Glasgow’s Blair Coron released his second album earlier this year, describing it as a combination of contemporary classical and folk music. In addition to his performance on piano, keyboards, synthesizer, acoustic guitar and (improbably) Nintendo DS, the disc features violinists Lesley Barr, Roo Geddes, Robyn Harris and Rhona Macfarlane, Kirsty McIntyre on viola, Catriona Mulholland on cello, Nicole Stapinski on flute, Scott Morrison on harp, Scott Glanville on mandolin and Callum Elks on guitar.
I interviewed Coron by email.
Tell me about the album’s folk influences.
It is a difficult one for me, to follow the lines of influence. They are so vast and usually stemming from multiple areas, which are largely not musically based and mainly conceptual. I also rarely listen to music when writing and recording so the result is as pure as possible.
But the older singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Jacques Brel and Joan Baez, to name a few, have a special place in my heart. Individually unique and painfully introspective. Alongside these I must include, again to name only a few: Scottish airs and gaelic pslams, personal mantras, varieties of poetry, orchestral works of folk origins, the desire for certain imagery, communal involvement, guidance and explorations of the past and future. The collaboration of these might then deem the term of folk slightly empty, but then again are genres ever categorized with such a clear cut?
You also wrote about the “intricacy and fragility of life, nature and the surrounding world” in a note to me. How have those ideas shaped the album?
This has been the central theme around the album, nature and my connection to it. It is a connection far too many of us need to explore, we are too consumed by our own line of sight. Nothing moves me more than the incomprehensible beauty that exists. But I would never feel as if I have the authority to say the way this melody moves evokes the idea of water, or this chord is like the colour blue. Who am I to say so?
As with each of my compositions they serve a purpose to myself, a documentation, a conversation, an exploration of my mind, an attempt to recreate a feeling at one moment or a dedication. It is, therefore, very therapeutic. I bask in the radiance of that, for which we should owe our eternal gratitude. This music is a personal attempt to bridge my connection. I do not claim to own any answers to my questions and thoughts had, just responses that satisfy my interest.
Each of the musicians must have contributed to those ideas too.
Absolutely, without their fantastic contributions there would be no comparison to what I could hear in my mind. A large part of what I ask of them is improvised, to give them the freedom to perform without constraint. Music should be a conversation, not an authority. I want to hear their thoughts, to respond to their insights, to bask in their minds.
I am all too aware of my own limitations, unable to fully grasp the purpose of my music at times. Their help is much needed and what they have offered I am truly grateful for. They are wonderful, beautiful, impressive humans and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
Why did you feel the need to add a synth? And how did you use the Nintendo DS?
It feels almost the cliché doesn’t it, of the contemporary composer adding synths into their music. But as it happens, it has just been a staple of my setup from the outset, purely stemming from an experimentation of putting my digital piano through my guitar pedals, rather than through any form of influence. Like a form of convergent evolution.
Everything is a tool when you create. One instrument does not have more authority than another and as a composer you must not think otherwise. If you are to ask why I use one tool, then I must answer with why I used any tool. Sometimes the 88 piano keys are too limiting. Sometimes the devastating heartache a violin can imbue is not the best method for exploring a thought. Certain sounds, certain words, certain chords, certain instruments are needed in certain moments and to be able to harness the delicate balance is incredibly challenging.
As is the case with the Nintendo DS, I was searching for a barely audible, deep vibration to carpet the landscape of the track “R/G/B.” The software I have installed on it was the only tool at my disposal capable of providing such a sound.
What’s next for you?
At the moment I am in talks with some lovely people around the UK as I plan my tour for the album. Or perhaps it is best to describe it as a tour of the environment I aim to provide during my live performances: intimate, introspective. To curate my own events, rather than to simply be part of what already exists. To provide a platform for other performers who may feel out of place within their own mainstream music scene – a situation I have been too familiar with.
But it’s difficult knowing what should be next. I plan to tour because that is just what musicians do. I wouldn’t really classify it as next, more of a continuation of what releasing a body of work means. I am unsure what is beyond. I ask myself regularly, as we all do. I abhor habit and routine and the eternal cycle of write, record then release does not give me that sense of excitement as it may to others. I am not in this for any sort of posterity. It’s likely I will move in an opposite direction for a short while. I am currently frequented by thoughts of building a home or creating a garden or working with nature and wildlife. Perhaps I will go there.