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Blog Music Musings

New Music Paradigm

It’s sad to say it but I think I’m going off dance music. Perhaps it’s just because I’m getting older but I also have been thinking today about music and the way it is created just now and I’m thinking that it’s time to totally reassess this situation.

The current dance music trend started in the 80’s and it has also been from about that time that we have seen a ossification in the way music is produced for the mass market. I’m going to be blunt here. Music has not really been about music for about the last 40 years. If you want to “succeed” in music the primary requisite is that you have a pretty face and a fit body, and that applies whether you are male or female. That you have any aptitude for music is secondary. The music itself is actually incidental. And this is why it all really is so formulaic. The music strives to be instantly recognizable as X, whatever that genre may be. The power of music is that despite its exploitation it still has the ability to grip the emotions and get people to feel and form important memories of times and places.

I think it is time now for us to wake up to this. Apple, Spotify and all the major streaming platforms all perpetuate the model of the image over music, of the fan following wanting to be close to their objects of desire. There is a way to get out of this and it is to totally reassess what the fundamental purpose of music is. Music is an expression not a product. If we look at nature, birds sing, wolves howl and whales and dolphins create sonic beauty but it comes from wanting to express their aliveness.

I have been more interested in the social environment of the folk session in the past couple of years mainly because it seems to be more about the expression of music and collective belonging. I know it is not possible to participate in this just now because of the situation but it will be again soon.

I also think that many of the other arts have been infected by the attitudes of the music “industry”. Spoken word poetry for instance has shifted into a space that again favours the image, the pretty face and it has meant that the medium which has helped to propel it forward recently is YouTube. The artists who perform defer to the standard spoken word style which is very recognisable with its emphasis on the…………hiatus. But this makes the performer legitimate. And again the roots of the current spoken word movement are deep in the music of hop-hop which was a development of the 80’s music machine. I do not want to completely denigrate any of these artforms because they are also forms of expression and involve skill but we need to see them for what they are. Otherwise we are going to keep falling into the trap that the “business” sets for us, which is to think of it as a business in the first place.

Now I do want to say that performers and the considerable talents they have should be recognised and valued. I feel that my life would have been lacking considerably in an important way if it didn’t have music in it and that has often been through the conventional routes. However I must pose the question: surely there is a way that we can liberate music from the overarching influence of the corporate machine? How can it and other artforms be freed from the vaulting ambitions of the business executives who will opt every time for the obvious choices of a safe investment in sheer looks? I think we have to go back to basics and the grass-roots to find the answers.

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Blog Musings

Merlin’s Modern Myths

Many, many years ago I wrote a series of seven stories about Merlin and self-published them in a little pamphlet that I made myself. I still have a copy and the rest I put into book shops. So there are copies out there somewhere. Anyway I thought I would add them to my website for people to have a look at, but only the first six as the last one was autobiographical. Without an actual section on stories to my website I’ve put them in the Essays part but you can only get to them via the link in this post. Eventually I might add them properly. If you want to have a read feel free and let me know in the comments below what you think.

Merlin’s Modern Myths

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Blog Politics

This is the Beginning

I have been watching what has been going on today in America on Twitter and although I didn’t want to post anything on Social Media because I felt that my reactions would be too unconsidered, I have this blog and I can use this platform to raise my voice about what I see is going on just now. This is the beginning of a much larger shift in our collective consciousness but it has been in the pipeline, if you excuse the metaphor, for a long time.

I deliberately used that metaphor however because it has a direct bearing on what my theory is about the unexamined racism that exists in our societies on both sides of the Atlantic. In the UK as well the right-wing press has been ratcheting up their rhetoric for years and people like Boris Johnson (and his trusty sidekick Dominic Cummings) have been riding the wave of anti-immigrant/racist sentiment. Why did I use the pipeline metaphor though? It is because our use of oil and exploitation of the Earth have a direct connection to our society’s slave owning past. It is my contention that the abolition of slavery and the industrial revolution happened at the same time and was a means to transfer the concept of enslavement from one thing to another. The large landowning and slave owning elites in Britain were compensated richly for the emancipation of their slaves. But what did they do with the money? They poured it into the industrial revolution which was based on the premise that the technology of man was able to harness and exploit the wild forces of nature. Nature herself became enslaved. And we have been the beneficiaries of this ever since. But there was never an acknowledgement that the patterns of society were wrong and therefore there was never a sense of reconcilliation with those that had been enslaved and still were enslaved. Racism became institutionalised. And this is why there has been a parallel trajectory of the two societies East and West of the Atlantic. It is also known as the “Special Relationship”.

