Greetings from Athens! It’s 10.15am and I’m writing to you from the outdoor terrace of The Underdog Cafe. Sunlight is filtering through the camouflage netting that makes for a ceiling, dotting the table, my iPad and cup of coffee with dapples of gold.
For a brunch place in central Athens, it’s surprisingly quiet. There are tens of tables but only a few customers. Two large fans affixed to the stone walls scan the large, empty space, their blades revving up, growing louder and louder, then easing off – as if they’ve forgotten their job – before starting up again. At a table to my right, a mother and her young son are playing and speaking rapid-fire Greek. Robbie Williams’ Feel can be heard faintly in the background.
I’m taking this moment of comparative quiet at the tail-end of my travels to let you know that I’m feeling re-invigorated and inspired, and that I’m grateful for your support while I’ve been away. I’ve been walking the Camino de Santiago, covering a distance of nearly 375km from Porto in Portugal all the way to Muxia in northernmost Spain, followed by a few weeks spent resting in Faro, Portugal, and Gythio, Greece, recharging after what has been a non-stop couple of years of work.
I’ve listened to precious little music these past seven weeks but there’s been no shortage of sonic inspiration. I left my headphones at home for the first five weeks of this sabbatical, the better to hear the rhythmic tramp of feet on dirt and sand; the euphoric clamour of church bells; whole squadrons of cyclists racing down hills hollering Bom Camino!; then nothing but the roaring sea and plaintive gulls’ cries at Finisterre, which used to be the end of the known world.
Unsurprisingly, when I have heard music on this trip, it has hit me that more strongly. I remember the wistful, impassioned Fado music I encountered in the university town of Coimbra, Portugal, just before I started my walk; the lone bagpipe player standing in the woods outside Tui, lamenting the death of a long-gone pilgrim; and the hypnotic Galician folk I heard in Santiago de Compostela on the festival night of San Xoan, with people leaping spiritedly over bonfires and bidding the past year’s pains and regrets goodbye.
Most unexpected of all: I picked up some new work whilst I was away. I’m going to be doing composition and sound design for a moving image work later in the autumn. I’m excited because it’s a really interesting project and I can give you an insight into my process from start to finish. More news on this soon.
I return to English soil this weekend and normal, regular communications will resume shortly after (I want to share some of the artists, songs and sounds that left the strongest impressions on me during this trip). In the meantime, before I sign off, thank you so much for your recent comments on my recent posts: your thoughts, suggestions and inspirations are always warmly welcomed, and are helping me and the other composers to refine and improve how we share our work with the wider world. Please keep them coming.