Category Archives: music

Mallet of Healing

via Daily Prompt: Mallet

Camille Saint-Saens is credited with the first use of mallet percussion in an orchestra in 1874.

The video is a performance piece by the famed percussionist Evelyn Glennie and guitarist Fred Frith (he of Henry Cow) improvising in a vacant factory. Glennie is internationally noted for her use of mallets, the striking sticks used to play a number of instruments like the marimba and the zylophone. Glennie is stunning to watch in concert, and what makes it more intersting is that since she was twelve, she has been profoundly deaf. Which goes to show that what we might consider as a barrier, a disability, an impediment or block may not necessarily be so. Glennie is on record (see her TEDx talk, also on Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=383kxC_NCKw ) as saying that deafness is misunderstood, and that she used other parts of her body to learn to listen.

In a twist of irony, the malleus or hammer shaped bone is a part of the ear, which for Glennie, is parallel to her work in percussion. The musical mallet is used to strike an object, an instrument, in order to create a vareity of sounds that will be heard. The act of striking is an intentional process, persistent, rhythmic, hopeful, that a sound will be yielded by wood, skin, or metal, that can be heard.

I am struck (no pun intended) by the idea, and the reality, that you can train yourself to listen with different parts of the body. Some of this we know – in some forms of meditation we are learning to listen with the heart, and also the body as a whole. Music can evoke a range of emotions too that enable us to listen deeply and with different parts of the body, the skin included. My heart races with some music, whereas with some other types of music my heart is overcome, other music makes me warm, or gives me goosebumps, sometimes I have different feelings around pieces of music, for me there is always a bodily reaction. For the musician it can be an ecstatic response, have you ever noticed of someone who is playing an instrument just how emotionally connected they are with what they are playing?

Clearly, if you have a passion for something, then that can sometimes help you overcome difficulties in order to follow and achieve that passion. And passion opens the door to the heart. Besides, we commit more to what we really love and enjoy most. If you have a passion for something, your heart is already deeply engaged, so that it is not just will power or intellect that drives you. Music also has an advantage in this as it is considered to be healing in its own ways.

How I see it, we need to open our hearts to that which can move and transform us, to find that which potentially heals us. We need to get in touch with what our passions are, and we need to deeply listen with out bodies. As passion strikes at our heart, just like percussion mallets, the door to healing and creativity opens, then, who knows what can happen? For Evelyn Glennie, percussion was a way to both listen, and to be creative, and in spite of her profound deafness.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Filed under creativity, life, mindfulness, music

Be Your Own Genie

via Daily Prompt: Genie

No fancy urns to rub for me, Just Bowie’s Genie, the Gene Genie.

Seems strange that it was so long ago, 1972, and written while Bowie was in New York. Bowie always claimed that the main character Jean was loosely based on Iggy Pop and that the context was an imagined Americana. But he later suggested the name was a play on the name Jean Genet, the French thief who turned writer and political activist. Whichever of the two or both, Iggy Pop or Jean Genet certianly fit the song’s protagonist. The song was a minor hit at the time reaching No. 2 in the UK and 71 on Billboard in the US, but became a cult hit thereafter.

The story around the song and the video clip made for it, the time in Bowie’s life – being in New York and hanging with the Warhol crowd, all add to the song and its deeper meaning. The lyrics contain a sense of 60s, especially “let yourself go.” For me the song contains a sense of yearning for what might be. The abiding question that sits there is – what might happen if you let go? The song implies anything might happen, there’s also an edge to it that hints danger ahead, the Genie isn’t all good – “Sits like a man, but he smiles like a reptile.” The word frisson comes to mind. So, letting go includes risk.

And isn’t that the human condition? We want to let go, but we fear the risk? We might even imagine that new landscape of our lives, but we refuse to even let our eyes glimpse even a shadow of it. Fear is the most crippling feeling, it comes from the primitive brain, the one that tells us when to run, when it’s dangerous, but it can unfortunately overide the other parts of the brain, the logical, the creative, the reflective, and deny what they are saying. Sometimes we can be paralysed by fear. It takes a lot of work to undo what the primitive brain says, especially if we have learned to give it room.

That’s why so many books have been written on retraining the brain, it can be done, but it takes time to let go. Be your own genie, realise your wishes, let go.

“Learning to let go should be learned before learning to get. Life should be touched, not strangled. You’ve got to relax, let it happen at times, and at others move forward with it. It’s like boats. You keep you keep your motor on so you can steer with the current. And when you hear the sound of the waterfall coming nearer and nearer, tidy up the boat, put on your best tie and hat, smoke a cigar right up to the moment you go over. That’s a triumph.”  (Ray Bradbury, Farewell Summer)

Besides, what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Now where’s my best tie and hat?

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Songs Lift My Soul

via Daily Prompt: Song

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In 2013 The Bridgetown Cidery became home to a regular Folk Music Night, where local artists performed both solo and together as a band. In the Photo above we have Daun on percussion, a woman whose name I sadly can’t remember, Mary Myfanwy (who has her own solo career), and Adrian Williams (who can play a number of string instruments) who was a catalyst for the venture. This was taken July 2014 when I was still living in the town. I regularly attended these events because I love folk music, and on occasion there’d be something from the archive of Steeleye Span or Fairport Convention, among others. It was a fabulous time.

