Countless great pieces of music and art are influenced by the natural world and rural landscapes. The works of Ralph Vaughan Williams for example, or Beethoven’s 6th Symphony or Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude are all influenced by the outdoors. Elgar was influenced by his beloved Malvern Hills, Benjamin Britten by the Suffolk coast and Holst the wild Dorset heathland. Landscape artists of course take their work explicitly from their surroundings or further afield. Close to where I live John Constable’s great works were lifted from the countryside of the Stour valley. Classic works such as Claude Lorrain’s Pastoral Landscape (1648) or Cezanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire (1885-1887) put emphasis on the pastoral whereas ‘the wild’ features prominently in the works of Julian Onderdonk for example or Erin Hanson.
Urban settings of course inspire their own creative works but is there something unique about rural settings that generates its own kind of creativity? We feel differently when put into different locations or situations and, for me at least, it is this in itself which can influence creativity. I used to write a lot of music, but over the years my work ethic in this department has fallen away as responsibilities and the mundane elements of life have come more to the fore. Motifs yes, small ideas that run into each other, but not full pieces that have structure and meaning. This seems to be changing now for whatever reason. Yesterday evening I was able to put notes to a setting I have wanted to compose for a long time. It isn’t yet finished, but the core elements are there to work around.
Music is my own way of connecting with places and reflecting on situations in a non verbal or literary way when I am away from that place, time or person. It is my escape, but also my meditation and joy. It can be emotional but creativity isn’t always so. At least it doesn’t need to be, in my opinion. Sometimes it all flows out, and at other times one has to work systematically and logically to reach the end goal. For me, the unknowing nature of it is partly what makes writing music so exciting. I imagine a work of art is much the same process, although not being an artist myself, as much as I would like to be gifted enough to be one, I can only imagine.
The natural world is an automatic source of inspiration. It is big, small, wide, narrow and everything in between. It never fails to amaze me and the creative element in all of us should inspire us to spend more time appreciating it. This is what I am coming to realise. Life is too short to not take the time to properly see and know what is around us. Yes, life is busy, but we can and should make time. The experience doesn’t necessarily need to be translated into musical, artistic or literary form but for me it is such a translation and recording of experiences that connect the human and the natural world so implicitly.
Photo credit: Elliot Billings