If the Brontë sisters were songs, what would they sound like? Thanks to Nat Johnson, British singer and songwriter, we don’t need to wonder anymore. Beautiful, young, and extremely talented, Nat is the author of The Liberty System, a musical triptych commissioned by Off the Shelf Festival of Words in which the souls of the most famous English sisters writers are told in music and words.
The titles, the sounds, and the lyrics of these three songs – ‘Anne, the Gardener’, ‘Emily, the Diver’ and ‘Charlotte, the Levitator’- contain references to the natural elements and meteorology; each sister has been ascribed a specific element (Anne-Earth, Emily-Water, Charlotte-Air) and lives her life according to her natural inclination and the kind of “Liberty” she’s searching for (Anne- women’s liberty, Emily- soul liberty, Charlotte- mind liberty”.
The songs, see the return of each sister to the Parsonage dining room, the very place where everything started, where their dreams and ideas and took the form of words and letters. In that very room, around that very mahogany table, three unknown young women from the north of England wrote some of the most important English novels; sharing ideas, reading, discussing, supporting one another, the three sisters influenced each other, and blended into each other as the natural elements blend. “Anne grows truth and hope from plants, Emily waters them and Charlotte spreads the seeds into the world”; Nat explains that “Emily’s sophisticated, existentialist work is dragged into the public by Charlotte, whilst Emily herself stays home and accepts her mortality. Charlotte’s complexities, like the wind, cannot quite be grasped: she releases her inner voice, but often changes her mind, her intentions and her feelings towards her sisters’ work.”
Nat’s study of the Brontë sisters’ lives and works is deep and inspiring. After having read Wuthering Heights many times, thanks to this amazing project she had the chance to learn about the other sisters as well, and went searching for inspiration in Haworth taking walks on the moor, looking around the Parsonage and “trying to imagine what it was like to live there”.
The first time we have listened to these songs, we were immediately fascinated and striken by how closely they resembled the souls of the three writers who inspired them. Nat’s interpretation of the sisters’ characters and desires is interesting and clever, and we are honoured to offer you the chance to listen to the The Liberty System from the music player below.