Ben Munro

Caucasian Wingnut – Pterocarya fraxinifolia  

The Caucasian Wingnut tree is a broadly spreading tree with large leaves and winged fruits. For this piece I went to Kensington Gardens and recorded some of the surrounding noise. The water, traffic and birdsong are recordings from around the park and I compiled these into my own virtual sampler instrument, enabling me to play pitched chords. This means that the different pitches play back the original sample at different speeds giving an impression of different versions of time in the piece. I took a very broad, spanning approach with this piece to allow it room to blend more continuously with the other compositions in the project.

Yellow Buckeye – Aesculus flava  

The Yellow Buckeye tree is a large tree with a spreading crown. The leaves turn red/yellow in autumn and flowers/fruit develop. I wanted to somehow capture this feeling of growth and a broadening in development within the music for this tree. I discovered that reversed piano with the right harmonies could actually create a type of wide, sustained, spanning sound that I feel conveys this quite well. It starts off with an E in the bass which changes to a C, lending itself to this sense of ‘harmonic expansion’. I found that subtle shifts such as this could give off a much greater impact on how the listener hears the harmony without actually creating much movement of material in the traditional sense. I hope that this surrounding wide sound will combine with natural sounds in the park to create an enveloping experience when standing at this tree.

Common Hawthorn – Crataegus monogyna  

The Common Hawthorn tree is known to be a small tree with flat cream flowers and dark red berries. Due to these characteristics I wanted to write a piece that would capture that contrast and change from one thing to another (from flowers into berries). Therefore, I decided to have these four simple piano arpeggios which were also reversed and connected to one another. This ensures that the harmony stays the same but the way it is delivered changes, adding movement to an otherwise more static texture. I wanted to keep the arpeggios sparser due to the small size of the tree and I think that this spacing will fit well with other compositions which are nearby these trees.

Wild Cherry – Prunus avium  

The Wild Cherry tree is a medium-sized tree with clusters of white flowers. I decided to just stick with piano instrumentation for this piece. I wanted to create these bubbling clusters on top of the steady pulse to give the impression of the clusters of white flowers and red fruits blossoming. After coming up with some melodies, I experimented with panning and delay to spread them out across the stereo field. When standing in the park among the trees, these travelling piano sounds blend with natural noise to create a busy stereo image, blending the rustle of leaves and birdsong into an integrated musical soundscape.

English composer Ben Munro is studying for a BMus (Composition) at the RCM as a Parnassus Award holder. He made his debut with a commission by the Leeds Symphony Orchestra in 2016. Ben is actively involved as a conductor and composer with the music of the Yorkshire community. He has also taught in schools in Harrogate and Knaresborough, weaving creative aspects of theory and composition into teaching piano.