Journeys Through Landscape in Music

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
May 22, 2018 / 0 comments

In the midst of a city or out in wilderness, nature is a constant companion. The changing angle of light or the fall or rain — even if seen between tall buildings – reminds of the healing power of landscape. Wilderness might be challenging at times, but there too, the hand of nature may bring peace or connection. A familiar place or a new horizon – they both have power to refresh and restore.

This is an idea musicians have explored in many ways. It continues to be a source of inspiration for artists.

Journeys Through Landscape in Music
Aoife Scott lived for some years in the west of Ireland. She is best known for her song All Along the Wild Atlantic Way. There is a place she often visits near her home in Dublin, though, that she has written about in a contemplative way. The song is called Down by the Shelley Banks. You may find it on Scott's album called Carry the Day.

Hanneke Cassel is a fiddle player and composer who grew up in Oregon. She soon became drawn to Scotland's music, so much so that she won national championships in the style, and has made it her life's work – albeit with a touch here and there of Americana influence to her music. She has lived in the Boston area since coming east for university studies, and one of her favorite places is Walden Pond – yes, that same Walden Pond you likely know because of Thoreau. The place now has an even more joyous meaning for Cassel – after a visit there, her husband proposed to her. She wrote a tune called Trip to Walden Pond in celebration of that, and she's called the album where you will find it Trip to Walden Pond, as well.

Gordon Lightfoot has written many songs which draw on the landscape of his native Canada. One that includes ideas of missing a well-loved place and planning for going home to it is the rover's song Alberta Bound. You may find it on his album called Don Quixote, as well as on several compilation albums.

The music Julie Fowlis makes on her recent recording Alterum is based in her explorations  into music of the Gaelic otherworld. As in all her work, Fowlis includes songs sourced from the Western Isles of Scotland where she grew up, and she sings most often in the language of the Highlands and Islands, Scottish Gaelic. Though they may or may not be about specific places, they are deeply rooted in ideas about place and home. This one is a mysterious sort of love song, which does suggest places in the real world and the otherworld. It is called Dh'èirich mi moch madainn cheòthar/ I arose early on a misty morning.

As a professional musician, Carrie Newcomer is on the road often. Driving back to her Indiana home one night in winter at the end of a tour, she was struck by what she saw along the road. The lighted windows along the way offered welcome, even though she knew none of the people who lived in the houses and left their lights on – the lights were not left on for her, and yet, in a way, they were. The result of her musing on this is the song Light in the Window, which you may find on her album Live at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

Emily Smith was thinking about ideas of home and landscape one summer evening at her home in the southwest of Scotland. Reflecting on what she saw and heard as evening faded to night, she wrote the song she has called Sunset Hymn. You may find that on her album Too Long Away. The guitarist in this video is Smith's musical partner and husband Jamie McClennan. Their most recent album is called Smith & McClennan Unplugged.



Other stories in this series....

Music for a Winter's Day

Music for a Winter's Night

Three Feet or So: Music and Creating Positive Change in the World

Geography of Hope: Music of Immigrants and Refugees

Autumn: Music of Harvest and Home

Music for Reflection

Music for a Winter's Eve

Music for Winter's Changes

Music: Listening for Community

Music of Resilience

Music: A Path to Community and Connection

Music: Songs of Hope and Respect

Living the Questions: Music for the Journey

Story and Place in Music




Kerry Dexter is Music Editor at Wandering Educators. You may reach Kerry at music at wanderingeducators dot com.

You may find more of Kerry's work in National Geographic Traveler, Strings, Perceptive Travel, Journey to Scotland, Irish Fireside, and other places, as well as at her own site, Music Road