There is so much I want to share with you about ‘The Golden Echo’. I have given many insights into the musical aspects but beneath all that, there is a heartbeat at the core of this record that goes beyond the sounds and has become a mantra and wise teacher to me over the last year.
In order to bring you a little deeper into the world of ‘The Golden Echo’, I have decided to post some of the writings that I have kept about how the title came to be. I have been truly humbled by the prophetic nature of music and how it can come to write itself on us, rather than the other way around.
The thoughts that chose us to think them.
Below are some insights into the instrumental influences, inspirations and teachers who helped guide me towards the completion of this album. I want to share with you a message that I hope you will unveil for yourself within these songs.
It all started with a dream.
Like a lot of inspiration does. My immersion in the work of Frederick Buechner and Thomas Merton had me listening more attentively to the sounds of my life and the world around me (‘Listen to your life.. see it for the fathomless mystery it is….’) and in this particular dream I felt these words resound within me over and over again. Golden Echo. Golden Echo.
What did they mean? Where had I heard it before? Had I heard it before or had it simply arrived in my subconscious only to trickle its way into my waking state? ….the invisible manifests in the visible….
I was lead down many rabbit holes as I searched out these words in order to unveil this mysterious utterance : Golden Echo.
I was first led to a flower.
The name of this is flower is: NARCISSUS GOLDEN ECHO
This led me to the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus. The story of a young man who falls for his own reflection in the water, not realizing it is merely an image.
Unable to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus dies and it is said that a simple yellow flower was left in his place.
I have always been fascinated with Greek Mythology but I was led to the story of Narcissus in a new way. Has there ever been a time where this story has been more relavent than now? An age where we live more bombarded with projections of the self? Every screen is now a mirror of ourselves, a highly edited reflection we send back out to the world with the illusion that it will connect us on a deeper level, perhaps even fill our hearts with love. Narcissus pines away by the water, desperate to unite with his reflection but he can only admire from afar. Beneath the water lies a world of infinite imagination and possibility - worlds within worlds - but he cannot see past his reflection. Everything surrounding him pales in comparison as he sits by the water lonely and fragmented, soon to die of a broken heart.
It struck a new chord. I came to find a timely resonance in the character of Narcissus and his helpless infatuation. To think that so much lay just beneath the water, yet all he could see was the surface - his vacant face painted softly on the skin of the lake.
“Now let us frankly face the fact that our culture is one which is geared in many ways to help us evade any need to face this inner, silent self. We live in a state of constant semiattention to the sound of voices, music, traffic, or the generalized noise of what goes on around us all the time. This keeps us immersed in a flood of racket and words, a diffuse medium in which our consciousness is half diluted: we are not quite ‘thinking,’ not entirely responding, but we are more or less there. We are not fully present and not entirely absent; not fully withdrawn, yet not completely available. It cannot be said that we are really participating in anything and we may, in fact, be half conscious of our alienation and resentment. Yet we derive a certain comfort from the vague sense that we are ‘part of’ something – although we are not quite able to define what that something is – and probably wouldn’t want to define it even if we could. We just float along in the general noise. Resigned and indifferent, we share semiconsciously in the mindless mind of Muzak and radio commercials which passes for ‘reality.’” - From Thomas Merton: Essential Writings
The story of Narcissus lay heavy on my heart. The chaos of his frustration, the limitation of his thinking.
But there was so much more to be found from this flower.
I also came across a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins. A 17th century Jesuit monk. I have always taken interest in the life and teachings of the monks and the Desert Fathers and Mothers. The quiet voices on the outskirts of society, those who feel no need to broadcast their opinions on pedestals, but instead in small books on bookshelves of small shops in small towns.
Gerard was a monk of this kind. His poem talked about beauty and how to keep it from vanishing away. He had such insight into the human struggle to maintain beauty and find a way to share it. The first half of the poem is titled ‘The Leaden Echo’ - it aches of despair, loss of hope. As if it were Narcissus himself speaking. But as the poem progresses, words are repeated like echoes and they begin to take on new meanings.
‘Despair, despair, despair, Spare !! ….’
Revelation and insight hit the author and shed light on the darkness! The poet is lead, toward a sound, an echo of sorts. A calling not just to find beauty and hold onto it, but to give it back…. The comes the second half of the poem, ‘The Golden Echo’.
He talks of a flower.
'The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet, To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an everlastingness of, O it is an all youth!’
Then comes a state of surrender. A call to put aside our external reflections, our identity, our beauty… he tells us to motion it with breath….. To give beauty back to the place from which it came. In giving back the beauty, we are freed of our need to contain it and squeeze it to fit with our finite ideas. We give it new life.
