:: News & Comment

Night Sessions – Hortus Ignotus


074 garden

The least successful Night Sessions track is Hortus Ignotus.  Manfred Eicher took me by surprise and suggested making up the words as well as the music. My poetic gifts are not at their best at 1.00 in the morning and for a moment I panicked. The thing about improvising the music is that you’re negotiating with everyone else as you go along – it’s a conversation where you usually get a bit of time (even if it’s only a nano-second) to think about where you’re going to go next. If you’re improvising text (and I can do it in the car with my granddaughter no problem) you’re on your own. What came out was something about gardens. It starts off OK, but without anyone to spark off it meanders into nothing very much; all those wonderful images of the Hortus Conclusus failed to find my brain until it was too late. There’s some great playing (the band are obviously better gardeners than me) otherwise I’d have left it off the album.

In the original 1st edit track listing (ie before we’d actually given them proper names) it was down as My Garden (thankyou Peter Laenger). At the time, we’d just moved to York and we didn’t have one any more. Now we do, and when we bought our new place a couple of months ago it looked like the picture above, a real secret garden. And with a tree at the end of it, though spring hadn’t arrived to tell us what sort of tree it was.

029 tree

It turned out to be a magnificent apple tree, and a look at an old map showed that many of the neighbouring gardens were carved out of an old orchard, with some of the old apples and pears still flourishing. And there were some rampant old roses too, and the remains of a swing

029 roses


The garden hadn’t been touched for years, and we realised that, magic though it was in its decayed state, we’d have to take some pretty drastic action to make it live again. First, some chopping:

063 mess


Pretty impressive…

Then I hired a shredder, thinking a day’s happy shredding would do the trick and leave me with lots of compost…

017 the beast

…but after a bit shredding began to remind me of my old day job:  very repetitive and happening in very small increments. So I hired some very big men to do the job as well as cut down a couple of trees that had to go to accommodate our cathedral-sized kitchen extension. It took four of them just a day:

055 post men


Of course, men never do absolutely everything you pay them to do, so there was still quite a bit left for me to turn my hand to. And it got increasingly bleaker as I raked, dug and swept. At the second attempt I succeeded in putting up a new swing, having sunk graceully to the ground after my first effort. This has now been tested by Emily and found to be vey satisfactory.

061 swing

So, as the sales of Night Sessions begin to taper off over the next few months  I hope there will be the gardening equivalent of a retrograde inversion, with lots of new things appearing as we move more towards creative garden composition rather than improvised destruction.

Meanwhile, the renovation work on the house is firing away, and we hope to move in at the end of next month. It’s been fantastic dealing with builders and gardeners, woodyards and window makers – people who do things when they say they’re going to and who love what they do. A refreshing change from travel agents, concert promoters, record companies and the like. I’m off to Canada in a couple of weeks but I’ll do a garden update when I get back.


Leave a Reply