Piece of the week 52 – ‘Friston Moor’ for symphony orchestra

Friston, Suffolk, is a small village a few miles from Aldeburgh, Saxmundham and Snape – and today’s piece is an orchestral tone-poem, to which, on YouTube, I’ve added visual images. But first something about the background – if you know about all this, please skip the section in italics. Just to say that of course most of us are firmly in favour of windfarms and energy from the sea, but this should not, surely, be at such a great cost to the biodiversity crisis, and the natural environment.

On this map, Friston Moor is the area in which the black square marked ‘Proposed Friston Substation’ is sited, towards the bottom of the map. It is an area of predominantly farmland and is a beautiful space, with wide skies, ever-changing crops, public footpaths, hedgerows and woodland, and it is close to the fourteenth-century village church. Around it the map shows the proposed sites for transmission of energy from the wind farms in the sea, involving a landfall at the crumbling cliffs, the digging up of motorway-width trenches over an area of nearly ten miles, ripping up swathes of beautiful countryside (much of which is in the Suffolk Coasts and Heaths AONB), and the building of at least six massive substations between Friston and Saxmundham, each taking up 12 acres of productive farmland. And of course Sizewell C will be on the coast, just a few miles down the road.

The windfarms are naturally a welcome way of producing electricity, but the ecological aspect of this concept is completely wrecked by the savage onshore infrastructure, threatening people’s homes and livelihoods, the natural world, and the tourism industry. Other countries bordering the North Sea have solved the difficulty of getting wind power to where it is needed by using undersea cables – only in this country are we still using the old-fashioned method of massive onshore substations, trench cabling, and pylons.

These development plans are not co-ordinated: when the original proposal from Scottish Power for two substations and a National Grid connection station in Friston was approved by the Government Inspectorate, no consideration was given to the other proposals which were in the pipeline, nor to Sizewell C, and National Grid didn’t even appear at the enquiry, even though they had proposed the site to Scottish Power. National Grid (a private company) provides grid connection offers to developers, so influences where new projects plan to build the industrial infrastructure to connect offshore wind farms and subsea interconnector cables to the grid. But it is showing a complete lack of consideration of the ‘cumulative impact’ of multiple large scale industrial developments in such a small area.

For more information about this sorry story please visit www.sases.org.uk and https://www.suffolkenergyactionsolutions.co.uk

Now to my piece, which I wrote in 2020 when all these proposals were less far advanced. Friston Moor is my personal response to this situation. My vision was a walk through the fields, accompanied by the birds, the animals scurrying in the undergrowth, the land and the sky, the hum of the pylons and the threat of what may be to come – and always there is the village church, very close to the affected area. It’s like a kind of dream as the different elements of the music overlap. I tried to be musically optimistic, though, because in the future, perhaps when all these buildings have become obsolete, I am sure that birds, animals, plants and trees will slowly re-colonise this area again.

In the YouTube film I have added visual images which give a picture of the landscape and, I hope, add to the dreamlike quality and the drama of the music.  And you will see images which may never be the same again.

Although the piece is designed for symphony orchestra, and can be played ‘live’, the version that you hear is produced digitally using the NotePerformer software.

Here is a link to me talking about this piece (a little out of date now)

Here is the link to the YouTube performance/ film

And for those who prefer just to listen to the music, here’s a SoundCloud link.

If you would like to see the full score, follow this link