New Music celebrates Ten years of the South Downs National Park

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A captivating classical musical score set to breathtaking scenery has been created to mark the 10th anniversary of the South Downs National Park.

Released ahead of World Music Day on June 21st the original composition has been produced by Sussex composer Ed Hughes, alongside some of the finest musicians in the UK.

Stunning high-resolution visuals of the South Downs – including bluebell woods, sweeping vistas, sunflower fields and star-studded night skies – provide a thrilling backdrop to the music.

The inspiring piece marks the 10th anniversary of the South Downs National Park, which last year celebrated a decade since being created and, this year, is marking its 10th year of being fully operational.

Ed Hughes, Professor of Composition at the University of Sussex, specially recorded the score with the New Music Players in a socially distanced recording session in London in March 2021.

The melodies and rhythms of his music directly reflect his experience of walking the South Downs Way. His research in the School of Media, Arts and Humanities at the university has included previous collaborations with filmmakers on music and the moving image.

Explaining his influences for the music, Ed, who is based in Lewes, said: “The sense of scale and the vistas in the South Downs landscape are very special to me.

“It’s a wonderful place which offers walkers a sense of home through repetition and familiarity but with endless variations of light, shape and colours – which feels musical to me.

“In addition, a couple of years ago, I studied some Sussex folksongs transcribed by Butterworth in 1912, while working on a piece for a fine Sussex ensemble ‘The Corelli Ensemble’. Something of the lyrical sensibility in these songs have shaped the tunes, melodies and harmonies in my recent music.

“So this new composition is shaped by my personal experience of the South Downs and perhaps some of the songs and music associated with it.”

As well as the film, the music is also included in a new series of downloadable audio walking experiences in which people can explore Ditchling and Ditchling Beacon, in East Sussex, accompanied by the orchestral music.

Developed in partnership with the Ditching Museum of Art + Craft and launched as part of the Brighton Festival last month, the audio experiences are available in the Echoes sound walk app (search for Brighton Festival).

The music follows Ed’s hugely successful Cuckmere: A Portrait – released three years ago and inspired by the haunting beauty of the Cuckmere Valley in the National Park.

Ed added: “The composition ranges from very clear and transparent harmonious music through passages which are more dense and complex. I personally like to compare these musical effects to changes in light and weather as you walk through changing landscape, with changing perspectives around you. So although music is its own medium, because it is time-based, I think it can convey something of the feeling of being on a journey or a ‘trail’.”

Aerial cinematographer Sam Moore, from Brighton, captured the amazing visuals.

He said: “The South Downs has been on my doorstop all of my life and being able to appreciate the views and capture them visually for this film was an amazing opportunity. Ed’s music was very inspirational and, alongside capturing the stunning vistas of the South Downs, more abstract visuals could be used which perfectly blends with his music.”

Trevor Beattie, Chief Executive of the South Downs National Park Authority, added: “It has been a real privilege for us to work with Ed on this spectacular score. His uplifting, inspiring music perfectly captures the rolling landscape of the South Downs and the busy variety of its flora and fauna. It is a fitting celebration of both the landscape and the first ten years of the nation’s newest National Park.

“During all the difficulties and pressures of the past year so many people have discovered that the South Downs National Park is a place to connect with nature and restore ourselves. Ed’s music encapsulates this spirit of discovery and wellbeing. Listen, enjoy and explore.”

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