John Metcalfe reveals new track: Root to Leaf

John Metcalfe – composer, arranger and viola-player for The Durutti Column – has shared a new track, ‘Root to Leaf’, the latest composition from an album that journeys through twenty-four hours in the life of one of nature’s most majestic creations, the tree. Tree is set for release on 22 September via Real World Records with a rare live performance at London’s Kings Place on 28 September.

Listen to ‘Root to Leaf’ which finds us in slow growth phase of late morning – everything is hazy, and very still, but there’s the occasional crack of a twig or something falling, and there’s a moment of real focus in the experience after the gravity of the morning and the dawn.
Root to Leaf (Part 1) - Jony Easterby camera and edit

The Durutti Column viola-playing master – a composer and arranger for the likes of U2, Coldplay, Peter Gabriel and Blur, as well as co-founder with Tony Wilson of the Factory Classical label – had been composing music spontaneously, instinctively, when the idea of Tree arrived. The album came from a desire in John Metcalfe to write at scale – perhaps a natural reaction for a composer writing out of the silences and solitude of recent years.

The pieces I was writing were big and trying to be bigger, so I knew they had to be to do with something – and then I thought about one of the most profound experiences of my life. John Metcalfe

He is referring to seeing Tāne Mahuta as an adult, the largest known living kauri tree in the world. Set in an ancient subtropical rainforest on the North Island of Aoreatoa / New Zealand, John had spent his early childhood living in that part of the world after his British father had “escaped there as a ten-pound Pom”

Written for live players and recorded in Abbey Road Studios to convey human connection at scale, Treeimagines what it would be like to be sat completely still under a tree that you love, being alive to the ever-shifting interplay of light, colour, weather and sound. Shimmering pulsating layered tracks take the listener on a voyage that takes in the dawn chorus, depicted by conversations between chirruping woodwind and staccato strings, through to the solemnity of dusk and into the playful night. The album at times summons up the folkloric power of ancient forests through an emotional crescendo in emotion and sound, before bringing us back to sunrise, and a reflection on the journey we’ve taken.

.

Tree isn’t just about Tãne Mahuta, explains Metcalfe: “It could be about any tree – they’re all very magical.”This record isn’t a political statement, but it’s clear to him that as science progresses, and as climate breakdown progresses, people are trying to find deeper ways to understand and cherish nature. “It’s about the music that people are trying to create to connect with things that are huge and beautiful and inexplicable around them.” 

Tree is John’s beautiful, emotional attempt at just that. “My album’s about describing our relationship with something as every-day and extraordinary as a tree, and how it can be an incredibly important part of who we are.”

LIVE

JOHN METCALFE WITH THE XYLEM ORCHESTRA

28 Sep – London, Kings Place

TICKETS

  • Tree

    John Metcalfe

    Released 22 September 2023

    Tree is eight immersive compositions that take the listener through twenty-four hours in the life of one of nature’s most majestic creations. The album imagines what it would be like to be sat completely still under a tree that you love, being alive to the ever-shifting interplay of light, colour, weather and sound. Summoning the folkloric power of ancient forests through a crescendo in emotion and sound, before bringing us back to sunrise, and a reflection on the journey we’ve taken.

By Online Editor

Main image: still from video for 'Root to Leaf'.

Published on Wed, 30 August 23

Further reading

Mari Kalkun releases animation film for ‘Mother Earth’ in collaboration with Brian Eno’s EarthPercent charity

The song, 'Maaimä', is about the controversial relationship between humans and nature.

The Unfolding: Bristol Light Festival

Bristol Light Festival is returns from Friday 2nd - Sunday 11th February, 2024.

Track of the day: ‘AmmA’ by Bab L’ Bluz

'AmmA' draws on music from north-east Morocco and influences from Tunisia and Algeria.

Sheila Chandra: The pursuit of radical vocal expression

Sheila's trilogy of albums for Real World is being re-issued on CD, and on vinyl for the first time.