Music has always been part of my life, in one way or another. I never considered it as a calling, or as something I could ever stand out in, because as children we are measured and compared to others and labeled, and internalize those labels as our self image. This, I believe, is one of the greatest inhibitions to creativity.
No, I don’t mean we’re all really geniuses at things we thought we weren’t good at. The word genius is so over used these days, it’s just become another brick in the wall. I mean that it is inspiring and enriching to one’s life to practice creative self expression through a variety of different means, completely irregardless of skill or talent. This is something I am re-discovering.
I was labeled at a young age as having ability in painting and drawing, and these are things in my adult life that I work very hard at. Why should a non-painting person listen to me if I tell them they should paint for fun, regardless of ability? I was also the kid who wasn’t allowed to be part of the choir in grade three. Our school had a choir that won provincial competitions, so you had to be able to sing in key.
Nonetheless, by my teens, I had a strong interest in music- because it was important to me, not because I was good at it. I took classical piano lessons, then switched to popular music and drove my family crazy by banging out “Eye of the Tiger”, over and over. Then I switched to guitar . I never got particularly good at guitar, because it wasn’t something that came easily to me, so I got easily discouraged.
Besides, by my mid twenties, I was an extremely serious person who didn’t believe in hobbies. I had to fixate on becoming the best possible artist while studying or working full time, or at least improving myself in some way, so when I had any spare time, I read a lot of nineteenth century novels to improve my mind.
Besides that, I hated drugs. Which should be completely beside the point, but at the time, I was burdened with stereotypes. It’s not that I look down on that kind of thing, but I believe it’s because of a bad reaction when I was sick as a child that drugs actually scare the crap out of me. Because my interest in music had led me for a time through that shadowy place with the kind of crowd where I didn’t belong, I didn’t want to go back there.
However by the time I was thirty years old, the guitar came back into my life. I started writing and singing my own songs, although only about three people have heard them, ever. Then in time, other stuff, as in people, took over my life. I hardly picked up the guitar for at least four years, which didn’t bother me much, because I figured so many other people are so much better at it.
I didn’t think about the fact that it can be simply part of a happy, well rounded life to play a musical instrument, or how healing it can be.
Recently I started to become interested in traditional wind instruments, and now, because they are so intuitive to play, it has opened up a whole world for me. Half a year ago, I went to Ireland, and acquired a penny whistle or tin whistle as a souvenir. It sat in the unopened package for a very long time. I though I might give it to someone. Then, I got an inspiration to give it to me, and opened up that bubble pack. Soon I ordered a First Nations (aka, American Indian) flute as well.
Both, although the tuning has been modernized and standardized to fit Western musical notation, and make it possible to change keys, are basically designed to follow a very ancient, five note pentatonic scale. The two instruments have very different sounds because besides the different size and resonance of the materials and design, the tin whistle is tuned be most easily played in the key of D, and the cedar flute in the key of F sharp. F sharp is like playing all the black notes on the piano, which was one of my favourite things to do as a kid.
As I understand it, in First Nations culture, the practice of any traditional art form, including music, is considered spiritually healing. As opposed to being a license for self abuse and nihilism, as the arts are sometimes viewed in Western culture (although they haven’t always been). As a Metis person, I can choose to embrace the healing point of view. No, I put that the wrong way. As a human person, I can choose to embrace the healing point of view.
A couple of days ago, I was playing my cedar flute when I looked out the window and noticed a lot of people were standing on the river dyke. I knew that meant the ice on the Yukon River was finally starting to break up. I went out to watch the powerful ice flows in action, and borrowed a different kind of First Nations flute, which looks like three flutes joined together, from a white guy who walks around playing it; but I had trouble playing it because it was so different from mine and not in the same key. I decided to go get my own; he encourage me to “play it while you watch the river and let what you feel come out in the music”.
That’s what I did because I knew it would be good for me, even though I sometimes suffer from terrible self consciousness. People didn’t exactly swoon and beg for my autograph, but no one threw rocks at me, either. While I was out there, I was talking to a local native guy, a person who would probably prefer to have his identity remain mysterious. He told me that his people make flutes from a certain bone of the eagle that would be equivalent to the shoulder bone- (sort of, if eagles had shoulders). He told me that a person would be given such a flute by someone spontaneously when it was the right time, to mark an important transition in his or her life. I was a bit disappointed to hear this, because the truth of the matter is, I got my cedar flute off of eBay!
Then I realized that in fact the cedar flute was given to me- not by a person in the present time, but given to me from the past. It was recalling a happy but long forgotten time of my childhood that inspired me to try this. Originally I was looking for an ocarina, which is an extremely ancient, gourd like wind instrument from Asia and Mesoamerica; I wanted it particularly for the purpose of imitating a First Nations flute. When I realized I couldn’t decide on the right ocarina, I had one of my duh-oh flashes of insight.
I would like to be able to post videos to my blog of me playing my flute and tin whistle. However it would cost me a lot extra to be able to do that. Here is a link to my Facebook art page that has my “music videos” on it.
Yesterday I took my cedar flute down by the river again, where I also did this simple sketch in coloured pencils- my first outdoor sketch of 2013. We had a very late, very cold spring up north here. In fact, there is practically a snowstorm outside the window right now- on May 17! Gah! Yesterday was a much nicer day, thank goodness.
Like other kinds of crystals, and like water- but, I believe, combining the static and flowing, energetic traits of the two, there is an energy, like a vibration in the air, that comes from melting ice, especially large blocks of ice on a powerful river.
This is not something I talk about lightly, because I just don’t usually talk about that kind of thing. I don’t think of myself as that kind of person who believes in things I associate with a strong interest in crystals, like my past life as a wizard of Atlantis, or channeling aliens, or anything like that. That would freak me out.
I am, according to my own understanding, very much a religious person. I believe in the God of Science and Nature, who created our first ancestors, the bacteria, the three eyed fish, and the first amphibian with legs. I believe that life evolved by intelligent design; not by chance, any more than beavers started building dams by accident. The universe is not some giant gambling hall, where protons crash around drunkenly, colliding in random combinations to create the miracle of our existence. People do that sometimes, but protons don’t.
Now that you know where I’m coming from, I can state freely that I believe crystals, and ice crystals in particular, or ice flows, as they are melting in flowing water and changing state, release a strong healing energy. I know this because I can feel it, and playing a mysterious wind instrument, in a key that connects to the music of my ancestors going back to ancient times, while experiencing that release of energy creates more openness to that experience. This will naturally be translated somehow in my future paintings.
Even if I played the flute badly. Personally I think I played it well for a beginner, but that could be just my own opinion, and it’s beside the point. The point is, I believe, that creative self expression through a variety of channels- perhaps, particularly the ones in which you were not told as a child you had talent in, and therefore you do not take yourself seriously- opens up spontaneous opportunities for new insight and inspiration.
It is also, simply, a means to enjoy life.