collage using digital image by Marije Berting

Thanks to those who joined us in listening. Recordings of the broadcast are available here.


Sketches from composing A Symphony for the Living

The Method:

By last March, suddenly, along with everyone else, we’d entered a new world. Uncertainty, fear and disruption permeated the air. We made a decision to create a record of the time, our acoustic journal of the experience. We committed to a slowly unfolding process: Broadcasting and recording our collaborative music writing over time, not rushing to complete anything, just following where it takes us. We have enjoyed and appreciate our kith and kin who have joined us on the journey, and who have sent their reflections on participating with our real time "living field experiments." We've discovered that we listen differently when we know others are listening with us.

In November, we pulled the tracks from the sessions we’ve recorded over the past nine months, the ones where we feel the most life stirring in the depths, and listened to hear where they were sending us. At this stage it’s not so much the notes that are there – some of them will fall away by the time it’s a whole piece – it’s the notes we can hear that aren’t there yet. They come and go, some with certainty and force, some whispy and elusive.

The next stage is to play with them, to find the notes that will come through our fingers and want to stay. To hear a piece of music coming to life that wasn’t there before… It’s a peculiar kind of joy. We hear the symphonic voices, but we are only two, honing in on one line, one at a time. We then record another layer to the track. (Don’t overthink, just play with it once and let go!)

It’s taken on a life of it’s own. We’ve gathered the tracks that are telling us a story about ourselves and our journey, and woven in some long pauses for more to enter in between. This is how our writing process goes. It is our work and our prayer, a practice in co-creating a more beautiful future out of the present chaos. An invocation to create ourselves anew, and leave the past to rest in the hands of our ancestors.

We invite you in tonight to listen with us in a different way. To listen as if you are composing, noticing how the music feels, where it spirals out and where it soars. Let your imagination wander through the soundscape, and notice where it likes to wander most. When you hear the dance emerging, can you feel it through your body, even while resting still, eyes closed? When a pattern runs on too long for comfort, can you begin to hear the next notes and rhythms that could enter to change the tune? We know, this is a long time to concentrate on something at one go. When we let our thoughts rest and our imagination relax we find our minds will pull us back in when something interesting is beginning to brew...

Tracking the Theme - a story of what the music is saying at this stage to our inner ears:

Phasing In: When you feel a big shift coming, and hone in to what’s being whispered on the wind.

Public Domain : A glimpse of the possibility of common cause and common sense. But it’s barely there, and sadly fleeting from public discourse. We grasp the thread anyway, and follow it. We tune out the monsters brawling in the public square. The birds are saying something else.

Pause: They warn of even bigger shocks coming. Listening deeply, almost ready to act.

The Border: When the world as you knew it is about to be swept away in a tidal wave of change, and you gather your kith and your kin and run for the hills.

Pause: Catch your breath.

Retrograde: The space between worlds. Everything appears to be sliding backwards, becoming more relentlessly unfamiliar. As it happens in times of shock and transformation, it brings out both the best and the worst in us. We react. We push and pull against the tempo we wish to change and follow streamers of notes until they sometimes go careening off the edge of this new terrain. We surrender back into sync. Out of the chaos, melody finds it’s way. The notes of a new dance begin to emerge.

This lasts for longer than we thought it could, but in the sliding back, we return to find our compass.


Ten is Zen: The compass brings us each to our own beating hearts, until we feel ourselves on solid ground and can begin to chart this new landscape. Haltingly at first, we begin to harmonize.

Pause: Honing in. Simplify, so we can keep moving.

(Another) Border: This time we are more prepared, and can move faster and more fluidly through the hinterlands.

Pause: Relief. We've made it this far, but there's more to go. Gather the energy.

Saturn's Jig: Learning the steps of this new dance.

Lo Key Left: The patterns of the new terrain begin to emerge more clearly. This whole composition is the journey of a dance coming to life. Difficult times are ahead, and we’re being called to the circle to dance a more beautiful world into being. Feel ourselves in the circle. Feel the ancient medicine - dancing together.

Phase out: So here we are, in a new place and a new time, practicing for the coming celebration of our common kinship.

* Initial tracks of The Border and Ten is Zen were recorded in The Before Times, with Oso on drums.