When I was around three years old, I have a distinct memory (I can still locate myself by a song, even my mood at the time on some occasions) of the songs of Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan (who I met in 1978 in Perth) and I have ever since had a soft spot for folk music of many kinds. My mother always had the radio on, BBC of course, and through those long English winters, trapped indoors, it was wonderful to be able to listen to music of all kinds. Fats Domino, Lonny Donegan, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Tom Jones, The Platters, Gene Vincent, Sam Cooke and more became known to me by their songs, it would be some years later that I would identify the songs by those who sang them. I loved music, I loved participating too. As with all children I was in the school “orchestra or band” I played the triangle, and eventually graduated to tambourine. I sang in a church choir for a time as a child, but when my voice broke it was deemed better that I not do that anymore 🙂

The sixties music had a profound effect on me. Who could ever deny the impact of the Beatles, but so many good songs and the bands who brought them into being.

My school band days migrated to the Australian school system where everyone was expected to learn to play the recorder (which drove my teachers and my Parents mad)  and every class had a singing session weekly to learn songs. I loved it all. I never did learn to read music, and for a brief moment in time I started to learn to play bass guitar, and was in a couple of attempted start-up bands. I did write some songs, but found I was a better poet than a straight up song writer. It was all good fun.

When I was in my teens, music, like reading, was a great escape, and I found music could also lift my soul, that hasn’t changed, it still does. I have my favourite songs, but I have a broad love of music and genre, from from folk to pop, blues to rock, gospel to hip hop, and classical and jazz. I have really enjoyed fusion, and the collaboration between cultures as pioneered by people like Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, George Harrison, and including Robert Plant, and many others.

I find music affects me body, mind and soul. There are some songs or pieces that bring me goose-bumps, and ecstasy, others are deeply meditative, some energising.

Even the very serious Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

I agree, it would be a tragedy. But thankfully humanity is creative and expressive and we have a vast body of ever growing work to choose from. I wonder what your favourite song is? Perhaps like me you find it hard to choose just one. For me, in this moment, Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A Changin” In 1964, it was a very real song, an anthem. But now it is more – it is my constant hope.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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The English Congregation

via Daily Prompt: Congregate

No, not the gathering in the cathedral, this lot ….

The Congregation, titled The English Congregation in the US to avoid confusion with another group, was a UK outfit put together by Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook, formerly the duo known as David and Jonathan (a biblical reference) who had had two early sixties top ten hits. Greenaway and Cook were succesful song writers for others but not so successful for themselves in the long term. They wrote for the Hollies, Bobby Goldsboro and others. Greenaway and Cook formed The Congregation in 1970 and they used their own song ‘Softly Whispering I Love You’ to launch in 1971. The song did moderately well across the world, and was their only charting song in the US.

In another sense this is radical, combining a formal choral backing with pop style. Note the fashion. And keep in mind that Jimmy Hendrix had recently died, The Beatles had come to an end, it’s only just pre-glam rock, heavy rock was in the ascendant, and along comes The English Congregation. It was a topsy turvey world. But then – that was the 60s and 70s – genre bending and progressive, and set the example for later creativity.

The song is catchy, and melodic, if whimsical, yet charming, and typical of pop.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Astral Weeks

via Daily Prompt: Astral

The title song and opening track of Van Morrison’s 1968 album ‘Astral Weeks.’ Morrison said that the song represented transforming energy, and a renewing or rebirthing energy, dying in order to be reborn. It was Morrison’s take or twist on Astral Projection, and out of body experience. He encountered this in a personal way when he visited his friend, the artist Cezil McCartney in Belfast in 1966. McCartney had a painting which inspired Morrison. He said the painting embodied astral projection.

What is interesting is that the music critics said that the song, and the album, the voices and sounds were other worldly – astral also means from another world. So in that sense the album works and on every level. The album also coincided with Morrison’s wrangle with Bang Records, his move to America and marriage – a lot of upheaval and a lot of pressure, which is reflected in the songs and the mood. The album is a depature from rock and pop and moves into the jazz territory that became his stock in trade. Which leads to the question as to why he named his album Astral Weeks when jazz great Charles Mingus had one with the same name in 1964.

My experience of music is that it transports me. For a time music took me to worlds beyond myself, deep in my imagination, in my youth, when I needed to escape pain. I can still place elements of Lord of the Rings in moments of Led Zeppelin (the film ‘The Song Reamins the Same’ shows how Zeppelin enjoyed a medieval and sometimes Tolkinesque imagination, and some of their songs reference Tolkien) or Bach. There are many hits of the past where I can remember a place, a smell, a situation. I find music both energising and relaxing depending on the genre. Music still takes me to other worlds. Van Morrison is one of my favourites too, and he takes me to other worlds.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Bewildered

via Daily Prompt: Bewildered

Bewildered was a song by one of Asia’s most popular singers Leslie Cheung, who sadly took his own life in 2003. (I have worked in the area of suicide prevention for years, but even though I know the technicalities of suicide, I am still bewildered by it, which, I guess is hardly surprising as I’m not in that space).

