an explanation


Who?

Mark Northfield, classically trained pianist, singer, songwriter, arranger and collaborator. I grew up in the heart of flat, rural English nowhere, and discovered the piano very early on in life (once I could reach). With parental encouragement, a life in music was pretty much inevitable from that point on. My high school careers interview was quite entertaining.


Where?

Moving to the London area in 1999, I have regularly worked as an accompanist for ballet and contemporary dance at vocational colleges ever since. The creative aspect of the job provides much more of a buzz than being aural wallpaper in a bar or restaurant somewhere.

I relish improvising (making spontaneity meaningful is a real challenge) and sneakily reinterpreting pop songs for the educational entertainment of students. My main school now is Arts Ed in Chiswick where I'm the head ballet pianist for the MT course. Handily, this work pays the bills whilst leaving just enough time to pursue my own creative recording/video projects and live performances.


Why?

Many years ago, I fell in love with the simple joy of words set to music. I loved the spell they cast, and - later - the opportunity to say things that could not easily be said otherwise. However, I was not especially drawn to opera and other forms of classically 'correct' singing, because it seemed to my young ears too remote from everyday life and experience. (As an adult, I have revised this view somewhat, but not entirely!)

All my life I have been particularly drawn toward artists with a clear classical music influence running through what they create, be that in pop, rock or something else: ABBA, The Beatles, Kate Bush, Pet Shop Boys, This Mortal Coil, Bjork, Radiohead, The Divine Comedy, David Byrne, Rufus Wainwright, Pink Martini and so on. Often, their classical leanings go hand in hand with huge ambition; Kate Bush's Hounds Of Love album was a real turning point in how I viewed what 'pop' music was capable of.

Of course, classical composers past and present have also left their mark: Beethoven, Chopin, Faure, Poulenc etc and more recently Philip Glass, Gavin Bryars and Arvo Part. Glass and Bryars have both created wonderful works using voice and music: the former's Songs From Liquid Days (the Crouch End Festival Chorus version) and the latter's Jesus' Blood... & A Man In A Room, Gambling make for highly rewarding listening.

 

What?

First off I tried the whole budding singer/songwriter thing, only to realise I wasn't so hot at the singing part. Something of a handicap, unless you happen to be, say, Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. This is statistically unlikely.

So, having recorded an album called Anachronisms (2002), I then proceeded to do nothing about releasing it. Nonetheless, the urge to write and record proved irresistible, and thus several years later I found myself heading down the path of benevolent musical dictatorship, taking a measure of inspiration from the likes of Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields etc) and Ivo Watts-Russell (This Mortal Coil). Forming an actual band might have made more sense, but then I've always had something of an aversion to team sports.

 Ascendant (2008) was the first fruit of this collaborative approach, with new album Alterations (April 2012) continuing the practice in a more overtly poppy and theatrical setting, albeit with a greater proportion of my own vocals one more. (I looked my limitations in the eye and decided to embrace the little bastards.) One day I may move on to the 'B' titles, but one shouldn't rush these things.

 

Two digital EPs - 'The Death Of Copyright' and 'Nothing Impossible' - are showcasing material from Alterations, along with some carefully chosen covers and non-album tracks. Having learnt how to make stop-motion animation videos recently, the two poppy lead tracks from these EPs have been given a separate lease of life on YouTube (see 'sound and vision' for the evidence). Further visual intrigues should be appearing in due course.

Anachronisms will also finally get a digital release in 2013, approximately 10 years after its creation. Timing, as they say, is everything.