Ailie Robertson on Scottish Creations


Behind every piece of music is a story, and behind the story is its creator. Katherine Welch caught a reel (and a yarn) with Ailie Robertson before our Scottish Creations tour, which makes its way around Scotland this May.

26 May 2022

The sage, the shapeshifter, the caregiver, the villain, the everyman: no these are not the results of your Myers Briggs personality test but rather the ‘archetypes’ that have inspired the five movements of Ailie Robertson’s Archetypes,  premiered on our Scottish Creations tour.

Known by the Swiss physiatrist Carl Jung as ‘archaic remnants’ or ‘primordial images’, there is the idea that archetypes as symbolic representations are passed through human history and are an universal experience. Mythological motifs can be seen represented in the examples of the troublesome Norse god Loki from the 9th century, mirrored by the trickster Puck in Shakespeare’s 1595 ‘A Midsummers night dream’ followed by Charlie Chaplin’s antics in the 1936 film Modern Times. Like myths and stories, archetypes are threaded into the traditions of story-telling and are able to cross the divides of land, sea and time.

Earlier this year Kathryn Welch spoke to Ailie about her work and the tours theme of storytelling and we couldn’t help adding in some ‘silly’ questions from the road too.

Kathryn: What makes a good story?
Ailie: It normally must have an emotional hook, whether that’s exciting or scary or heartfelt. It’s those stories that have a real emotional connection that capture people’s imaginations. If you feel like there is something you can identify with in a character, or something in a story that is more abstract than that where you can see yourself or your life in it, it really helps.

Kathryn: Does a story need to be emotional?
Ailie: People get joy from watching horror movies and enjoy being on the edge and scared, having that visceral connection whether its happy or sad there’s the same goosebumps moment where you can identify that something magical has happened and I think that’s what people are drawn to.

Kathryn: What is it like to set your pieces out into the world?
Ailie: There’s a lovely bit to it and a terrifying bit. The lovely is feeling like you’re handing on that material and hearing other people bringing it to life or seeing their interpretation. Seeing audiences’ reactions can go either way and be unexpected and lovely, as you almost discover your work afresh through the eyes of whoever is playing it. The terrifying element is waiting to hear what people will make of it, it will never stop being terrifying but there is something exciting about thinking of my work being played alongside everyone’s who have contributed to the project and that collective creative energy is a great thing.

Kathryn: Do you have any advice to other creatives nervous to put their work out?
Ailie: The only way to get over them is to start creating, a blank page for me is the most terrifying thing and then once I get going that’s when the fun begins. To anyone who’s thinking about it, I’d say just do it! And then if you might discover how enjoyable it is, the process has already begun.

Tour Bus Quick Fire round:

SE: Where, or what, is perfection?
AR: Being in a little cottage in the highlands, with a wood-burning stove and a piano would keep me pretty happy!

SE: What special talent or skill do you wish you possessed?
AR: I wish I played the cello! Not sure I have the patience to get through the scratchy stage though!

SE: What is the most important lesson that life has taught you?
AR: That you can’t control what happens, but you can control how you feel about it

SE: What is the most recent album that you’ve bought or streamed?
AR: Yesterday is Two Days Ago by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti

SE: Who is your favourite hero/ine from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?
AR: I do love Anne Shirley from L. M. Montgomery’s series, Anne of Green Gables – her effervescence is contagious!

SE: What composer or musician, past or present, would you most like to have dinner with, and why?
AR: Hildegard of Bingen would be pretty incredible!

SE: What is your favourite smell?
AR: Coconut – it reminds me of being on holiday!

SE: What is your most memorable holiday?
AR: Hiking in Patagonia

SE: What keeps you awake at night?
AR: Haha I’m a horrible sleeper so everything! But most often it’s little fragments of new compositions going round and round my head

We’re performing Ailie’s new piece in Shetland, Aberdeen and Dundee. You can find out more about Scottish Creations here.