Below is the poem in its full form.
And this is Richard Burton reading it at the fastest pace humanly possible:
THE LEADEN ECHO
HOW to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, … from vanishing away? Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankéd wrinkles deep, Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey? No there ’s none, there ’s none, O no there ’s none, 5 Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair, Do what you may do, what, do what you may, And wisdom is early to despair: Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done To keep at bay 10 Age and age’s evils, hoar hair, Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay; So be beginning, be beginning to despair. O there ’s none; no no no there ’s none: Be beginning to despair, to despair, 15 Despair, despair, despair, despair.
THE GOLDEN ECHO
Spare! There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!); Only not within seeing of the sun, Not within the singeing of the strong sun, 20 Tall sun’s tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth’s air, Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one, Oné. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place, Where whatever’s prized and passes of us, everything that ’s fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone, Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet 25 Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matchèd face, The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet, Never fleets móre, fastened with the tenderest truth To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an everlastingness of, O it is an all youth! Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and gaiety and grace, 30 Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace— Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath, And with sighs soaring, soaring síghs deliver Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver. 35 See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair Is, hair of the head, numbered. Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept, This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold 40 What while we, while we slumbered. O then, weary then why When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care, Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder 45 A care kept.—Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.— Yonder.—What high as that! We follow, now we follow.—Yonder, yes yonder, yonder, Yonder.
I finished the poem and sat in amazement. Thinking about the possibilities of what lay ‘yonder’. I thought again about the flower. Giving it’s beauty back to the Sun. It was like a key that somehow unlocked the mystery surrounding these songs, how they all fitted together and how they felt important as a body of work.
For me, The Golden Echo is a thread throughout the songs. A whisper, a hum that starts as the noise of Narcissus - and ends with a Golden resonance. An echo calling us to connect with the world around us, but also to connect to the profound centre of our own being. A place where we go beyond the constructed ideas we have of ourselves. A place we feel a part of the whole. Maybe it is then that we see ourselves in our true human context.
What is The Golden Echo to you?
Maybe a moment of transcendence in a crowded room… maybe a simple sound that reminds us we are not alone…. a hint of the mystical hidden amongst the the day-to-day… perhaps it is a murmur in the cloud of unknowing, you know not how to say it but it is something you hear and hold in your heart.
“There is a silent self within us whose presence is disturbing precisely because it is so silent: it can’t be spoken. It has to remain silent. To articulate it, to verbalize it, is to tamper with it, and in some ways to destroy it.”
I have learnt that when we see something for what it is, we can begin to transcend it. When we embrace the chaos we can learn to move beyond it. Narcisuss tempts us to only see ourselves when we look at the world - and to see only what we can receive from the world not what we can give. But in order to hear the echo we sometimes have to be suffocated by the fabric of our own reflections first. Out of this narrowness we yearn for the open space - the feeling of real connect. Instead of looking only at ourselves, we begin to see through the water, out into the infinite worlds of dimension that loom below the surface.
I know the world of stimulus very well. Praise and criticism, reflections and projections. It is a place of excitement and sometimes fear, but it is also a place that can lead us to look only for the grand signs and loud voices. Perhaps we lose sight of the subtleties and the small whispers. ‘Listen to your life’…. says Frederick Buechner. The mundane and the familiar become portals into worlds of color and creation. We must make space to hear them. We are all of us more mystics than we believe or choose to believe. We have seen more than we let on, even to ourselves.
I believe music has the power to engage us in ways that we often don’t allow for ourselves in our day to day lives. Music can open a door into a part of ourselves, full of wonder and awe.
To follow the Golden Echo is to go deep into the heart of who we are, to hear the echoes in all areas of our lives; in the juxtapositions and contradictions of the self and in the people we meet everyday.
In the dark and the light, the sacred and the pain, the animal and the divine, the friend and the foe, the land and the sky.
Each song on this record is an echo. An echo of love, an echo of pain, an echo of death, an echo of the ‘ideal’, an echo of chaos, an echo of stillness. They are all teachers and places where I ask you to listen…. to hear the whispers at work.
It all came from a simple story that stemmed from a dream and then into a flower; then into a blossoming kind of consciousness… two energies bound together, pushing and pulling in a beautiful dance…
I hope you will live inside this record. I hope you will float, twirl, punch walls and clouds, kiss boys and girls and make space for the echoes that are lined like silver in the framework of these songs. They are my gift to you now. May you find in them, a Golden Echo, and then perhaps, become one for others.