My blogger-poet-friend, Andy, is a native Mancunian. These are excerpts taken from his account of and reactions to this attack of the innocents.
Around the time I went to bed the bomb went off.
I was totally unaware of what had happened until around 3.00am, when my wife woke me. Friends from around the country, indeed the world, had messaged us. Then, bleary eyed, we tried to process just what had happened.
There was footage of the panic; people searching for lost children; a distressed woman rang our local radio station with a horrific account of what she had witnessed; friends of ours announced that they were safe.
The friend of my little girl was at the concert with her family. There were other people attending that we know. My daughter herself was at a concert in that same venue just a couple of weeks ago. The arena can be accessed through the train station which I have been commuting from. Not so long ago I attended the Young Voices competition as a staff member with my children’s school choir. 8,000 children were present that day. Suddenly the horror that regularly unfolds throughout the world was on our doorstep…
…Manchester is no stranger to such atrocities. There was the IRA bomb of 1996 which utterly devastated the town centre. The Manchester we know today rose from the ashes of that day. But back then everybody had been evacuated, miraculously nobody was killed. Last night it was people targeted.
Sarah of Art Expedition graciously gave me permission to post her photo and essay on my Giving Voice series. We both stand united against the indifference towards those displaced populations within our respective countries (in addition to the wider world scenario) – and do what we can within our (he)art to Give Voice…
Sarah is a German artist and art historian whose creations delight my senses. As a guest artist for The Strix collective, the following is her interpretation of the given theme: ‘authentic’.
“Das eigene Haus” – “Your own Home”
~ Das eigene Haus – Your Own Home; photo by Sarah, street photography Berlin, 2016 ~
The meaning of art is slightly different in art than for instance what it means in philosophy. Everything I do is authentic, because it was me who did it. Therefore, all I create is authentic. The photograph I choose for this topic reflects what is, to me, authentic in society nowadays.
Like many others, I feel at a loss to shape words into coherent phrases expressing outrage, sorrow, compassion and balanced thinking in the midst of our current flood of events in today’s world.
In light of this, as always, my medium of choice is music…and music as protest/social statement has a long history. Yes indeed I, myself, did the singer-songwriter scene in my early adulthood. Coming of age in the midst of another time of social unrest – I still embrace that genre.
Life goes on and in today’s world, my own current brand of compositional expression tends towards instrumental music. Personally, I feel it allows for individual interpretation, un-dictated by lyrical suggestion.
Which leads me to Max Richter, a favorite contemporary composer of mine.
Some time ago I stumbled upon an interview-article with Max published on Fifteen Questions. This on-line journal engages “production experts, performers, journalists, scientists and composers to discuss what music means, how it’s made, where its limits lie, and why it affects us all so differently and yet remains universal” rather than discussing the private lives of artists or their latest releases.
Here are a few of his thoughts to which I relate and are relevant to the subject of this blog post. I encourage those of you interested in musical composition and the driving forces behind it to read the full interview.
Max Richter – interview excerpts and short musical clip
Music for me is storytelling, so I usually start with an intention or something I want to say. From there I kind of struggle around in the dark, trying to find ways to say that. Sometimes it’s a linear thing where I have an idea and then go about trying to find ways to express it. Other times I will discover things along the way and the idea ends up turning into something else altogether. It’s a mixture between intention and chance.
I think the reason I write music is because I’m trying to say things that I find difficult to encapsulate verbally. Music is its own kind of language and it’s very good at saying things that words struggle with, so that’s often the impulse for me.
The role of the composer has always been subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of composers today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Music is a social art, kind of like talking, but in a way, music as a vehicle for political critique has evaporated in the last 20 years and that’s disappointing.
I think if we’re talking about something in music, we should be talking about the big things that are worth talking about and those things are: the state of the world; how we live and how we spend our time. That’s something that really drives me. For example, the track The Shadow Journal on Blue Notebooks, for me, is a protest song. It was composed and recorded the week after the first big anti-Iraq war march in London. And even though Czeslaw Milosz’s words are actually describing the Second World War, the imagery he used resonated with me at that particular moment in time and so social comment was most definitely the primary motivation behind this piece of music.
Generally speaking though, people are not thinking about music in those terms anymore, not if you compare it to the counter-culture movement of the sixties, when social commentary was one the absolute driving forces of music. It’s a shame and a lost opportunity in many ways.
