Moonflower – a musical story of life, death and rebirth.

I wrote a musical sketch exploring the sound of chamber brass coupled with a violin. I wanted to try harmonies, brightness, darkness, power and gentleness, force and sweetness.

My music teacher Tom Harrold said I should explore the piece further. The initial sketch was in a rudimentary state and was only about three minutes long. It was a sort of musical doodle-pad of ideas.

Over the next couple of days I started to expand it. I had a rough plan in my head about where I wanted it to go but I wasn’t really sure what the piece was about yet.

When I write music, I like to have a strong concept for a piece so I can be sure I understand what I want the music to communicate.

So I went for a walk.

To me, the piece seemed to be about growth. I could imagine it being set against time-lapse photography of a great, dark jungle growing…strange plants budding and bursting forth, light playing on leaves, on long curious fronds.

I got back home and made a brew. I went up to my studio to write some more and opened up the Guardian website. Straight away I saw this story.

It was about the Moonflower: a rare Amazonian cactus that was about to bloom for the very first time in the UK. This is an unusual plant because it rarely blooms, and when it does, it blooms at night. It blooms for about twelve hours, then the flower starts to die. It has a beautiful scent for about two hours, then quickly becomes rancid.

The blossoming of its beautiful flower is its death knell…before it blooms again, a year later.

This thought was mesmerising to me.

I mean, I’m no existenialist but I understand that to be born means that death is inevitable. But the truncated life of the Moonflower struck me as poignant, especially now, in the midst of a global pandemic when the news is full of sad stories of loss and grief.

I knew I wanted the piece to be about the Moonflower. How we can be born and blossom into our most glorious selves. That when we die, our gloriousness has existed nevertheless. That we have still mattered. That we’ve been beautiful, even if only briefly.

Everything in life is transient and everything changes. The Moonflower describes this so well.

Once I had that straight in my mind, the rest of the piece came easily. In the piece, you can hear the flower beginning to bud, coming into full bloom, then beginning to fade away.

Here’s a time-lapse of the Moonflower blooming.

And here’s the music. Enjoy!

Want to hear something more light-hearted? Click here.

Want to hear something dramatic? Click here!

Translate these phrases into actual English and you’ll win a prize!*

A recording of the Gettysburg Address

after the vox conference

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Emma Clarke

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