Coming up for air...
Deep in the ocean of recording 'Hiraeth'
Last Sunday, I was invited to speak at a little church called Saint Julian’s Table, so I forfeited my usual Sunday essay to be present with that.
Above is a photo from a recent recording session - when I began officially producing my folk opera ‘Hiraeth’.
It went very, very, well.
After having recorded two pandemic albums (Hymns From the Icons and Liturgy), I can’t tell you how beautiful it was to experience the musical alchemy of other players! I have played music with these guys for 20 years now, and it is always a joy.
From left to right: Daniel Roy, Gilles Fournier, me, and Murray Pulver. (photo by Jay Johnson).
Over these next two weeks, I will be working in my own studio, recording all acoustic guitars, piano, and other sounds, and then when the moon begins to wax in early April, I will begin recording all vocals.
On Tuesday, I meet with a Scots Gaelic geolinguistic expert and Welsh speaker, to prepare to sing some lines in Gaelic and Welsh.
Much of Hiraeth’s story arc, will be sung in english, but I have been getting acquainted with Scots Gaelic, Welsh, the West Saxon old English dialect, Kashubian, (my mother tongues), Aramaic (a spiritual mother tongue) - and I have invited singers or speakers in Cree, Anishinaabemowin, and Irish Gaelic. (Also, in order to bring the soft sounds of two Rilke lines to life, I learned to sing them in German.)
Sometimes it will be just one word from one of my mother tongues, but it is very important to me to invoke them. The languages feel similar in my body, to prayer.
What is Hiraeth about?
The story arc of ‘Hiraeth’ names the distance we feel from our origin… and how haunted we often feel by a lost connection we can never quite put our finger on.
It names languages, and magic, and myth. It names the preverbal knowing that requires some unknowing.
It names the pain of the puritanical age, the pain of immigration, and colonization. The clash of nations. The trauma we carry in whatever part of the story we have been born into. The ways we are asked to participate.
Then the story turns…. and names the hyper rational “I measure therefore I am” over-baked enlightenment era that we’re shifting out of… and while this shift occurs… how we respond, or participate in, neopuritanism. Then it moves into an unlikely opening, directly through the heart of this epochal storm.
This project has moments that bring a deep ache to the heart, but I can assure you… it has many moments of ever-present beauty - and is anything but nihilistic.
You may have noticed that I love to remember what Thomas Merton once said: “everyone wants the Red Sea to part, but the trouble is, you have to be in over your head, before it does.”
I am thoroughly in over my head now. Just came up for air to make a connection with you.
Ok, going back under!
Our big focus this spring and summer will be to invite patrons to join me on Patreon, to help raise enough funds to film very image-rich music videos to accompany this folk opera/album.
Subscribing here on Substack helps, or joining me on Patreon.
I *may* even do a kickstarter to get these videos off the ground.
Another way to support is to take me for a virtual coffee, at any amount you choose.