Thirteenth music presentation session for the blind and visually handicapped took place on 20th of March 2019 in the presentation room of Czech agency SONS (Czech Blind United) in Prague. I was really honored for very positive feedback from the previous sessions and I dared to devote whole session to one album: Cult Of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner. There were many reasons for it, plenty amazing reactions as well as few shocked listeners.
Photocredit: xMartinezz Photographyx
I have been coming to SONS to present some great tracks from various genres for the past two years. Audience didn’t care much about the genre, whether it was prog rock, modern jazz or intelligent pop. They care about the quality, emotional attachment and possibly some fun/cool/inspirational story connected to it, while I introduce the track. However, during the past couple of months, they always surprised me by voting at the end of each session quite well for some heavier tracks whether it was from Madder Mortem or Gojira.
All the previous sessions were fun but I was eager to find something to enhance the structure. The key for progress as well as starting with the whole thing was Steven Wilson. During our interviews he said: “People don’t have time for concentrated listening to music,” as well as: “When I was younger, I had money to buy a single album every month. I was stuck with it for weeks, whether I liked it or not. And if I didn’t like it at first, we found some way to each other after few weeks eventually.” First quote brought me to the institution for visually handicapped and I remembered the second one, while I was listening to the Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas’ incredible album Mariner.
There is simply so much new music that I barely have time to concentrate on some album for days, not talking about weeks. But we need some challenges once in a while. I was listening to this album after a while in mid-February and plenty of people around me in Czech Republic were doing a “sober February” challenge. Shortest month – puss*es right? I was even bigger one, as I started in the middle of the month as I had some important social events in the first half of the month. I heard plenty of life-changing stories why people around me needed a break from alcohol. Next to that, I felt my joy of drinking went down by 25% and I do want to enjoy my drink. So I cut out alcohol and spent more time exercising. Part of that was fourteen kilometer walk when I listened purely to Mariner. I enjoyed it, when I heard it at first few years ago, but I just had a feeling I need to go back to my favorite albums more. Plus Julie’s Battle Of Mice album A Day Of Nights was recommended to me couple of times by my friend Renáta now working as a nuclear chemist in France. This album means a world to her, eventhough she always returned to some of her worst depressions and cries, but eventually helped.
I fully dived into the Mariner’s mood, air screamed with Julie, while nobody was around on my walk next to the Vltava River and going further away from the city. Naturally, I was taking notes about the thoughts which came up in my head and I was eager to hear the reactions of the guests.
With weeks in advance, I warned everybody: “It would be Gojira level the whole time. Guys, seriously no jazzy pop. This will be rough.” Therefore we also added note to the title “Ambient rock evenings – FOR THE BRAVE”. Main lady from the organization was happy to have a free evening and said: “Have fun boys!” The warning didn’t help as suddenly there were at least half a dozen of women in the room. Not that women are not welcome but two of them were older than sixty and one kept asking about ambient folk music. The rest were prog rock gentlemen ready for heavy discoveries. Plus I also invited two of my friends who love this band as well. Including a guest photographer who is a massive fan. So, it was a quite a mixture of visitors.
A Greater Call
It was supposed be a listener’s journey, so I gave everybody short instructions. I was planning to add my comments before each track based on the 30days challenge of listening to it. As it was not an easy piece of an album anybody could leave anytime or ask for anything. I specifically asked the listeners to try to dive into the atmosphere and not to be afraid to embrace the darker areas of their minds. Especially as they are in the safe environment. The first track A Greater Call is a massive intro and sets the “passenger” onward with sun behind his or her back.
Second track Chevron is a hand which grabs you and pulls really low. You can barely orient yourself in the chaos, but after you get over the first shock, figures around are taking clearer shapes. Surrounding is horrifying and massively frightening. Extremely creepy are quotes as: “It said/She said/it said” and also “She will say: ‘I told you so.’”
The Wreck of S.S. Needle
After so desired peaceful ending of the track, you feel it will last some time also with The Wreck of S.S. Needle. Cut. New phase. This road will be long! Frights are taking shapes based on your individual issues: Love, career, illness. Fear and concerns all around. “You’ve got to spit to see the shine.” Suddenly, you realize you have to walk through this madness with open or closed eyes.
“Let me tell you – run and try to hide”
“Put me down where I can see you run” – add your own meaning.
What or who is me? The one deciding which option to take? No, I am the one observing from above.
Approaching Transition was very unique experience as it gave sort a unique space to balance the experiences so far and get you ready for the big finale. It teaches us to hold on by offering certain comfort. Shapes are getting much clearer. For some reason, I see plenty of red colors. Surface is getting clearer. Truth in its pure nudity will soon be showed.
“Can you see what’s following you? It has a mind of its own”
“A parasite without a home”
“It’s got a smile, but you don’t trust it. Concrete reasons unknown. Put it behind you in the space of your day.”
But the strongest quote is: “She’ll be standing while you suffer.”
This rough finale of the journey gives us hints and shows new viewing angles to our issues.
Feedback from the guests
Therefore it was so important to me to get the feedback from the listeners. It helped me to solve some things in my head, push me much further in my long term frustrations and brought me some unique epiphanies. You can read the feedback of two visually handicapped gentlemen and skilled actress, which came as a support of her older friend. These three gave me some incredible feedback. Mr. Antonín told me he managed to solve some long term frustration by a sudden realization. This was an incredible result. Plenty of the others enjoyed the whole thing, but there also few, who had a hard time staying for additional bonus tracks. Younger folk lady was truly having hard time and I promised, I will play for her some folk song next time.
