Shakespeare’s plays, poems, plots, and characters have inspired musicians for hundreds of years. But what about music inspired by the man himself, and his native Stratford-upon-Avon? As we know so little about Shakespeare’s personality outside the plays, it makes sense to go back to the places where he lived and worked for musical inspiration.
Peter Knight, renowned musician and composer with Steeleye Span and Gigspanner, has recently created a musical woodland walk for Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens. The soundtrack is called Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed, and it draws upon elements of Shakespeare's works as well as his life in rural Warwickshire.
I found out more from Peter about his approach to writing the music, and finding inspiration from Shakespeare.
What was your initial inspiration for the music?
“When I first became involved in the project, I knew nothing about Shakespeare, or the music of the time. I thought the first thing I ought to do was to walk around the woods near to the cottage, and actually see the place. As soon as I walked through the archway, I had a sense that the woods had a memory. This was where Anne and Shakespeare would have walked. That was really what inspired the music.”
How did you decide on the style of the music?
“I didn’t want to emulate the music of the time – I wanted to give a modern interpretation of Shakespeare the man. At the end of the day, Shakespeare and Anne were ordinary people, people in love - we hope! I hope the music reflects that timeless relationship and their time spent together walking in the wood. The music includes extracts from the sonnets, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It. You’re surrounded by dreams and whispers as you follow the trail through the trees...”
Did writing the music change your approach to Shakespeare and his works?
"Before this project, I had never given much thought to Shakespeare or his plays, but I've found that the writing is actually beautiful. Using Shakespeare’s verse and listening to the whispered lines as part of the music have really warmed me to Shakespeare. I hope he’d enjoy the music if he could listen to it!"
Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed is available for visitors to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage on MP3 players (available from reception) or by downloading the track on iPhone upon entering the wood. Find out more about Peter Knight and his music.