Behind the Music: Graham McCusker – Theme for Lyra

By Chelsea Ness

As we reach week 10 in lockdown, it’s clear a lot of the bands and musicians within the industry have been working on their own personal projects to help raise money for the NHS. Paisley composer, Graham McCusker is no exception with all the proceeds of his latest release: ‘His Dark Materials – Theme for Lyra’ are being donated to The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

This unheard track was initially written for the BBC adaption of Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’ and has now been released for fans of the TV series to enjoy during lockdown. When speaking to Graham about Theme for Lyra, I asked why he picked this track in particular in which he explained: ‘I chose this piece in particular as I felt it was relatable in this time we are living through. It has a melancholic emotion and sound attached to it which is transferable to our lives today but it has a sound and feeling of hope to it, that there is light at the end of this tunnel.’

The first time I heard the instrumental piece, I was utterly mesmerised. The fluttering notes of the solo piano takes listeners on a journey of peace, love and hope. Despite the demo only lasting for just under two minutes, in such a short time the music helps listeners escape from reality for a while. I recommend listening to the release with headphones on so you can really focus on the music. It’s the type of piece that can listeners can really grasp and with the first five seconds of the intro it’s clear the music will have you instantly hooked. It’s incredible how a two minute piano piece can convey so much emotional and hopefulness really highlighting what the power of music is all about. When speaking to Graham about the creative piece behind the track he stated that, ‘The creative process was fairly straight forward – I wanted it to be a reflective piece of music. However, in terms of it just being one instrument, the demo that you hear is actually recorded on an iPhone but of course the levels were tweaked later on.’

What I love most about Theme for Lyra is the fact that it’s entirely instrumental. It allows listeners to take their own meaning behind the song away with them giving it a more personal touch. Graham states that although there wasn’t a particular message he wanted to represent through the demo, he hopes that, ‘it can provide fans an insight to some other ideas and takes that were thought about during the making of the series.’

The elegance of the piano creates this extraordinary heart warming aura throughout filling listeners with happiness and assurance, exactly the type of release we need during these difficult times. When talking about how long the music took to compose, Graham explained that it took ‘a very short time to be honest. I like to put my iPhone on record and improvise, try to get into that sound world of emotion that I am looking for, and there it was within about 10 minutes of playing around with ideas. I do like the key of F major.‘ It blows my mind that such an beautifully moving piece of music only took ten minutes to compose yet it just shows how much of a natural Graham McCusker is.

As soon as I heard a Theme for Lyra I was instantly gripped as I’m sure you will be too. I’m not too familiar with a lot of classical music but this track in particular just had such a hold over me from the get-go and I can’t wait to see what else Graham has in store for us. When speaking to Graham about what his musical plans were after lockdown he replied that he was ‘Looking forward to getting back in the studio to record some live music again – collaborating on a few personal projects with friends, one in fact who lives in Melbourne, Australia.

Make sure you go buy the track from bandcamp today HERE. Not only are you contributing to an incredible cause but you’ll be left in awe immediately after the first listen to Theme for Lyra – I certainly was!

CHECK OUT GRAHAM MCCUSKER’S BELOW NOW…

TWITTER: @biffyjust

WEBSITE: https://www.grahammccusker.com/baritone

Track Artwork by Aine Gordon 

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