Nature undoubtedly feeds and nurtures us on so many levels. It balances us, reduces stress and is where we generally go for restorative peace and beauty. I am a definite nature girl and this next song is inspired by the kind of silence that can only be found in deep nature: where it positively rings like a sound through you and touches the soul.
This song was written at a time of deep personal trauma and distress and it arose because of my deep and complete need for the healing power of nature’s incredible silence. Life had dealt me a double whammy to deal with. My eldest son was driven into on his motorbike and sustained multiple serious injuries that meant he nearly lost his life several times. He has, thankfully, made a full and total recovery. But, it was a time when I could barely function so overcome was I by understandable paralytic fear.
At the same time my husband had been taken on as a care worker for a Temp Agency who had promised him better paid and more varied work. They reneged on this and only gave him infrequent shifts, working waking nights in a dementia care home. He was also catatonic with tiredness and our finances- which are never cheerful, reached a new all time low. Anxiety, fear and sleep deprivation meant we were existing in a nightmare corridor of awfulness, taking each long, slow day at a time…..
Not an experience I would wish on my worst enemy! Not that I have any for that matter!
The only thing that kept me sane and functioning was the need to be there for my boy, yoga, meditation and being in nature’s healing deep silence, that soothed me on a deep and profound level. It struck me that so many people have lives where silence is not a given, where they can not access this amazing quality…..So, I wrote this song for me and for them, as nature’s silence can bring us healing and peace. I am lucky as I live in a place where I am fed in this way daily.
So here are lyrics for this song that explores silence….It also aims to explore silence in a musical way. I was brought up on a diet of renaissance philosophy and how silence is an important part of music and how that impacts the construction and performance of music . I therefore felt able to weave some of these ideas in and through the song/lyrics , performance and potential instrumentation.
In the mountains, the margins t’ween heaven and earth.
Where rocks meet wind in stillness, majestic stillness
The silence of the earth.
Speak to me of silence
When chaos tears my heart
Give me the gift of silence
In the wake of Shiva’s path
Give me the glow of peace, to calm my thudding heart
To calm my thudding heart.
Between breathing, and in the centre of a flame
And in the gaze of calm recognition
When we touch another’s heart.
Repeat chorus and or instrumental break
A blanket, wrapped around our thrumming lives
Be nurtured by it’s solace
So we can rise above, rise above
And be, and be, our own heartbeat of silence
The silence just to be.
This song has a very timeless quality to it- in the way hills and mountains have a timelessness to them. It has silence woven through it at various points and the way I perform it requires silence to be as much part of the voice and the song in its delivery. It is in E minor…and you can hear echoes stylistically taken from lute songs….but it moves beyond that too. As always, it is a very lyric /image based song- which is appearing as a kind of theme throughout my work. Again I use word and music “painting” together to convey the message and meaning of the song. For instance “Wind” in the first verse has a glissando on it to create a sense of the wind.
Again, I have no musicians to work with to create an instrumental counterpart for this song…but I do have lots of ideas of what could work. Some of the ideas are quite wacky!
I imagine a guitar played sparsely and using lots of harmonics- shimmering into silence, an acoustic one and also possibly- more sparingly a bass guitar. The background Ostinato would be either a fifth E-B…or just E, if this proved too much played on crystal singing bowls. These bowls hold the quality of silence within them and have the same ringing quality that silence has in the glens and mountains. Because of the overtones I would have to see if a fifth worked or whether it would be just best as a single note repeated.
I would want crystal singing bowls, not metal ones as they have a softer more sibilant feel.In the verses there would be some echoes of the vocal line played by a duduk . My dear colleague Arsen, who is an amazing duduk player would be the player I would choose again for this ( He has played on my forthcoming debut ep). In the chorus I would like to introduce in a sparse way, the hang drums in place of the duduk- which again have silence echoing through them. Again, played sparsely….in fact most things would be played in a minimalistic way so they only decorate silence, which would throb through the song.
I like to perform this piece accapella in combination with “Touch me like Treasure”. This is because it is the total opposite in quality and it allows the listener to enter two different realms in quick succession! “Touch me like treasure “ is all warmth, earth and sensuality and “Stillness Speaks” is all air and stillness and intangibility. They work well as a contrasting pair even without accompaniment. The biggest accolade when I perform this is the complete silence at the end of the song and the look of people transported to some inner silent space. It was then remarked upon by a quiet but powerful “Wow!” As a statement . Thank you dear listener out there!
A funny, personal anecdote in creating my ideas for this song was when I came across the hang drums on youtube! They look like upside down woks so I presumed they must be really quite cheap. I thought excitedly that I could get one for my husband for Christmas and was very dismayed to see they cost a hefty £1500!!! And, come in different tunings to make them more inacessible! Needless to say I did not by him one for Christmas….I think he got a pair of cosy socks instead!
In a sense this song brings together so many of the elements that I like to explore musically. There is the past feel and reference to my influences from growing up in early music, it is a song to touch the soul, it brings modern and world elements together in its instrumental ideas giving it a timelessness and global relevance. I do hope, one day, to actualise these ideas. Who knows…..hold it lightly. Hold reality in it’s wave like potential form rather than it’s manifest particle form…..we will see what comes….