Reflections and discoveries
In this next section I will share my thoughts, discoveries and reflections that surfaced during the research process, through diary entries and my composition analysis.
I realise that art cannot offer specific solutions for issues, but I still wanted to uncover some perspective of how we should approach processing societal issues and difficult emotions. Reflecting on the local surroundings and myself as an individual, I found myself uncovering the concept of individual moral responsibility inspired by psychologist Jordan Peterson. As described earlier in the paper, art creation can be seen as the reparative process of bridging the external world with internal.
A variety of people are individually seeking action in various ways. Switching to a vegetarian diet as a way to have an impact on the meat industry, decreasing their consumption habits, raising awareness on social media of the horrors the Iranian people are encountering, among other issues. I realised those individuals have found something resonant in a societal issue and are inspired to find solutions in their own small ways. The goal isn't to tackle all of the issues at the same time, but to at least take a step forward in what matters for the individual. If we each approach our society with a sense of responsibility and we make decisions based on what matters to us individually for the higher good, we impact society too, because all the individuals together make up our society (Peterson, 2019).
I hope that with this concert and artistic creation I will participate in the conversation of individual moral responsibility. Art can also give a voice and raise awareness for societal issues that are less discussed in the public domain. Art as a medium can be the voice, with new artwork emerging from the space in between internal and external worlds (Hagman, 2010).
In the section below, I will analyse the songs arranged and composed for my music performance project underlying this paper.
VISI MEŽI GUNIEM DEGA (All the Forests were Lit with Flames)- AN ANALYSIS
This song is one of the most well-known spēka dziesmas (strength songs) in Latvian folk song repertoire. The song presents symbols and characters of Laima (the goddess of fate), Dievs (the deity of fate and life) and keys. Similarly to Mari Kalkun, I was inspired by the strength of singing powerful lyrics with the intention of receiving hope. The lyrics of the song are very important.
Firstly, I would like to present a translation of the lyrics into English
I see these words as an acceptance of all possible evil and sorrow that can occur during a lifetime but to approach it with hope, to keep going. Trust Laima ( fate deity) and be aware that all the pathways that we live through are guided by our own belief and hope. God in the song represents a higher power and as religion is a belief system that gives people hope and logic to the reality we endure in life. With hope and faith in hardship and sorrow, we can get through the hard parts of life. We believe we are being guided towards goodness and we are given challenges (referring to the work in the lyrics) to keep us alive and awake.
For my musical interpretation of the song I changed the B part of the traditional melody. I was inspired by singer Ganavya who approaches singing with a combination of Indian prayers and Western singing and songwriting. The melody I re-wrote has the intention of pushing the lyrics to be sung with the intention of embodiment, keeping the intervals smaller and staying on the notes that have been leapt to, for more sustain, dynamic intensity and resonance in the lyrics. As the original melody had large intervals, with the melody leaping up and trickling down. The B part switches between the fourth and fifth with a feel of rootedness and yet the subdominant, dominant degrees are not fully enabling the harmonic resolution.
The instrumental section of the song is based on a ¾ pulse emulating a heart beat in a slow-paced tempo as a constant pace of movement. This ongoing pulse is mainly held by the kokle's open strings that bring sustain to the rhythmical pattern of the pulse.
The overall structure of the song illustrates the dynamic of starting a journey and entering a pathway and enduring challenges and working, by introducing a rhythmical section and dialogue between the kokle and violin. The live electronics alter the natural sound of the stringed kokle, leaving the listeners to question whether it is a kokle or not, while creating a new sound aesthetic for the “Visi Meži Guniem Dega” world.
DZENIS, DZENIS (Woodpecke, Woodpecker) - AN ANALYSIS
Using a similar philosophical approach as in Latvian folk songs - illustrating an everyday occurrence, drawing parallels in different phases and angles of the occurrence.
The song Dzenis, Dzenis (Woodpecker, Woodpecker) was composed on one of my trips to Keskuspuisto.
Diary entry. 11.02.2023.
I was walking along looking for a spot to stop and improvise. I found a dead tree and an alive tree standing alongside one another. Suddenly, I heard a rhythmical knocking sound above me and as I looked up I spotted a woodpecker pecking away at the bark of the tree. I set up my recording equipment, grabbed my kalimba and listened for a while, observing the sound and rhythms of the woodpecker. I started playing a pattern, my fingers were deciding to go with a 2:3 polyrhythm. I sang about the woodpecker pecking away at the tree trunk, looking for a bug. Everyday, every hour the woodpecker is looking for the bug. The woodpecker goes from tree to tree and looks for a bug. I was questioning the bugs' meaning in the woodpecker's life and how significant it is.
The lyrics of the song reflect on our individual purpose and how we have our own motivation systems we live by. We are like the woodpecker looking for our bug, we as a society are composed of individuals and each individual has their own purpose. Different trees hold different bugs - different communities hold different purposes. A philosophical overview of dealing with societal issues individually.
The melody is illustrating a spoken word minimalistic melodic phrase on top of the ongoing rhythm with a feel of 2:3 of the percussion and balafon. The groove of the main theme is meant to keep a feel of an ongoing engine that never stops, same as the woodpecker never stops searching for the bug. The B part has a lyrical tone as the narrator tries to answer the ongoing question: Why does the woodpecker peck the tree infinitely? Intensity grows between the A and the B part as the woodpecker gets closer and closer to the goal but stops abruptly in the pecking of wood. Did the woodpecker get the bug? Did the woodpecker fall, or simply fly away to another tree?
