elizabeth Veldon – “It Would Melt In My Hand: Seven Haiku By Basho (And A Song Cycle)”

I received this Compact Disc along with the Xmas mail. I have been neglecting this blog lately – as it is January 1st, I will make the resolution – openly & publicly – that I intend to pick up where I left off mid-November. So what better way than to review an album that was released around that time? A hymn to autumn.

Veldon has collected plaudits from this blog and The Wire magazine for her piano compositions. I was secretly hoping that this release would prove to be another of her excellent pieces – but, if it was, would it live up to the expectations produced by the last two albums composed by elizabeth that I reviewed: “When I Was A Child …” & “Charlie & Ibrahim …“?

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elizabeth sent me one of the artists copies that were afforded to her upon the pressing of the album. She very graciously and kindly send me a copy so I may review the album.

And, what an album! As with previous album’s reviewed on this blog by elizabeth, the performance on “It Would Melt In My Hand” is one of minimalist and gossamer piano improvisation.

When I read the title of the album, I admit it; I was hoping I would be hearing elizabeth’s Scottish brogue recite, in a dulcet fashion, seven works by Basho – however, they were not on the release.

So, what do we have with this release? We have a single track just over 26 minutes long. I was a bit stumped as to how it fitted in with the title of the album. I played it and it instantly clicked.

The 26 minute track is seven cycles based on seven selected English translations of Haiku poems by Basho – so there will be a cycle, a lengthy pause and then another cycle – each cycle represents a Haiku.

The opening Haiku is –

This road –

No-one goes down it,

autumn evening.

The concept is a fine art interpretation of Autumn. And, this release is fine art. There is an example of the peak of Edo Period verse in the form of it’s most celebrated poet, Matsuo Bashō. There is elizabeth’s interpretation of Matsuo Bashō’s commands to live and, to a degree, the handmade packaging the Compact Disc came it.

Limited to an edition of 50 copies and released by Sirenwire Editions, this CD can be purchased here. There is an ephemeral beauty & grace in the way Veldon performs the piano cycle on this release. This album is – at heart – a hymn to autumn. The Poet’s favourite season. It fittingly ends on a cycle based on Shakespeare’s 73rd Sonnet.

That time of year thou may’st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by-and-by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

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