The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Astley, Virginia
Virginia Astley (b. 1959) is an English
singer-songwriter active during the 1980s and 1990s. She remains a cult artist.
Astley was born near Grappenhall, but the family relocated to Stanmore in Middlesex because
of her father Edwin Astley's work as a film and TV writer. From the start of her
career in 1980, her composer father was her most direct influence. The other influences
were classical music and poetry.
She began her career with the band Victims of Pleasure, and later formed The
Ravishing Beauties with Kate St. John and Nicola Holland, both of whom had
solo careers in the 1990s. The only release was a semi-official version of
the Wilfred Owen war poem "Futilty".
Astley also had a separate existence as a session musician at the Crepescule
label, where John Foxx produced demos for what was
to become her first album, the classic neo-romantic soundscape called
From Gardens Where We Feel Secure (1983, re-mastered 2003).
Embarking on a solo career, Astley recorded the song that was to land her in the
indie top 5 charts in 1983: "Love's a Lonely Place to Be". She released
several albums and her ethereal vocals led her to become a cult hit in Japan.
Though her music was original, one can hear strands of Debussey, Elgar, Satie and
Vaughan Williams in there. Benjamin Britten was another influence,
especially his use of Wilfred Owen's poetry. Lyric-wise, Virginia would seek out
obscure romanric poetry, making some of her lyrics "difficult," but she kept well away
from sex and lust. There was also a strong use of religious imagery amid lyrics
which could equally apply to Carroll's Alice In Wonderland.
She continued to work with pop groups, such as Prefab Sprout and
Martin Stephenson and the Daintees. Har label, Warner Brothers, struggled
to find a way of promoting her unusual sound, and arranged for Japanese producer
Riuchi Sakamoto to handle new sessions and he brought in David Sylvian for a
duet on the song "Some small hope" - but a year later her contract was dropped,
and the singer more or less disappeared from music after her daughter Florence
was born in 1987.
Since then Virginia Astley has guested on CDs by both Hideaki
Matsuoka and the Silent Poets but has published nothing after the year 2000.
The only "new" material was a signed re-mastered reissue of "From gardens where we feel secure"
and a privately-made recording of a remixed "Sanctus" called "Sanctus 2000".