The Butterfly Effect

There’s a tale about a butterfly who flaps his wings on one side of the world, and causes a hurricane. In my head, this is what that butterfly sounds like. The video is from a couple of years ago, and features the utterly amazing Peter Knight on violin.

I can’t remember when I first heard Peter Knight playing – it wasn’t an event, he was an intrinsic part of the soundscape of my childhood. He played for Steeleye Span for many years, and their music was a big part of my early years. As a teenager, I used to dance to his rendition of Mooncoin jig when no one was around to see me.

I saw Steeleye Span in concert some years ago, and I saw his new band, Gigspanner as well. Last night, much to my joy, Gigspanner played at a venue I could walk to. And walk we did. It was a truly amazing evening – a small venue, breathtaking musicianship, my son with enormous eyes and in a state of total awe. Peter Knight is a remarkable player, lyrical, melodious, graceful and with an appearance of effortlessness. He puts me in mind of a blackbird, singing down the sun at midsummer.

I used to be a mediocre sort of violin player – a frozen shoulder has left me unable to play at all for more than a year now, which is frustrating. I know enough to be stunned by this man’s playing. There are things about violins that, for the rest of us, are a liability – the little scratchy, whispery noises, the harmonics… and he plays these as well. As well as the regular bowing the violin (as in this video) he picks strings to use as accompaniment for singing, uses the body percussively, there’s even a track where another band member plays the violin with sticks while Mr Knight is bowing it. I don’t think I breathed during that whole piece.

I was struck last night by the capacity of music to act on the body – percussion and lower notes are easily felt as vibrations, but anything we hear, we also feel. It’s no doubt this line of thought that has led us to sound bathing as a New Age therapy. Given the choice, what I would prefer to immerse in, is this. Over several hours last night, the music washed over me, and through me, and for a while there just wasn’t room for anything else other than what was happening to me in response to this extraordinary sound.

The idea that what we put into our bodies in terms of food might have huge effects on us is something people are increasingly aware of. But what about the sound we put into our bodies? What does daily exposure to traffic noise do to a person? What happens to us in response to our soundscapes, the rhythms we experience, the songs we sing, and the songs we don’t sing?

Last night’s music affected me profoundly. It touched and changed me in ways I have no language to express. I can measure the difference in my mood today. I feel more complete in myself, more well. For me at least, the sounds I experience are as important as the quality of the air I breathe, and what I’m eating. I’m probably not alone in this.


About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

2 responses to “The Butterfly Effect

  • Michael Breddelwyn Peterson

    Some similarities. I consider myself a mediocre harpist, but there are people who enjoy what I do. For awhile now I have had problems with my right shoulder and have come to find out that the ball and socket of my shoulder are deteriorating, and have bone spurs, also. When I play, I have pain in the shoulder. Cortisone injections weaken the rotator cuff, and would lose a lot of mobility with joint replacement. So, I’m thinking of going to lap harp or maybe an Anglo-Saxon lyre.

    I too have been inspired by other musicians, harpists, particularly Patrick Ball who I have seen perform a few times. His harping and stories make me want to continue.

  • Pauline

    Oh,, what an amazing experience! For me, no other musical instrument can express such a wide range of emotion as the violin. If I ever get the chance to see this I will.

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