I have been in a fortunate position to have grown up in the Mid-Atlantic, so to speak. I was born in America but have lived most of my life in the UK. I am an immigrant. And I was one of many that came over with family to the UK during the 1980’s. I was an outsider and I got my fair share of bullying at the local school for my strange accent. I’m not saying that I ever experienced the levels of racism that are directed towards black and Asian people. But I could at least relate to their predicament. One of my friends who has been a staunch advocate for Anti-Racism convinced me to go on a march in the 90’s in London which was to protest a British National Party bookshop in London. Thousands turned up but the protest turned nasty and police on horseback charged the crowd. It was lucky that no-one that I was with was seriously injured. I remember Bobby, my friend, heroically getting people to safety as we tried to flee from the crushing throng. The BNP watched from behind the police lines jeering at us.

I have never been able to take racism. I found it particularly difficult in recent years when I friend who was in quite a prominent position was targeted with racist abuse. It was abuse so subtle though that combatting it could only be done merely by trying to be as supportive as possible. I feel that my position and reputation in the community might have suffered however and I don’t think it really will ever be fully rectified. Do I care? Of course I care if it has meant difficulties with my career but on another level I feel that at least I did the right thing.

What I’m seeing in the States right now is on a whole other level. This is a testing time. A time when we will really find out what people stand for. I thought that it had gotten bad enough when Donald Trump was voted in. He can barely conceal his own racist beliefs. But now the police in America are showing their true colours and the backlash against them has driven them into a desperate defensive position. They feel that they are under attack not just physically but ideologically. Their authority and institutionalised racism is being challenged and just like a bunch of thugs they are holding together and fighting back. The question is: will this spill into the wider society and cause the lines to be drawn up between the factions that espouse the white supremacy that Donald Trump stands for and the rest of the population including the oppressed minorities that have been the victims of their attacks? And if those lines are drawn up will there be a dialogue or will the violence escalate? I fear it could be the latter.

If it is happening over there, then I am fairly certain that the UK will also be affected because, as I mentioned, there is a shared history and a similar trajectory experienced by the two countries. The UK has had its own trials recently with the high levels of corona virus deaths but more tellingly the ineptitude and callousness displayed by the UK government. The UK doesn’t really do riots on a large scale though unlike near neighbors such as France. We are generally more placid when faced with injustice preferring to send a strongly worded letter. On the good side that does mean however that we are less likely to see such high levels of violence. I would never advocate violence.

The issue still remains though that we live in a society which has never really faced up to its slave owning past and has instead transferred this mentality into a system which exploits nature as if it were a slave, constantly taking, taking, taking and never stopping to see the consequences. These consequences will eventually have to be faced one way or another though. Hopefully this is the beginning of a journey in which we face and acknowledge these past behaviors so we can move on into a better future for the generations to come.

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Blog Musings Nature Philosophy Technology

Limitations in Nature

I was looking up at the moon this evening which is rapidly coming up to the First Quarter and it got me thinking about the notion of limits. The moon is a brilliant teacher of this because it grows larger and smaller but it never goes outside its own limits when it is at its maximum fullness. The same goes for the tides which the moon influences. They ebb and flow, filling up at high tide and emptying at low tide but there is a limit and when it is reached the cycle begins again. Perhaps this time of lockdown is a time of the ebbing of the tide for all of us. The activities of our lives have had to slow down, growth has slowed and perhaps even gone into reverse. There are many who will be struggling.

