Julia Thornton - Eye Of The Storm Released as a result of fan demand, Julia Thornton's Eye of the Storm has only been previously available as a limited edition cassette sold at live performances and has fast become a collector's item. This competitively priced release will immediately appeal to classical enthusiasts, fans of Roxy Music (Julia is Roxy's resident percussionist and harpist) and also to those seeking music that will act as meditation and relaxation aid. As a solo recital, Eye of the Storm is the perfect counterpoint to Julia's lushly orchestrated 2003 EMI debut 'Harpistry' and is more redolent of the solo performances with which she has opened Bryan Ferry's live shows for the last two years. Julia is playing with Bryan Ferry all summer at various prestigious live events including London's Kenwood House bowl on July 17th. Julia On Eye Of The Storm Since leaving EMI a few months ago, I have been preparing this new album and am embarking on a new chapter in my career as a recording artist. Part of this process has been to consider both the advantages and disadvantages of being with a major record company, or starting up ones own label. My time with EMI was hassle free, and in many ways I didn't have worries or responsibilities. Unfortunately, as we all understand, a lack of responsibility goes hand in hand with a lack of power. The biggest advantage with running your own ship is that you are more in control. In a way this makes things tougher because you have only yourself to rely on. You also have yourself to blame if things don't happen according to plan. The positive aspect is that you have the power to change this, and you may alter your course as you see fit, rather than watching other people make the moves for you. The changing musical environment means that for artists like myself, there are less advantages in being with a large record company. I am a little apprehensive but also very excited about the future. Most importantly I feel a great sense of freedom - a priceless commodity for any artist. The concept for this album is really all about intimacy. It was recorded in 1997, at a time when I did not see myself as a recording artist particularly. My reason for making it was so that I could satisfy the many enquiries received after my live performances with a CD of some of the pieces I had played. My choice of repertoire on this record I liken to one of my favourite recordings of another great harpist. My parents bought me a copy of 'Pieces from my Childhood'; a collection of beautiful works for the harp performed by the brilliant Marisa Robles. I loved the idea of selecting music that has a special place in ones heart. Pieces or songs that, as I was studying the harp with my teacher, Daphne Boden, I grew to love like old friends. I also happen to believe that the harp is one of the most beautiful and serene sounds that I have ever heard. It has a soulful quality too, and I wanted to record music which I thought brought those aspects to the fore. The idea of recording a whole album of unaccompanied harp, with no added frills, creating a peaceful sound scape and a great sense of intimacy and freedom was both challenging and appealing. The actual tracks themselves are a collection of pieces which I particularly love. The Pavane is such a gorgeous version of a timeless tune, and sounds amazing and all the more medieval on the harp. J.S. Bachs' first Prelude of the 48, is pure genius, and again lends itself well to the timbre of the harp whilst also lying so comfortably under the fingers. I am very fond of the Buxton Orr prelude, as I think it evokes an intense stillness - time almost seems to stop for me when I play it. The four preludes by Tournier are a tribute to a great composer of harp repertoire. They are so playable, lush and so very French! I put number three first here because it is my favourite, and the others follow in the correct order. Then there is another track by Bach, cleverly transcribed by Marcel Grandjany who was one of the greatest harpists of his day. Being written for solo violin, the original Sarabande has only a melodic line and so we have Grandjany to thank for the underlying harmonies. I might also add that this is from a book of so called ' studies ' designed to exercise the harpists technical ability whilst introducing them to the joys of Bachs' harmonic world. Bach did not compose for the harp, probably because there wasn't an instrument adequate enough to tackle the chromatic colours and complexities in his writing. The sort of harp that can cope with this was not invented until the early 1900s. Anyone learning the harp today is eternally grateful to Grandjany for all his transcriptions, and some of them like this one, are too beautiful to be viewed as merely studies! The Lullaby is a piece that I first heard performed when I was 18, by the late Russian harpist, Tatiana Towers. Tatiana died of cancer still in her early forties some years ago, but I was fortunate to see her perform in Paris, and later to play for her on several occasions during my studies. She made the harp sound so lyrical, and I was deeply moved by her playing. I was inspired to learn this soulful little piece, but it took me ages to track down a copy of the score. It eventually arrived from the US, and has been one of my favourites ever since. Every time I play it I think of her. To me it overflows with a deep sorrow and melancholy that is inherently Russian. The final track is another Pavane with added variations. Again this suits the instrument and I particularly enjoy the chord progression under the melody. The variations have a great energy and bounce to them, and I love the rhythmic drive. It's a good one to finish with too! Eye of the Storm is a transition in style from my debut album Harpistry. Harpistry was lush, orchestral and staged. Eye of the Storm is intimate, solitary and more spontaneous. The transition also applies to everything in the recording process, from the repertoire and arrangements, to the way it was recorded and edited. The most interesting contrast for me, has been to watch the way a classical album such as Harpistry is pieced together rather like a musical jigsaw. Much of the harp was recorded separately, and then I watched as the orchestral sections were taped, then the vocals, the percussion, and so on. Ideally one would record everything together, to gain a greater sense of musical unity, but due to budgets and sound recording techniques, this often isn't possible. With my second album, which ironically was recorded first, none of this was an issue, as it is all solo harp. I did not have to fit my musical phrasing around a click track o that we could synchronise it up with the other parts later
, and therefore there was a greater rhythmical and musical freedom of interpretation; something that I am very fond of! The editing of Harpistry was quite rigorous, and although the harp sounds cleaner and less buzzy throughout, some of the instruments personality was lost, as well as my own. This is commonly how classical recordings are made. None of this digital technology was applied to 'Eye of the Storm'. The result is a performance that is live and real. Julia Thornton May, 2004.