Among the most powerful experiences I have had at live concerts is one of silence rather than music.
Occasionally, a song, usually in a minor key, arrives with such power, conviction, and depth that when it ends, no one is willing to break the silence. The last notes linger until they fade, and a long space of time passes before anyone claps. On very rare occasions, no one claps even then, and the performer is left to search for a graceful path to the next song from that holy space.
How does that happen? How do 800 people make the decision together, without discussing it verbally, to defy the cultural norm and expectation, and refuse to break that silence? From my own perspective, that phenomenon speaks to a spiritual connection that music can reveal. We seem, for a moment, to melt into one aggregate person. A dance groove can give one a similar sense of unity, though with a different flavor. There are moments when everyone is so swept up in the music that it becomes abundantly clear that everyone in the room is feeling the same thing. Our humanity transcends all of the various lines that so often divide us.
Some people consider the arts to be frivolous. Certainly nothing important enough to include in school curricula. The experiences I describe here, they say, feel great, but they are illusory. The next day we return to ‘important’ things, and that sense of connectedness recedes into the usual vague loneliness. It was just a pleasant distraction. It was entertainment.
But what if it is the other way around? What if the isolation is illusory, and the connection is real? What if art is primarily a tool to reveal the truth of our common humanity? More than that, what if it doesn’t actually serve to connect us with each other, but rather simply reveals that we are already connected? What if art is more than entertainment? What if it doesn’t take us away from our lives, but takes us to them, but from another angle, giving us a truer picture than we had before?
This album represents a decade of my life in which I spent a great deal of time traveling, and sometimes living, abroad. I traveled in countries with long histories of organized violence, including my own, and I found some beautiful and enduring friendships among peacemakers in various places. The experiences that informed the writing of these songs were woven by many people, and the creation of this album also involved many hands and hearts, literally on every inhabited continent. Even the funding of the record, through Kickstarter, included 468 people from around the world. I hope that this recording can be a space to hold the spirit of the whole community that created it and the expanding community of people who will intersect with it when it is published. I hope that these songs will give your own stories a place to live.
I am incredibly fortunate to have made my living as a musician for a quarter of a century, and I could not be more grateful to the many people who have sustained me and my efforts, and continue to. Thank you for opening your ears and hearts to these songs. I hope they have something worthwhile to say to you, and that they will remind you that none of us is actually alone.
These words appear in the liner notes for my new CD, The Other Way Around, which will be released on Sept. 2, 2016. The release party will include a band of 17 musicians backing me up, which is appropriate for an album with 35 musicians, from all over the world, playing on it. If you would like to join us to celebrate the birth of this new project, my twelfth album (and first in 10 years), I would love for you to join us. If you would like to pre-order the CD, either via download or physical disc, you can do that here.
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