January is named after the roman god “Janus’ who has two faces- one looking forward and one looking back. It is the gateway to a new year and we see it as a time of new beginnings, renewed commitment, energy and sometimes turning over a new leaf! Apparently gym memberships soar in January with everyones determined efforts to work off those mince pies! This year will be no exception , but it is also a special new year as it is the beginning of a new decade.
It is the decade where I hope we can collectively work together to reclaim the environment and stabilise the possible horrors of climate change. It would also be wonderful if we could use this decade to turn around austerity in the UK- the vast differences we now have between rich and poor and tackle the mounting issue of homelessness. Tackling even half of these issues, would be a tremendous success for a country that is the fifth richest country in the world, and we should have the commitment, means, systemic structures and processes to do something about these matters.
Having spent the Christmas period with our two sons (18 and 21), I am struck by how fired up they are by politics and the environment but also how despairing they feel at the world they are entering as young men. Words like “existential” and “nihlistic ” can be heard from their lips. I brought up these two to be creative thinkers, to care about the world and to hopefully use their lives well, and to hear their cynicism at the world that has been created before them is somewhat sorrowing to see.
In our house music is a language we all live and breathe and it is in this medium the we all find solace, create, explore ideas, make a societal point. That is true of my songwriting work which could largely be said to be creating “ Songs for a Purpose’! It struck me, hearing us all explore music in this way that music has a kind of magic to it!
Music is like water. Water is now known, through the study of cytomatics to take on the vibrational patterns of sound. It has the ability to change itself, take on different qualities, feelings and vibrations. It is the ultimate alchemical substance; and thus can be used for different effects. Scientists are looking at how sound and water can be used to alter mind states and even physical problems or ailments.
Music – even without water- does the same thing. It can be used to change mood, express sadness, anger, love. I believe it is the ultimate artistic tool to touch the soul, make us think, feel and maybe grow a little. Todays rock concerts and festivals show the power of music over a huge crowd. Music is as malleable and transformative as its sister element, water.
I can see how in the classroom when I teach music how quickly music can be used as a transformative tool: in three minutes we could be jumping and singing, the next we could almost be whispering a lullaby and lastly feeling the pathos in a slave song. Music can be like a gentle bubbling stream, the sensual lap of a summer lake or the pounding of a river in torrent.
So, music and water can both be catalysts for change. Their gentle and forceful power should not be under estimated for they carry change. Change can bring chaos but could also bring opportunity, creativity and beauty.
Perhaps those of us who work with and in the field of music can think about the force field we work within. What can we do to use this power for good effect in this next decade? Perhaps the nihilism our young people feel can be transformed through creativity as I saw with my two young men over the holidays, exploring and creating through music.
I do not think we have generally and consciously in recent years considered music in this way- but none the less there are good examples around. Bob Dylan was a poster boy for the peace movement and rightly so, as his lyrics combined with his melodies are powerful, thought provoking . Modern day rappers often highlight societal inadequacies. Extinction Rebellion may well yet prove a platform for music/art that promotes thought and change.
My own wishes for the year and the decade are to find what simple means I can to develop my songs for a purpose, to be a musical and positive catalyst for change as I learn to flow like water. And, for that purpose I leave you with one of my songs “Phoenix” which is all about positive transformation. Perhaps this next year or decade will see me releasing others I have written in a similar dialectic. Good to have those new year intentions!