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.