I feel very grateful to be in Temecula, California attending an artist residency at the Dorland Mountain Arts Colony. The ...
A while back, I wrote a blog post about my apprehension about exploring themes or events in my compositions that I have no connection or intimate knowledge about. These feelings resurfaced last week as I attended a recording session for my composition, The Man, The Snake and The Fox, a chamber work that is inspired by an Ojibway legend of the same name. As I’m sitting in a swank downtown Toronto recording studio, the media is reporting about the mass attempted suicides at Attawapiskat First Nation in Northern Ontario.
The questions returned…why am I writing a piece about an Ojibway legend when I could be using my music to bring to light the horrid conditions that many First Nation peoples live in? Even then, what gives me the right to write such a piece? What expertise do I have on this crisis? If I did create such a piece, would I be helping or hurting the cause?
I have spent a good bulk of my time composing pieces on social justice themes. I have been fortunate to receive feedback from many listeners and audiences over the years that they have found these pieces moving and thought-provoking. I guess art is not meant to solve the world’s problems, but at least shine the light more on it.
Earlier this week, I was in Owen Sound adjudicating at their local music festival. I got a ride to the bus stop to come back home from one of their volunteers who just happens to work for Habitat for Humanity. He told me about a new initiative of their’s where they’re working with local First Nation communities to build better housing. Apparently government invests a lot of money on housing but the houses are built improperly or go over-budget so the houses are not completed and the problems grow exponentially. According to this gentleman, they’re working with Band Councils to help them build there own homes, but with the proper tools and building material. But they’re facing red tape and bureaucracy. No wonder problems persist!!!!
So let’s say I composed a piece about Habitat’s initiative – would that help or hurt? I really don’t know the answer and I guess I never will. But I think I will still write such pieces. Why? Because my music does the talking for what I think and what I feel. My music is my reflex. While I’m still musically proud of The Man, The Snake and The Fox, I can do better. And I will.