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Blog Gaelic Musings Poetry

National Poetry Day 2020: Vision

Today is National Poetry Day 2020 and the theme this year is “Vision”. I thought that this would be a very timely opportunity for me to share with you a poem which is called “A Vision” (a nod to W. B. Yeats) that I wrote quite a few years ago now and was included on my Kyberpoetica album. There is a page in the poetry section of my website where you can find the full text, however if you would also like to listen to the album track it can be found on the main streaming platforms like Spotify or on my Bandcamp page.

I was also very fortunate to have had the poem translated into Scots Gaelic by the renowned poet Angus Peter Campbell and I recorded this as a track which features me reciting the poem and playing the clàrsach. I made a video to accompany the track which was kindly shared by Lesley Traynor at a live film-poem event and which you can see below.

Taisbean by Drew McNaughton (trans. Angus Peter Campbell)

I released this along with a few other spoken word tracks that I produced on the Taisbean EP. The cover art, which is featured at the top of this post and depicts the opening image of the poem in her own inimitable style, was created by Anna Oberfeld. I also have to thank Wee Studio on the Isle of Lewis for mastering the track, Sinclair Farrell for playing it on his Poets and Poetry Radio Show and Marcas Mac an Tuairneir for including it in Issue 6 of The Poets’ Republic.

Have a great National Poetry Day everyone and if you want please browse the rest of my poetry.

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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 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.