Cheung was a very gifted person, a successful singer and a successful actor. He had/has a huge following. I recognize his name from acting – if you ever saw the movie ‘Farewell My Concubine’ then you have seen Leslie Cheung in action. I couldn’t find a version of ‘Bewildered’ with English subtitles, but even so, I quite liked the experience of listening to him sing in Cantonese, and watching him perform/act on the clip. Cheung is considered to be one of the fathers of Cantopop, which is a genre of Cantonese music. Which reminds me of personal truth – I don’t always need to understand something in order to enjoy it. In fact, I can sometimes enjoy the unknown or not understood more than if I did understand or know. Which is an even greater truth, I don’t need to understand everything. Sometimes mystery is good for the soul.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Blink 182 Parody

via Daily Prompt: Blink

Blink 182 released the album ‘Enema of the State’ in 1999. On that album is the song ‘All The Small Things’ which was regularly featured on the MTV playlist that year. The song was for guitarist Tom DeLonge’s then girlfriend, and uncharacteristically it was a pop song, and ironically, their best selling hit. But the video was soemthing else. The video was a parody of the Back Street Boys, N Sync, and takes a swipe at Britney Spears as well. I found it refreshing because I was sick of the unimaginitive pop music, and the very formulaic dance videos at that time, and this was comedic release. I love comedy, especially satire, and this was a fabulous production. I particularly love the blackened teeth when they play the boy band – mocking the perfect toothy grins of boy bands.

For me it is a reminder that we sometimes become too serious about everything and there is a place for humour, comedy, parody and the like. There has to be a valve to release the pressure. In his major work ‘A Secular Age’, philosopher Charles Taylor raises the point that in the Dark Ages all sorts of devices were created in order for society to let off steam, so that with Mardi Gras, and other public celebrations, it was possible to break the rules and be naughty and incur no penalty. We need a bit more naughty and some fun as I see it, we’ve become a narrow and judgemental world that perpetuates fear in order to maintain cohesion, albeit, control. It’s the small things that make me laugh and help me get by sometimes.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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London Calling

via Daily Prompt: Calling

Avon Calling! I remember that one. Vocational calling, I know that one.  But ‘London Calling’, that haunting song by British Band The Clash (1980), is the calling that stirs me. It’s not everyones favourite, but it rates highly in the music world, NME rated it number 8 in the all time rock collection (2003).

 

Music aside, the lyrics are the main game, they are a social commentary of the late 70s and the alienation of many from participation and from any hope. The words are blunt, apocalyptic, satirical, they leave no room for niceties, there is nowhere to hide. It still evokes the feelings of that era, and sadly, the song has continued to be a social commentary, and has come alive today, thirty-seven years later. Now it’s every population center calling. which makes me think of Pink Floyd’s ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ One thing’s for sure, “a drop will come down” and we need to make it a good one.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Percussive

via Daily Prompt: Percussive

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We were waiting to make a dash for the car. It had been raining all afternoon, and now into the night. The rain was percussive, it was pinging off the metal of the car bodies, drumming on the bitumen, splashing in the puddles, and sounding like a rivet gun on the awning where stood. I love rain, it’s a sign of life, hope for life to come. Rain is refreshing, like petrichor, the smell ofrain on summer scorched earth. When I was a kid, I loved running around in the rain. I still don’t mind bush walking in the rain.

I love the sound of rain too, that percussion on a tin roof! I find gentle rain quite comforting, it’s like natures mantra.

And the song always comes to mind: ‘I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Has Gone.’ It’s like the rain somehow intervenes in my life, it overwhelms my senses, enables me to refocus. In some way, rain helps me to be more vulnerable, but most especially in the bush.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Oh Mercy

via Daily Prompt: Mercy

Oh Mercy was the 26th studio album by Bob Dylan released in 1989, which seems a lifetime ago now. It was a return to moral, social and political themes following his turn to Chrisitanity and three overtly religious albums, and two mild productions. Oh Mercy carries religious and political themes but more in the usual style of the understated Dylan. For me the two significant tracks on the album are ‘Political World’ which decries any attempt to segment or compartmentalise life sealing off anything political. Dylan makes it very clear that everything is political and we are political, thus the world we live in is unavoidably poltical because we are in that world. We make it political because we are. But there is a hope for a differnt world because politics dominates and poisons our world. Thus, ‘Political World’ is a typical Dylan muse about life and a tirade against the corruption of politics.

The second track I love is ‘Most of the Time’ which a song about lost love, another Dylan genre. It is both whistful, biting and grieving in one. The rest of the album is as good.

And the title says it all. a desire to be rescued from the forces of the world over which we have seemingly little control. There are no solutions, but a deep listening and resonance with life as we know it. The solutions are in our understanding and response as we deal with life and listen deeply to our needs and purpose.

Courtesy of Youtube: Official Dylan Site – ‘Most of the Time’

 

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