matches the album title. It was released in late March and feels totally surreal that it is finally out in the world.

The album encapsulates the inspiration I find from Scotland’s unique and varied seascapes – the music reflects the different moods created by the constantly changing textures and sounds of the sea. I aimed to create a wide range of musical ideas pulling from my influences in classical, traditional and jazz music and I am so happy with the result.

I wrote the bulk of the music during a week away staying in Port Appin. I took two weeks off to completely immerse myself in writing the album, which was a challenging but rewarding time. I woke up every morning greeted by a stunning, sunlit peninsula, made a cup of tea and got to work.

The opening track, Morning Sun, was written on one of those mornings when I had just sat down at the piano, enjoying the morning light pouring into the kitchen and the sweet, simple melody was written. The piece establishes a recurring theme in the album – repetitive bass lines accompanied with increasing amounts of chords and textures to enhance the melodies. This decision was to mimic the rhythmic nature of the sea – the water is perpetually moving and changing whilst the unpredictable Scottish weather shapes how calm or stormy the sounds shall be. This track is a peaceful, slow introduction to the album that then transitions into a more fast paced and frantic mood.

Racing, the second track on the album was inspired by the many creatures in the sea that are hurriedly journeying through the water underneath the fast flowing currents. It was a very fun track to write and it came very easily as a progression and development of the opening track. I used multi-tracking to layer the riffs and chords as I wanted it to have the impression of overlapping melodies, just as the sea creatures cross paths as they voyage through the water.

đź“· by Paul Jennings

The fast pace is maintained for the third track, Storm, as the mood changes into a minor key. The accompaniment to this melody develops the theme of repetitive rhythmic patterns as triplets gradually build tension throughout this piece. I wrote it with the image of what begins as slow falling rain, transitioning into a dramatic depiction of fierce winds and thunder.

There is a musical interlude from the water theme with an amazing tune written by Donogh Hennessy, Iníon Ní Scannláin. Lunasa recorded this waltz in 2006 on their album The Merry Sisters of Fate. I play the tune much slower, and took the approach of how I would arrange a slow air, and really enjoyed experimenting with the harmony for this track.

The title for the fifth track, Apricity, is an unusual term for the sudden warmth of the sun in winter. This summed up the culmination of my musical exploration around Scotland, which ended at an Edinburgh harbour with shafts of brilliant sunlight transforming an urban landscape on one of the coldest days of the year.

The music video for the next track caused quite a stir. I had the ambitious (slightly daft) idea of getting a grand piano out onto a pier, and thanks to the incredible team at Pianodrome and my videographer Paul Jennings, we managed to do just that. We filmed the video at Wardie Bay in Edinburgh and the piano was wheeled out over the rocky, icy surface much to the confusion of the locals. The story was picked up by The Daily Record and The BBC, as after we finished recording the video the piano was left unattended for a couple of hours which caused people to wonder how the mystery grand piano ended up at Granton Harbour.

 

The next track, Easter Snow is a lovely traditional Irish air. It is a very popular tune among flute players and my version was particularly inspired by Matt Molloy’s version, recorded on his album Pathway to the Well with John Carty in 2007.

The Lighthouse was inspired by one of my walks in Appin during a break from writing. I had hit a wall in terms of coming up with new ideas and getting out into the fresh air had given me a new lease of life. The melody came to me as I sat watching the Sgeir Bhuidhe lighthouse that sits of the western side of Loch Linnhe, just across the coast from the island of Lismore.

Seaside is a short track that encompasses the peaceful joy of sitting by the water and watching the waves crashing. I recorded the album on the famous Yamaha C7 grand piano at Wee Studio and one of the obstacles we encountered was minimising distracting noises such as a squeaky pedal, or a chair creaking. However, in this track, we discovered a happy accident. If you listen closely to the recording, as I press the sustain pedal, the noise of the dampers lifting off of the strings makes a sound reminiscent of sea foam.

The final track is titled Church Bells. The chords are inspired by the noise of church bells ringing in the distance. Just as this sound echoes far and wide, this melody journeys through several different keys, starting in A flat major, modulating to D flat and finishing in G major. I though it would be a perfect was to finish the album as it’s a peaceful, serene ending. This composition strays away from the previously established musical themes, signifying the start of something new.

Writing and recording this album was a dream come true for me, it was a steep learning curve and I was supported every step of the way by Keith Morrison and Scott Macleod who as well as mixing and mastering the album were a great comfort to me throughout the process. I was very fortunate, and could not have done it without the never-ending support of my friends and family too!

I am so looking forward to making more new music soon, if you’d like to stay up to date please head to my website www.sophiejoint.com.

All the best,
Sophie

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Light on Water released 22nd March 2024, available from:

Bandcamp | Spotify | Apple Music