What is a “calling?”.
Why are many seemingly happy people not vexed with this question? Are they not listening? Are they not called? Does a calling presuppose a “Caller”? And how, on earth and in heaven, did Moses do it?
Wo wo wo, timeout: this question can be a can of worms.
My consideration is not theological or theoretical, so don’t expect too much theory here. For me, the holy fool, the question of vocation is a messy, dank, all too real one concerning emotions and life choices. And, as it turns out, time and money too, but perhaps most of all, music. Pass the popcorn, pass the tissues, and make yourselves comfortable, and I will begin.
In 2004 I had the happy event of finishing my first songwriter album. I had been aware of a wanting to create original music since I was a teenager, but only got around to it 25 years later; is this what John Lennon meant by “The long and winding road”?
I was and remain satisfied with “The middle of it All“. Amongst the sea of innumerable releases of music, and despite all its limitations, it was nevertheless a life first, finally after decades of application, an album of my own I deemed worth it. Whereas most songwriters put out their work starting in their relatively carefree 20’s, I only managed to do mine in my 40’s. Stoically, I told people, “I work slowly – 1 album every 43 years”. It makes Peter Gabriel look like Prince.
I committed to the project life cycle of “TMOIA” from inception to writing to recording to mixing to mastering to manufacture to marketing and promoting, as an adventure, and learning exercise. In hindsight, however, I see the project as a failure. My conclusions in short were that you cannot be both creator and businessman. Emotionally I was drained and sunk back into a morass of disappointment.
But even in the midst of this dark valley, the Muse was at work. As an attempt to escape the anxiety of the songwriter, I started to experiment with a different sort of music. No “songs”, no words , no singing. Rather it started from a different POV – that of rhythm and pattern, as opposed to lyric and melody.
I tapped into one of my sub-traditions, electronica. I had kept this flame burning ever since hearing “Switched on Bach” performed by Wendy-Walter Carlos on the Moog in the early 70’s. Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Kraftwerk, and prog rock maestros Rick Wakeman (Yes), Tony Banks (Genesis), Keith Emerson (ELP), the Pink Floyd, not to mention numerous electric guitar gods – Page, Hendrix, Howe, Blackmore – made up the roots of my fascination.
And then the 90’s – acid house, trip hop, big beat, darkcore, ambient … how many genres can one decade invent? Once people got over the electronic as a cost cutting exercise ( why use an orchestra when I have a mahoosive synth to emulate it?) and they started to use electronic sound on its own terms, the roof was blown off. My favourites of that decade remain Underworld, Massive Attack, and The Shamen.
So, I have been nurturing some music for the last 4 years. The music started with the shadowy maverick gnostic rhythmtist known as Gwanda Methuselah. He and I, together with a range of household and kitchenware, and my Kaoss Pad, proceeded to create some rhythmic sounds the likes of which have no known parallel. They are not electronic per se, but when combined with the very fine music creation software Ableton Live, became more so.
Back to the present: as it now stands the project is a combination of the electronic and the acoustic. In fact, in the last four years I have taken up and recorded the Valiha (Madagascan Bamboo zither), the Mandola, the Irish Bouzouki, the Bass Clarinet, the Charango (leftish, a Bolivian “super-ukulele”) and the Djembe.
And in recent months I have been able to find the energy to complete the project, may I prematurely introduce to you my second album “Pinging Gwanda“. Tracks which might be included are “Vision Quest”, “Eyrie”, “From the Empty Quarter”, “Passage of the Magi”, “Off the Grid”, and “The Deepening Dance”, just for a foretaste in words. I’ll let you know as soon as I have web versions available.
I speak of course as AVJ Twinstar; AVJ refers to the Audio and the Visual. So it gives me the freedom to present music but perform visuals as well. As you might know I have spent to last year developing my VJing skills and making and performing images. So there is a lot of variety possible with the material – it certainly won’t be a “recital”; it’s likely that I’ll be mixing moshpit images with clips suitably abstract, psychedelic and sacred.
But of course, I’ll play some of my instruments too – otherwise I might accused of selling out completely to DJ slacker culture. But its a balance of curating and performing, composing and compositing, twiddling knobs and massaging frets, creating sacred communal space and providing a unique individual point of view, that I find exciting.
And hopefully others will too. But the only way I can visualise being able to do this is by becoming very “tricky”, not letting my right hand know what my left is up to, and attempting the impossible.
This brings me back to where I began – calling. It seems that as Peter Rollins talks of “impossible forgiveness” being a “a forgiveness without conditions” that likewise calling is being summoned to the impossible, without regard to what makes sense, or on condition of any given outcome. Otherwise, to answer “the call” is, as Rollins puts it, “nothing more than a prudent bet”.
We’ll see. Expect the unexpected … I will.