If I should ever by chance…


Poem by Edward Thomas, published 1917. Set to music by Cameron Pyke.  Recorded on the Calrec Soundfield Microphone by Ambisonix on 15/09/2010. (c) music 1982, 2010, Cameron Pyke.  (c) recording 2010 Cameron Pyke, Small Symphonies & Ambisonix. 

 Work in Progress, complete with mistakes and issues as one take, no edits or overdubs.

I posted the words to this song over a year ago, along with some notes about its origins. Briefly, I stumbled on the poem 30 odd years ago and almost as I read I was hearing melody, piano  and orchestration. I couldn’t play piano, didn’t have an orchestra. It was put on a very slow back burner. A couple of years ago I dug my sketches out of the filing cabinet and reworked it for guitar.

This was recorded at the third Ambisonix session 15 Sept 10.  There were about five takes. One was better in terms of less mistakes, but this one has a slow, wistful feel. So although I mangle the word “Childerditch” and the guitar stumbles here and there, it had to be this one – for the moment. There will be other recordings.

I have performed this song twice at open mic nights. It is not exactly sing-along stuff. The first time was in a hardcore acoustic (no amps allowed) venue which should have been well attuned to the occasional oddity. The response was not ecstatic. However, the MC said it was beautiful and bought me a drink. The response was similar at another open mic  which is normally very receptive to my material.

It’s mostly arrythmic – tempo rubato – the melody is sometimes angular, sometimes chromatic. It’s ‘through composed’ – the melody does not follow a structure based on repetition and variation – like AABA.

As a pop song – it’s a dog. Nobody will be dancing round their handbags to this one.

Nevertheless, there is a melody and it is a melody, not a tune. The poem says something to me, even more than it did 30 years ago and I believe that the music well expresses that. In particular I am pleased with the line “she must find them before I do that is”. Suddenly here there is almost a romping rhythm where there was none before and simple wholesome 1st inversion triads. To me this conjures up the young girl skipping ahead of her middle aged father to find the flowering gorse.

Yes, furze is gorse. I did not realise this for a long time. So Thomas sets his daughter a task which she cannot possibly fail.

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One thought on “If I should ever by chance…

  1. “If I Should Ever By Chance”, has, not by chance. but by virtue, supplanted the excellent “House” as my current favourite of the litter, alas I know not why exactly.

    I have an illogical fascination with things, perhaps no more than internal notions, but the must and smell of that old, and that of the past, and this is very evocative for me, perhaps of a time when H.G. Wells “The First Men On The Moon” was not so dated, when the horseless carriage was a less common sight and sound, and people cooked their sausages unpricked, and in rendered animal fat, at that, and were probably better fulfilled for the fact.

    Even a visit to the bowling green (as a casual spectator, of course!) is now jarringly modern.

    Time moves on. The lies of progress grow louder as we wrinkle, yet there is no reason, or than tawdry capital, for us to move with it.

    Oh.. Capital. Yes that…

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