Review of Martin Springett’s “Bright Weaving”

by Francois Vincent

It is clear that Martin Springett was gripped by a muse. The result of such inspiration is “Bright Weaving”, a compilation of songs inspired by the works of author Guy Gavriel Kay. Fifteen tracks of idyllic music fill the CD with a wide variety of styles and moods, all of which owe their genesis to Kay’s fantastic (in all senses of the word) oeuvre. Mostly instrumental, it is the type of album that impels the listener to find a chair on a sunny terrace, sip a refreshing drink and enjoy the evocative tunes.

The album opens with a spoken word piece, “First Light”. Aptly named, since both lyric and accompanying music haunt the listener with the spectral qualities of dawn. The album proceeds to highlight Springett’s guitar which carries the listener on a journey through many disparate styles. We are taken to the hotter rhythms of Spain in “The Gardens of Al-Rassan.” We visit the quiet and sombre “Dianora,” as tragic as the titular character. It closes with the harsh “The Last Light of the Sun.” Based upon the book of the same name, it is a song driven without mercy by a relentless drum track. With vibrant lyrics taken from the book’s epigraph and music that evokes the discordant cadence of the ocean, I found that the closing song beautifully reflected the rough tale of Vikings and the faint light of civilization that they pillaged. And these are a mere fraction of the songs.

The music, however, consists not only of Springett’s guitar, but features a smattering of strings, the ethereal voice of Maryam Toller, the propulsive beats of Penner McKay’s percussion (with stand-out performances on the “Al-Rassan” tracks) and wonderful accompaniment by Springett’s daughters, Rebecca and Miriam, on flutes. Flutes accentuate the guitar on several songs, and Ron Allen’s basuri, a wooden flute, soars on its own in “Painted Feet on Ochre Sand.”

Taken as a whole, the album moves through two complementary arcs simultaneously. The first arc is that of a day’s progression – opening with the “First Light”, moving through the ups and downs of a busy day, slowing at dusk and concluding with a cold evening, a perfect counterpoint for the opening. Secondly, there is a narrative structure that follows an evolving series of tempos. The songs vary from the contemplative to the action-packed. This is especially noticeable on the as-epic-as-the-books Fionavar tracks. The album as a whole very much sounds like the soundtrack to a hypothetical book that I would very much like to read.

Having read all of Kay’s books, knowing which work the song was based upon gave each piece a subtle subtext that, while enjoyable, was not essential to its appreciation. Even a listener who had never heard of Kay would be moved by the music within. All of the books are represented. The Fionavar Tapestry is given star treatment with two suites of music totaling over twenty minutes in length. Tigana (“Dianora”), A Song for Arbonne (“Arbonne”), and The Sarantine Mosaic (“Shirin’s Dance”) feature in their own tracks. The Lions of Al-Rassan earned three tracks (“The Gardens of Al-Rassan”). “Painted Feet on Ochre Sand” was inspired jointly by Al-Rassan and the Mosaic. With each piece, Springett successfully captures the mythic qualities that characterise Kay’s work.

A bonus feature of the CD is that Springett’s talents as an illustrator are given full play. The packaging includes a choice of two insets, one featuring a colourful garden of Al-Rassan and the other depicting the clash between Cavall and Galadan, characters from Fionavar. The rest of the CD is gorgeously covered, front and back, with more art.

I find it difficult to pigeonhole this work as either Celtic or Mediterranean or any other such genre because of the wide variety of styles presented. It captures the spirit of these genres while hopping between them, yet retains a cohesive sound throughout. “Bright Weaving” is a CD that is just plain fun to listen to, fan of Guy Gavriel Kay or not. Martin Springett delivers a carefully crafted album, enjoyable from start to finish and filled with delight.

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