“Dancing With Death” and “The Elegy Project”

 

Where do we come from?  Where do we go?  Acrylic Painting by Steve Wilson

Over the past year or so, my brother James and I (collectively “Wilson Bros / Shrink Wrap”) have been creating musical pieces with spoken words having to do with death embedded in them. Two pieces were released in previous posts on Art And Zen Today.  I’ve received feedback that some people were reluctant to listen because they thought the music would be depressing, however, most reported feeling just the opposite after actually hearing the tunes. 

In today’s post I am providing links to two sites where you can go to listen to all the tunes we created and learn more about our project (see links below). First, you can listen to and download (for free) the album “Dancing With Death” which is based on this project.  At the second site you can see our contribution to “The Elegy Project”, an art-based exploration of death and dying created by Valerie Grove in the UK.

In creating our music, my brother and I attempted to pick messages we felt would help us face our own mortality by including them in music we liked and would listen to. It’s sort of an experiment inspired by Stephen Levine’s wonderful book ” A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last.” I have listened to the music we created almost daily over the past year, and although I am unsure whether my fear of death has subsided I do believe that, in subtle ways, the messages are helping me become more mindful in my life.

For instance one song (“Soon We All Will Die”) includes the repetitive phrase “Soon we all will die, our hopes and fears are irrelevant”. I find this phrase popping into my head at various times throughout the day, usually when I am frustrated or annoyed by what is presently going on. More often than in the past, I may remember that my time on earth is limited and that getting worked up over whatever is bothering me at the moment, is not worth it.  Now that the tunes are finished and I look back over them for a common theme, it seems that most of the messages on the album remind us that by fully acknowledging our mortality, we can choose to live a more authentic life.

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Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, ‘I haven’t touched you yet.”

― Carlos CastanedaJourney to Ixtlan

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Here are the links:

1) http://www.onemindmedia.net/music-2/

Here you can listen to or download “Dancing With Death”.  I would urge you to also explore other pages of this site (which is in it’s infancy) as it is rather unusual.

2) http://naturestrikesback.com/voices-from-the-void

This is a link to Valerie’s website “Nature Fights Back” and the “Elegy Project”.  I would strongly suggest that you visit her site to see her wonderful artwork and to experience “Voices From The Void” as well as the other contributions to the project.

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RIDE THE SOUND CURRENT: NEW MUSIC FROM SHRINK WRAP

     “Jim Drumming”, Photo by Ann Pirruccello.

Like most people, I am constantly running across written quotes, videos, podcasts etc. that contain ideas that I would like to incorporate into my life.  Often these “lessons” are difficult to hear, let alone embody.  About a year ago, it occurred to me that I might be open to hear these ideas if they were embedded in music that I liked.   And, so I began accumulating spoken messages that seemed to fit those criteria and create music to help make these messages more “hearable” on my part.

Recently it occurred to me that the music I had come up with might be enhanced by including contributions from my brother James, who is an accomplished saxophonist and composer. Collectively we are known as “Wilson Bros/Shrink Wrap”.

The tune introduced below, “Ride the Sound Current”, is the first of a series based on my experiment that will be released at Art and Zen Today.

 Here are some suggestions for listening:

1) Play the music when you have enough time to mindfully listen without worrying about being distracted by other issues.

2) Use whatever rituals you usually use when preparing  to move out of the  flow of ordinary life.

3) The music was especially created to be heard through headphones.  Try to avoid earplugs, if possible.

4)  As you listen, focus on your bodily reactions (i.e. sensations, feelings, emotions etc., whether positive or negative) rather than the meaning of what you are hearing.

5)  If you listen to the piece more than once be open to having different experiences with each exposure.  Try dancing while you listen!

Over time I have become increasingly interested in how listening and sound (and music) have been used in various meditative practices over the ages.  This is no place for an exhaustive review but below the video link, I have included a number of sources below dealing with this topic for those who may be interested in exploring further.

To hear “Ride the Sound Current” click below.

 

BOOKS

Hazrat Inayaat Khan  The Music of Life: The Inner Nature and

Effects of Sound  and The Mysticism of Sound and Music: The Sufi Teaching of Hazaart Inayat Khan.

Joachim-Ernest Berendt,  The World is Sound: Nada Brahama.

 ONLINE SOURCES

3 Reasons to Listen to Music Mindfully

http://www.wildmind.org/background/can-anyone-meditate/music

Mindfulness, Music Appreciation and Empathy

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/patrick-groneman/mindfulness-practice_b_3894331.html

Video on Listening Meditation by Stephen Batchelor

http://www.stephenbatchelor.org/index.php/en/guided-meditation-on-listening

 Music, Trance and Mindfulness:  http://artandzentoday.com/?p=4292

Aaron Copeland on Mindful Listening: http://artandzentoday.com/?p=4211

What are You Presently Listening To?  http://artandzentoday.com/?p=4091