All songs by Richard Newman except *
* Words by Clare Crossman, Music by Richard Newman
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Richard Newman and Fenlight
When I was much younger I wrote a series of songs called Songs of the City about growing up in London, in fact, to be exact about growing up in Battersea, which is in South London. Many, many years later I was approached by the poet, Clare Crossman, with the idea that I use a set of poems that she was writing as the basis of creating a new set of songs on the theme of Fenlight.
On reading Clares work, and not just the work that became Fenlight, the effect on me was always to induce an emotional response. She is just that kind of writer. I am an urban man, I have grown up and lived in cities for the whole of my life and have spent no time at all living in a rural environment. Therefore, I approached this work, which is essentially about the countryside and community, as a complete outsider. Rather as if a South Londoner had been taken on a short break to the Fens and was able to walk around and just see.
Clare Crossman has been my eyes; her words have shown me spaces and places that are alien to me.
I thus bring to this project a South Londoners view of a rural landscape not seen directly,but in my imagination, through the words of Clare Crossman.
This therefore has been a genuine cross-arts project between, on the one hand an established poet and on the other, a songwriter of some experience.
In completing my work on this project I realise that I have brought much of the urban sensibility to it. There is aggression, paranoia and an intensity that you would only know of, if you had spent any real time of your life, living at street level in a major city. The city can be as dark, cold, isolating and ruthless as any theme that may have sprung from rural myth.
I have tried to be honest with my emotions and what you get is the effect of the poems upon me. Fenlight is not my light, however it is a light to see by. You may look through Clares words, or again, you may see things through the songs that I have written.
I hope you will be encouraged, to go and look for yourself.
Music beyond words
A note on collaboration with Richard
I always loved music. Music introduced me to poetry. The lyrics of Leonard Cohen for example, led me to Dylan Thomas and T.S. Eliot when I was 15.
There is a cadence in music, which gives it a transcendental quality. Music is beyond and more than words and in this way can illuminate them. Music in a sense demands a clarity and silence from language, which is distinct from poems written to simply be read on the page or aloud. In the process of hearing Richards music and songs, the poems changed to be come texts to hopefully complement and engage with the musical phrasing. Their order changed of 26 some were taken out, the short cinquains were written to underpin the power music has to provoke distinct images with clarity.
The poem Singer was inspired by Richards craft as a songwriter, and has been interpreted in the folk tradition. The poem Song was written after discovering the work of David Jones, the lyrics are unchanged as the poems ballad form spoke directly to Richard.
The order of the poems has been inspired by and is in response to the songs that have been written from some of the original poems and intended to compliment the music as well as aiming not to detract from it, hoping that the language of poetry and the language of music find a meeting point.
We have deliberately been open and fluid about changes in music and text.
The Lost and found is entirely Richards own composition, which we felt belonged in the journey from dark to light which Fenlight makes.
When Richard and I met it was the need to write poems and the need to play guitar and compose songs, which drew us together. We have been involved in an act of translation and interpretation a two way process which has resulted in Fenlight as a whole. As Daniel Barenboim recently said in his Reith Lectures Music is a freedom where sorrow and joy can be expressed together. This is the freedom I have experienced in the making of Fenlight.
About Richard Newman
Richard Newman was born in Kensington and first started working in the music business as a broadcaster. He hosted a slot about the folk music scene on the first commercial radio station in England called LBC. Later, he worked on Capital Radio in London. During this time, Richard was writing songs and began performing a series of songs, called 'Songs of the City', on the London TV Regional programme.
Richard wrote and presented his own Channel 4 television documentary 'Living With The Blues' and has written songs for Sue Stones album ' Woman' for the MR label. He has also had a major interview with Peter Green published by Guitarist Magazine.
In 1993 Richard wrote the book 'The Making of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells'.
He has produced albums featuring many of the founders of the London Blues Scene of the fifties and sixties.
Richard is also an advanced guitar teacher and acoustic guitar virtuoso.