However before we start back on the road we were on, perhaps we could pause and reflect on what this situation has been telling us. We have as a global culture been in expansion mode for such a long time, perhaps we now need to think about contraction or at least a stabilisation of the seemingly endless expansion. We have learned to harness the vast resources of energy that our planet can provide, a lot of which ultimately was derived from life-processes driven by the sun. We also have learned about generating power from matter as physicists have shown us to be possible. But in a way with all this power at our disposal are we just like the child who discovers that a magnifying glass on a hot day can be fun but also destructive. We use the power generated to plumb the depths of matter even further with giant atom smashing particle accelerators, but for what? To learn more about a potentially more powerful source of energy to harness? Do we need it?

Nature has limits. We know that and the moon shows that. We should start to consider the moon and be less obsessed by the sun. When the natural limits of nature are exceeded there is disease. An overproduction of white bloodcells is the manifested state of leukemia. A tumor is an abnormally large growth. The limits have been exceeded. Cancer is the other name for this disease. And it is something that this lockdown has reminded me of because right now there are people who have loved ones that are ill but whom they can’t see or be with. And this was the case when my nephew was ill over the last four years but due to circumstances I wasn’t really able to do as much as I would have liked to be with my family or help them with their burden. Thankfully the crisis is now in the past but lives have been irrevocably changed. The white bloodcells are back within the limits that correspond to health.

The questions for me though are: will we heed the moon and pull back our activities into the zone of limitation that nature shows us? Can we take a rest from our incessant desire for expansion? Can we continue to contract for a little while until we settle into a natural pattern once again?

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Blog Musings

Almost the New Moon

Today is the 30th day of the lunar cycle and unless I see the new moon tonight it will be the first day of the new lunar cycle tomorrow. If I see the New Moon tonight then today is the first day of the new lunar cycle but we shall see. I’ve been keeping track of the lunar cycles since we have been in lockdown and particularly because I started to read the story of Noah and the Flood in Genesis and I was struck by all the references to particular days of the lunar cycle and events that occurred which led me to the conclusion that the ancient Hebrews saw the lunar cycle as having 30 days. I would like to discuss some of my thoughts about this with other biblical scholars as I also get a sense that the story of Noah relates to the agricultural year and the Earth’s journey around the sun. So if you have any thoughts on this then feel free to get back to me about it. Also if you are Muslim Happy Eid al-Fitr!

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Blog Mental Health Musings Poetry

Mental Health Awareness Week

As it’s the start of Mental Health Awareness Week I thought I would share this poem I wrote earlier this year. 2020 has been a challenging year hasn’t it.

Threshold

At the threshold of sleep
Falling asleep and waking
I encounter the biggest challenge.

To step over that threshold
Is like a giant leap for mankind
Not a small step of ease.

But the threshold serves a purpose
To contain the scattered grains
Which are beaten loose on the threshing floor

Just like the thoughts in my mind
Which are sent flying by the hard blows
And I am grateful that they are contained.

To take a step, even ever so slight,
Upwards and lift one’s foot
Is a great action indeed.

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Blog Musings

Why so many con-men?

I was just reading an article in the Atlantic Monthly about an American academic at Oxford who used his position to steal and sell fragments of papyrus to an American collector. It’s a fascinating story and I was drawn to it as I’m currently staying in Oxford.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/06/museum-of-the-bible-obbink-gospel-of-mark/610576/

It made me wonder though why there seem to be so many American fraudsters and con-men. What is it about that culture that makes it so prevalent? I know that there are a lot of good aspects to American culture and lots of good people with consciences but there is a distinctly overt amount of crooks. The president for one. I know that there are con-men and scammers in all cultures, but it makes me sad that my home country should be so plagued with them. I think this is something to reflect upon and consider.

Stay healthy and well wherever you are and please stay out of the grasp of scammers. If you want have a read of my latest essay as well about Courage and Vulnerability.

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Blog Music Musings Nature Poetry

Fundraising for a New Album

After seeing one of my friends post a fundraiser today I was inspired to do one myself. I have been really wanting to do a new album of poetry and music for a long time and just recently I started thinking about it again. I have definitely written enough poetry to do one and I want it to be on the theme of Nature and the environment. As you can see from other poems I’ve posted on this website this has been on my mind a lot. and I also thought of a name for the album which I won’t share just yet but I will refer to it just now as “AM”.

