Music and movement have been on my mind this month. I set out with the task of exploring my relationship with music, it led me on a journey through sound, far out into the universe and then focused me back into Glastonbury, ending in the development of my voice as an instrument and some interesting resting places for my thoughts on music.
The human form is an instrument we use to create the music of our life, and like a musical instrument, it’s one we have to learn how to use. We have to master our body like we master an instrument and we have to play it in the right way, otherwise, it just makes noise.
In living our lives, do we create music, situations, attitudes that are in harmony with our surroundings? Is our tune orderly, is it true, focused and does it rise and fall with the same rhythm and intervals as the environment we are embedded in? Or, on the other hand, does it run against the flow of the stream, cause a disturbance, act out of order, disjoint and dismay.
We know when a musical note is out, just like we know when something is not quite right with a person, place, situation, with an emotion or a behaviour.
I dedicated this month to exploring my relationship with music and besides producing new musical work, this journey has nourished me in many other ways: It has lead me into new rooms and introduced me to new people. It has allowed me the space to delve into musical philosophy. It has helped me to get to grips with my own voice, and shown me how working with the voice, the attention, the listening, the opening up, can transfer into other aspects of life. It has taught me that I am in charge of a very powerful instrument.
Music has more depth and meaning than meets the ear. It’s not just sound, music is organisation, intention, transformation, transmission and movement. My thoughts have gone as far as to ask the question: are we music? In other words, consider the human form as a very dense form of musical expression, we are tangible music. Things are sounds, nothing is a sound, god is a sound, the spoon is a sound and humans are sounds that make sounds.
The following edition welcomes 11 artists and musicians each exploring music and movement in their own unique way. From a Kora playing, overtone singer who started his own conscious festival, from visual artists representing sound to a comment on music in modern Greek Culture.
Without further ado, here is edition #8 Music and Movement.
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The Long Dance – Matt Witt
Back in September of 2014 I was invited to take part in a Long Dance, a traditional native American ceremony which involves all-night movement in a circle around a central fire, in this case, while digesting the psychoactive cactus Wachuma, San Pedro.
The ceremony was attended by around 50 people, adding to the force and celebration of the occasion. The ceremonial space was set around a central fire and an inner circle of musicians. The rest of the world seemed to disappear as we set off at sunset, the first four hours were spent travelling anti-clockwise, working out old patterns and letting go of what no longer serves, while the second four hours were spent travelling clockwise, setting new intention and bringing in new patterns and behaviours, ending at sunrise with a sweat lodge next to a nearby river.
The atmosphere was otherworldly, epic beyond words. Needless to say, eight hours of constant movement is completely exhausting. Some moments were spent pacing slowly, while others passed running and screaming like the maddened, in other moments I struggled to place one foot in front of the other, at other times I galloped and strode while others crawled on all fours. It was a test of endurance, like none I’d experienced, a test of self-overcoming, overcoming pain, over overcoming the mind.
To commit so fully to this experience was liberating, moving and empowering, it changed my life permanently and marked a shift in my approach to the world and to myself. I went deep into the body that night and towards the end of the endeavour I was on the brink of collapse, yet I seemed completely unable to stop moving around the circle. I was there to do some work, perhaps to learn about commitment. At very least, I was there to take part and to step fully into my body, through sound and movement.
The accompanying illustration is an interpretation of this powerful ceremony, the epic feeling of beings moving in unison, frenzied, creating healing spirals and movement outside and in. I can’t over exaggerate the effect this experience had on my relationship with my body, It was like an 8-hour long epiphany. This is the power music and movement had for me.
Words and illustration by Matt Witt