Somewhere Out There

Somewhere Out There

I thought before this year was officially over I would write one more post. Actually, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to but something I can’t quite explain pushed me to do so. Way back in January in this post I wrote about the final studio album by Scottish group Runrig. Emotions were swirling around people in my life at that time, and something about the title and theme of the album-The Story seemed like a connection of sorts. I was not really planning on writing about another song from the same album, let alone twice in the same year but something about this project resonated deeply for me. The key to the album is that every song has a story to it.

That by itself is not unique of course, but it is in the way that Runrig have weaved elements on this collection in music together with vintage photographs and detailed stories for each song that does make it unique.   It starts with an account of the visits by American photographers Paul Strand and Neil Priessman to the Hebrides Islands in the 1950’s which provided the main inspiration for the project.  A soldier in ‘Rise And Fall/Elegy’. The downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight over the Ukraine in ’18th July’. Loading the van up with gear to play at a local dance in ‘The Place Where The Rivers Run’ all provided further inspiration. Continue reading “Somewhere Out There”

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The Story

Oban, Scotland 1990

“I can’t help feeling it will always be, the story of the life inside of me”

Ever have one of those moments when you hear a new song and know instantly that it will forever have a special meaning for you? When the lyrics and the music conspire to trap you in some sort of emotional cage. But rather than feeling confined in that trap you welcome being there. It may pull at the proverbial heart strings, and cause a chill through your body and a tear to the eye. But you want those things. You need them to fill some emotional void. Maybe that song comes along exactly at a time you are feeling especially vulnerable and you latch on to it like a literal life preserver, clinging to it to help you through those times. Well all of those things happened to me the other day. And now just 3 days after hearing it, that song has become like a new best friend. Continue reading “The Story”

Photo Shuffle-Edge Of The World

I pressed ‘Play’ on my Ipod and this is what I heard….

“Edge Of The World” By Runrig

“The adrenaline infrastructure bringing on it’s troubles some more”

Today’s shuffle choice is a particularly good one for me. One of my favorite songs, by one of my favorite bands, Runrig. I briefly wrote about them as part of the My Four Seasons series but I have been eager to return to their music here. The basics are that they come from Scotland and have been a band for over 40 years now. Their music is deeply influenced by both the landscape of Scotland and its language. Runrig were certainly among the first bands to write new songs in the Scottish Gaelic language. Edge Of The World is obviously not one of them, but I hope you do some exploring of more songs yourself.

I have been to Scotland only once and the photographs I took at that time were more of the vacation type so the photo here represents the song rather than Scotland itself. The edge of the world has always been an interesting concept to me. Of course some people once thought the world was flat and had an ‘edge’ to it. Beyond that, I don’t think there has been anyone who hasn’t  looked out on the ocean and thought they were on the edge of the world. Staring at the horizon and feeling exposed to the elements, knowing there is mostly an emptiness beyond much like in the words to this song. I say mostly because the reality is that though the view might be of the vast ocean beyond, we know there is always another side, and someone else perhaps thinking similar thoughts on the other side.

I have been thinking of this idea in the last month especially due to the refugee crisis in Europe. Complex issues but I think of those refugees heading out, looking out at the edge of the world themselves as a way of escape. Hoping to step away from the precipice that others are pushing them towards. Then getting pushed back again  by people that don’t really want them there. It makes me feel that as a society if we keep pushing one another to the edge pretty soon there won’t be one left to stand on. What do we do then?

Edge Of The World-Written By Calum and Rory MacDonald

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

*Photo Shuffle is a new, very short slice of my regular blogs based on setting my Ipod on shuffle and matching up one of my photographs to whatever comes up.

My Four Seasons-Spring

BIRTH

“A spark of life on a wire from heaven”

I was not going to mention this. Really I wasn’t…but I am convinced that failure to mention it will be met with stern looks and raised eyebrows in my direction.  I do not think any discussion of the four seasons within a context of music could go by without at least a passing reference to Antonio Vivaldi’s magnificent ‘The Four Seasons.” It is perhaps one of the most approachable pieces of classical music for people who may not normally profess to like that type of music. I think that is because people recognize what he was trying to do with the piece in making a musical portrait of the seasons of the year. You can feel the buzzing insects and impending storm in ‘summer’, the icy rain of ‘winter’, but mostly you can feel the invigoration of spring within the first few glorious notes of the composition.

It is the perfect example of music that makes you feel glad to be alive, much like that first day of spring when you can shed the winter coat, head outside to smell nature all around you and take in the vibrant colors after the dullness of a long winter. Because of all of that nature springing to life seemingly overnight-tree buds waking up, tulip, daffodil and hyacinth bulbs popping out from the ground, birds returning and singing their own songs it feels like a beginning all over again.  In a way I think of it much like birth itself.

I suppose that is because it seems to bring so much happiness back into our lives when spring begins. Which is what the birth of a child brings to people similarly. Not having children I have to rely on friends and family who have had them to understand that incredible moment. Often I hear words or phrases like miracle, transforming, inspirational, and connection to describe that special time after a child is born,  but most importantly of all what I hear is love. Time seems to freeze, and whatever pressures and concerns existed the day before seem to vanish once a new life enters the world. That is what the idea behind Runrig’s song News From Heaven is all about-

“Ideologies come, ideologies go,

A waste of words, and endless flow,

But now you’re here I feel no fear,

I can’t believe the news from heaven”

 When I began assembling this series of blogs together, this song from their 1989 album Searchlight was one of the first I thought of. One reason was because I had long wanted to do a blog about Runrig, who have been one of my favorite bands for years now. The other reason is that the song is simply quite touching and beautifully written. Then again, that is something Runrig has been doing well for years.  They have been together now since 1973, having formed on the Isle Of Skye in Scotland. Brothers Rory and Calum MacDonald have written the bulk of their material, filled with images of the Scottish landscape and its people. Since the beginning they have also included a few songs on each album written in the Scottish-Gaelic dialect, something precious few people ( be they musicians or writers) were doing around the time of their formation. Runrig can certainly claim a big part in the resurgence of that language. Together with the beautiful and expressive singing of Donnie Munro (and since 1997 his replacement Bruce Guthro) on most of the songs, Runrig over time developed a large fan base, especially in Scotland, where they continue to play in front of very large crowds to this day. You can read their official history right here- http://www.runrig.co.uk/?page_id=56, and of course there are hundreds of videos of them through the years on YouTube.

There are many things to admire about Runrig. The lyrics are always engaging and thought provoking and the music conveys the emotion and feel of the landscape around them in Scotland. There is a deep sense of connection to their culture and their language which I feel are critical to our identity. Some people may eschew these things, but I have always felt it to be important. News From Heaven however comes from a different place. It comes from a place of maturity and sensitivity. It reminds me of those first days of spring that arrive after a long cold winter. Of tender new shoots on trees and plants forming. Of innocence and the promise of the growth to follow in the coming years. Of happiness and a life where there was none only the day before. Of living and breathing joy.

 

Continue reading “My Four Seasons-Spring”