So if you would like to contribute to the AM Spoken Word Album project I’ve included the link below. I hope to get other funding but any money raised just now will help to show potential funders that there is a demand for it. If I can get the funding then I will hopefully even be able to get other musicians to collaborate on the project as well, but any money that comes from this particular fundraiser, whether I get other funding or not, will be kept aside specifically for this project.

If your donation is £10 or more you will get a download code for the finished album via Bandcamp (you can also hear my other work on Bandcamp just now). The album will also be available on other streaming platforms as well just as is my first album “Kyberpoetica“.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and thanks in advance for your generosity!

Categories
Blog Musings Nature

Earth Day 2020

Happy Earth Day! The place where I’m staying just now has an excellent view over a river and I’ve been watching the fish swim in it, some of which must be about half a metre in length, maybe more, as they can be seen from my room in the top floor. As the window is also West facing I have had some quite amazing views of Venus after the Sun has set and the new moon when that happened. I’ve been keeping a count of the days since I first saw it and today is day 28. This means that Saturday should be the 31st day and therefore the new moon should be visible again on that day resetting the cycle back to day 1. It would be wonderful if we could all keep on remembering our Mother Earth not just today but for the whole of the next lunar cycle, for the Moon is our closest partner in the heavens and orbits with the Earth round the Sun. It is not money that makes the world go round but something else beginning with M.

I also had an article shared with me reporting that we may have the largest ever single year drop in Carbon Dioxide (CO2) emissions as a percentage in 2020 due to the global lockdown caused by the coronavirus. We need to keep this trend going and even make it greater after the lockdown is lifted in order to reach the target of reduction in CO2 emissions required to limit global temperature rise to that agreed in Paris (1.5 degrees from pre-industrial levels). The recent situation shows what a radical change that would be, but if we think about what’s at stake then we might have the encouragement to keep going. We are capable of great change as a global society if it is a matter of life and death and that is also what we face in terms of the climate. And it’s not just CO2 emissions we have to think about but habitat destruction also. The pressures on biodiversity due to habitat loss even increase our chances of further pandemics according to another article I read. This is why it is important that we keep our Mother Earth in mind not just today but in the coming month, by which I mean lunar cycle.

Here is the link to the first article I mentioned on the drop in CO2 emissions:

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Blog Music Musings Nature Technology

Live Streaming During Our Time of Isolation

There seem to be quite a few people, some of whom I know, doing live streaming on-line just now as a means of reaching out while we are in this state of self-imposed (or in some places state-imposed) isolation. This got me thinking that I could myself do something along these lines, however after pondering it I decided that I don’t think this would be worth my while. I already have quite an extensive output on-line which is mainly text-based or pre-recorded audio and I’m not sure that adding further to this in the audiovisual area is really a constructive thing for me to do.

I have however been enjoying a great deal what others have been doing, particularly when it comes to being able just to listen to their broadcasts. I have discovered that a few artists who are themselves great performers have been have been doing live streaming on Twitch and I would recommend that you have a look. These are Danny Berman, AKA Red Rack’em, with his daily Berman Sermon at 2pm and Marjolein Roberston who does a storytelling slot at 8pm everyday. Marjolein also has a Patreon account which you can subscribe to as does Siobhan Wilson who also has been doing live streamed gigs from her home which are absolutely worth subscribing to her Patreon to be able to have a listen to. I also believe that Rachel Sermanni has been doing live streamed broadcasts on her Instagram account which I haven’t yet listened to but I’m sure would be worth checking out.

It is important to help support these talented performers during this time when the usual opportunities for live performance are curtailed. And I also would say it is important to remember the live streaming that Mother Nature has been doing and continues to do during these times. At the moment I am very fortunate to be in relative isolation on an island in the middle of the Thames, so each morning I can go out and observe the flow of the river and the fish and birds that call it their home. To have access to this is a real blessing for me at this time. I hope that everyone reading this is also finding ways to be good to themselves and are managing to cope during these extraordinary circumstances. All the best to you and have a great Easter weekend where ever you are.