Perhaps echoing Hans Christian Andersen’s adage that “when words fail, music speaks”, English folk singer, poet and visual artist Keaton Henson released last year a surprise but nonetheless splendid all-instrumental album of piano and cello-based compositions following two previous collection of songs, the self-released Dear in 2010 and Birthdays in 2013. With Keaton Henson on piano and woodwind instruments, Romantic Works was conceived and composed in partnership with friend and regular cellist Ren Ford.

Keaton Henson - Romantic Works (2014)
Keaton Henson – Romantic Works (2014)

“As someone who writes songs about my own experience, as honestly as I can, I find myself looking for new emotional wells to draw from all the time. But over the years I have found there are certain subjects I have been unable to mine […] The pieces on it are the in-between moments when I found it all too much to write a clever rhyme.” Henson told The Independent.

Released without any PR or advertising on 16th June 2014 last, Romantic Works is a fully-fledged modern classical opus introduced by ambient sounds and random notes from an orchestra tuning up. Drawing on the classical minimalism of Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass or Henryk Górecki amongst others while also alluding to cinematic modern classical composers like Clint Mansell, Hans Zimmer or Abel Korzeniowski, Keaton Henson transposed his introverted and sensitive self-penned ballads into wordless instrumental songs, teaching himself the basics of orchestral arrangement in the process.

Originally released as a CD and download only, independent company The Vinyl Factory issued last September 2014 a Vinyl LP limited edition of Romantic Works with two additional tracks (“La Naissance” and a remix of “Elevator Song” by Ulrich Schnauss), all of which immediately sold out.

Emerging almost out of the blue, Romantic Works is one of those rare gems from a quiet artist struggling with stage fright and exposure but whose emotionally-charged music overcomes all barriers.

Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.

Anaïs Nin