The composer Benjamin Britten was inspired by the 'vast skies and moody seas' of the Suffolk coast. A central figure of 20th-century British classical music, he was born in Lowestoft and died in Aldeburgh. He was one of the founders of the Aldeburgh Music Festival in 1948.
Serendipitously, Britten's festival was outgrowing it's first home at about the same time and he had the brilliance to envision the conversion of the largest malthouse into a concert hall, which was opened by the Queen in 1967. The complex is now home to rehearsal space as well as independent shops, galleries, restaurants, art exhibitions and what the English estate agents call 'character properties'...all tucked into brick buildings - new, old, and very old...but all brick.
Entering the complex, we found buildings that were neat and welcoming with freshly painted black and white trim. The gift shops, galleries, and restaurants were quite busy even at midday on a midweek in mid-May. It wasn't until we were heading out the exit that the complex took on a distinctly wabi-sabi aspect. In these unused buildings, time had done what it does best and created a beautiful palette of slow, steady disintegration.
|Photo by Amethina|
|Photo by Amethina|
I very much fear that over time, all of these wonderful old bedraggled buildings will be cleaned up and converted into character townhouses and bolt-holes for wealthy Londoners. I would like to think the worn and aged bricks are better prepared to absorb the strains of music of a similar age as it wafts over the Suffolk saltings.
Saltings: An area of coastal land that is regularly covered by the tide.
Maltings: A malt house, or maltings, is a building where cereal grain is converted into malt by soaking it in water, allowing it to sprout and then drying it to stop further growth. The malt is used in brewing beer, whiskey and in certain foods. The traditional malt house was largely phased out during the twentieth century.