Herbie (and the Headhunters) Hancock – interview excerpts and musical clip
And then there’s Herbie. Rummaging through some of my paper files a few weeks ago, I came across a Music and Musicians (June 2010) article I kept on hand entitled, “Herbie Hancock: Imagining the future with a plan, a piano and a vision of peace.”
I first heard of him as Herbie and the Headhunters in 1973 during my second year of college (University of Colorado at Boulder, 1972-1977). I fell in love with his ‘new’ funk sound while listening to his Chameleon on the then ‘underground’ Denver radio station KLZ FM.
Give the piece a listen as you continue reading excerpts from that article.
I wanted to make a global record. Although I’ve recorded with artists from other countries at various times, this truly was about emphasizing global collaboration as a path toward peace. I started thinking about America basically being an immigrant country.
Most of us have ancestors who were not from these shores. So we have these issues that are happening now about immigration and closing the borders and locking things down. I understand the motivation – the fear from 9/11 and terrorists. If you couple that with the insecurity that has come about because of the economic downturn, it’s drawing people into a state of chaos.
They’re trying to find ways to blame something, to put it on somebody. I think it’s time to stop looking outside for who to blame…now is the time to proactively begin the process of creating the kind of future we want for our children and for our children’s children.
How did you translate those ideals into music?
The first thing you have to do is be willing to be open and to embrace cultures outside of our own. The second thing is respecting the cultures and the people of those cultures. What other ways can we show our respect for other cultures? One of them is through language. It’s why I decided that if I truly wanted a global record, the record couldn’t just be in English…
Today’s World – in conclusion
Max and Herbie’s comments reveal the motivation behind much of an (he)artist’s work.
Communication – whether of a personal social statement or expression of some inner emotional response to life’s experiences – is often the result of a composer’s work; intentional or not.
For most musicians, even if performing non-original pieces, interpretational nuances shape one’s own message to be received by the audience as a gift from the heart.
For myself, my Swimming with Swansproject is one such work…to give voice to the fact that those of us who have experienced or are currently in the midst of a period of displacement in a living situation or even state of mind, are not defined by that but live day-by-day and create works of beauty regardless. And share it with all who will listen.
That’s just who we are and what we do – we count, we matter and we make a difference.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
This lady speaks candidly and with more courage than I ever could during our own between homesjourney. Her journey-details differ from our own, but the pattern is rote: no job – no home. The experiences and feelings felt are similar if not the same in some instances.
I found this article/youtube last year during my researching of my Giving Voice Series. It was a bit info heavy, so I waited to post it. It objectively details what ‘everyday Americans’ have been experiencing for years, but are unable to articulate. The video is worth the 6 minute view.
Poverty is a major cause of homelessness, that in itself is not a major revelation. What has been surprising to me is the people who I have met in the homeless community who could be any number of people I know today. A cruel twist of fate could happen to most anyone; I have met people who have been overwhelmed by medical bills or who have lost their job and have ended up on the street. There are some people who have chosen this lifestyle and they are in the minority. This 6 minute video explained to me a trend that is growing and should be a cause for concern for all of us. The growing inequality and wealth divide is a problem that is undermining our society and community, and forcing an increasing number of families below the poverty line. By increasing awareness of this, I believe we can and must change this trend. Andy Robbins Photography
Inspired by the memory of a woman who used to come into the café he frequented during his lunch break while working in Manchester, her fingerless mittened hands clutch bunched plastic bags while two worlds converge if only briefly but forever remembered.
Reporter: Darlene thought she had done everything right, even taking classes for her master’s degree. She held a good job with the veterans administration for the last 15 years, had savings, college and retirement accounts, and a comfortable suburban home for her three sons…
‘They had never worried about anything. They never had to go into the kitchen and look into an empty cupboard. I lived a middle class life all my life. That’s all I knew. I dropped from middle class to no class.‘ Continue reading →
A short while ago, I reread this classic novel. It’s one of the greats. What surprised me this time around was that amidst the storyline and lyrical prose, its message speaks to the heart of what I’ve been presenting within my blog series, Giving Voice.
Very timely as the quotes I’ve pulled from within its pages read better than anything I could attempt to pen.
Meant to be read as a single ‘blog post’ the following quotes are from “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” by Betty Smith.
Since her father’s death, Francie had stopped writing about birds and trees and My Impressions. Because she missed him so, she had taken to writing little stories about him. She tried to show that, in spite of his shortcomings, he had been a good father and a kindly man. She had written three such stories which were marked ‘C’ instead of the usual ‘A.’ The fourth came back with a line telling her to remain after school… Continue reading →