JAUTĀJUMU DZIESMA (Song of Questions) - AN ANALYSIS
Directly expressing the questions of processing societal issues into musical expression.
Diary entry 18.02.2023.
I recently had dinner with my friends who are talented musicians from Turkey. The dinner was hosted to bring people together and ease the sadness of the recent earthquake tragedy with good music and good food. Later in the weekend I came to Keskuspuisto once again. I came into a clearing with a granite rock and in the middle of the hill a pine tree stood with a boulder rock next to it. I stood under the pine tree and brought out my kokle and bow. As I stood in silence before making any musical sounds a loud helicopter passed over my head, taking over the whole sonic space with the noisy blades slicing through the air, the helicopter motor rumbling through the sky. I started bowing the kokle and singing out the sorrows I felt for tragedies occurring in far away lands, in my mind Turkey and Iran. Throughout the song I thought my way through to returning to my present and asking questions: if you are in a foreign land, how can you learn to love that land? Why are people suffering? Why is there war? How can I lessen the suffering? How can I learn to love tough situations? How can I let go? Do my small actions matter in such a wide world?
It was a meditation on my frustration and acceptance of the sorrows of our world we live in. A resonance and dissonance came from the open bowed kokle as the strings were detuned from the cold. The melody and voice continuously searching for a tonic key from the kokle, but assertively staying on an individual root note that still harmonised with the dissonant tuning. Feeling so deeply and finding the haven under the pine tree brought me some peace of how humans are able to be empathic and find ways to process difficult emotions through the flow of expression and in my case musical expression. In the song I see myself as a small and helpless individual and I wonder if my small actions can make a difference or are they simply ways to reassure myself that I am a good person?
KESKUSPUISTO DZIESMA (Keskuspuisto Song) - AN ANALYSIS
Reflecting on the happenings of Keskuspuisto and the role of the forest for the Helsinki people who go there.
Diary entry 7.03.2023.
When I walked around Keskuspuisto, I soon observed that every passerby goes to Keskuspuisto for a different reason, but somehow with the same intention. People take walks, just like me, some go for a jog or walk their dog. Some families take the children out to let them run and shout, some go for horseback riding. I interviewed an old man who had two walking poles ready to go for a nordic walk and I asked him about his activities in Keskuspuisto. He said he goes for a walk on a daily basis to keep a routine movement practice for the benefit of his health. He enjoys the obstacles on the forest trails with the granite stone hills, tree roots, moss, puddles, rather than the built path because the obstacles keep it interesting and demands concentration and focus on the present surroundings when walking in the forest.
I wrote the song about characters I observed in Keskuspuisto and the importance of having an accessible forest in the urban environment for the physical and mental health of the people. Nature gives us a space to rebalance and “rewild” ourselves, which is part of processing societal issues and difficult emotions.
MĪĻĀ SIRDS (Dear Heart) - AN ANALYSIS
This song is a classic Latvian folk song taught to me by my mother. The lyrics remind me of home and the feeling of safety. When I sing these lyrics, I feel filled with hope and strength as to me they are the key to processing difficult emotions and societal issues. It is the key to living a full life.
Diary entry, 18.03.2023.
On my way to the Academy to write this thesis I encountered three gatherings happening simultaneously. First stop was through Kamppi, where a dozen stands with political party campaigns handing out pamphlets, chocolates and posters advertising the political parties' promises for change and improvement. Then, crossing Mannerheimintie I stumbled upon thousands of people marching to the parliament building, protesting to save the nature, to preserve the forests and for the government to take action. At the same time next to Oodi the Somali community came together with their national flag trying to conduct their own gathering over the amplified noise of the nature protest across the street. I couldn't follow what was the intention of the Somali gathering as they were communicating in their mother tongue. I assume it had something to do with the problems ongoing in Somalia at the present. And in the middle of the two gatherings - a rubbish bin with anti-Putin, anti-war posters. This event is a representation of the simultaneous societal issues happening in the world, and each issue has their community of people who are affected by it and who are wanting to take action to solve it.
Just as I was about to continue on my way to the Academy building, the nature protest speakers amplified a singing voice. The whole square was listening to the song and the talking voices lowered. Music was heard. Song was overpowering the speeches. Music is powerful.
Funnily enough I didn't stay longer because I had work to do, write down my experience and time is precious that I cannot spend to participate in a protest. My own individual priorities took over my motivation to participate in a larger scale protest.
Looking back, I question my own moral compass. Why did I leave if the nature protest was about something I believe in?
I felt like this occurrence is a physical representation of my internal world view on simultaneous societal issues - being in the middle of multiple societal issues I care for and feeling torn between the amount of happenings and places where I need to be. A reminder that the world is complicated and not only black and white, we are constantly having to deal with grey areas as well as choosing which issues are more relevant for us. But it was inspiring to see so many individuals come together, inspiring each other to take action. We are a society based on individuals, but we are also very interconnected.
The moment when the song started to play and the crowd went quiet was so breathtaking as music had a louder voice then the actual speeches. Music has the power to yield attention and resonance of a crowd and bring individuals together with non-verbal communication. I think that is something worth remembering.