There was also a very old lady, coming each time with a dog and not having issues with bands as Gojira. She said she enjoyed the music but she was having hard time listening to the discussions afterwards. They might have triggered some issues, which music didn’t. She was leaving the presentation room very fast, even slightly hitting the door. I promised I will play her next time some song in Spanish, which she is learning lately. The rest stayed for the bonus tracks. I played live version of Approaching Transition which got the best feedback so far and Perturbator’s remix of Cygnus. I also read bits and pieces from Cult of Luna’s open letter to Julie Christmas.
Vladimír Dvořák (Blue sweater)
I am not sure, if I will be able to write what is expected but…
The idea of listening to the whole album at once was a great. I am also happy about the choice of the album.
If I would have to describe my personality I would say that I am rather reserved, thoughtful and introvert. I am very much into studying life’s purpose and plenty of other questions which eventually formulate my life’s philosophy. Till this day I cannot answer a question, which direction (and there is plenty to choose) should I take. But surely I know I want to live my life so I could look into the mirror any second of my life. Therefore my life is about finding limits and doing mistakes.
I am completely realistic. Therefore, within literature I am mainly interested in reality. I read books which present modern history and the world around us as it truly is. Music-wise I am all into looking for quality in any genre. However, major space has melancholic, gentle music with positive vibrations. Next to it, there are plenty of metal and in-general heavy albums. Although it must be from bands, which do not fit into today’s metal mainstream. Over the years I have actually realized there is so much interesting and rather unknown music. Whereas stuff in rock radios is not worth of my glorification. As I say, there is no time to lose time. Therefore I have some albums at home, which I don’t listen to anymore. Demands change and once doesn’t see things as years ago. There are certainly tracks, which I am happy to hear, but music world is so diverse and it is simply important to move forward and open your options to the unknown.
I am really happy I discovered Anathema, Sólstafir or Emma Ruth Rundle through you. It’s a shame, not many people look for these bands, but that’s another question.
And now you are probably wondering, why I am writing all of this. Dan, I must say, the album which we have listened to is “complete”. There is nothing to change on it and it’s not possible to influence or alter it. It’s definite. The only variable are the feelings, reactions and emotions of the listener.
I guess every human being who is listening to any sort of music, he or she reflects his or her feelings and experiences into it.
I would show it on the example of The Wall which I heard many times. Sometimes I had uplifting feeling, other times I felt frustrated. But I guess, this music is forever added into my DNA. Next to it, it was a first meeting with rock music, when I fourteen years old.
I would say album Mariner was the gauntlet thrown down to the listener. First track is a great example. There was nothing concrete to hold on to, but it offered adequate space for fantasy. It also created questions which were not answered. On the other hand it served as a route towards listeners emotions. It was not purely about music, but the listener himself. I do also remember well the third song. It was quite unique phenomena. Especially as her offer was: hope, in the form of positive dur parts. On the other hand they were quite short and mainly, they were replaced by very heavy compositions.
During that song I felt, as if I was in the dark tunnel and I could see few flashes of light. But it was gone soon and returned much later. And probably the most important thing was, the light didn’t come up in the end at all. I must say, that was a surprise for me, as I expected light in the end. It was rather a shock and it took me some time to adjust.
These are my thoughts on the album, which I heard just once, as I simply had no time since. But I am surely planning to follow your advice and listen to it multiple times and observe how it affects a listener in time and emotions.
My friend, take care and see you on Wednesday.
MgA. Barbora Novotná (yellow scarf)
There were five tracks, so I will separate my ideas with numbers. Eventually, it all added up into one compact piece.
Skinny girl, brunet, mikado, long legs, short skirt, walking on Prague’s Vltava River city coast. Bricks on the road shine after the rain, but it’s not raining. It’s nicely warm. A girl has in her hands a bottle of wine. She is coming from a party. She is looking in the sky and smoking. It’s almost morning, sky is turning bright and the city is waking up slowly. Sounds of the waking city can be heard: garbage men, bakers, blinds of the shops, case. Cut. She is changing in some changing room into a nurse uniform. She is going for a night shift. (I don’t know what she did during a day. She might have returned home and went to sleep.)
The girl is a nurse in a hospital. It’s getting really busy. Ambulances are bringing more and more injured. Probably some massive crash of a plane, train… Simply a massacre. Everybody who has hands is helping. Doctors are fighting for each life. Morning bright is showing up and she is checking monitors and patients. (I don’t know now why I took a note: “I told you so, it told you so.”)
The girls is tiredly walking the endless stairs to her home. She is taking a shower, lays in a bed, falling asleep and she is having dreams of her failing as a nurse: She cannot stop a patient’s bleeding, she is fighting for her patients with figures from the afterlife, and dead bodies are attacking her as well. She falls asleep eventually.
The girl is resting. Sleeping. She feels incredibly nicely. She is levitating in a space, swims under the water, flying above the mountains, rides a bike in the alley, her hair is flowing, she is running lightly, rather three meter long jumps a she is barely touching a ground. Probably a dream. Then she is waking up, as there is a railroad station under her mirrors. She is awoken with the noise of arriving and departing trains. After opening a window, her room is filled with a sun falling down. She feels great but suddenly there are skinheads coming out from one of the trains. Maybe football fans. They are screaming, as these guys usually do. Bad language, violence and stupidity is flowing out of them. They are so self-confident, especially by being in the group, which is scaring everyone. The girl realizes she will have another crazy shift in the hospital.
City is getting dark towards the evening. It seems like a peace for a while. The girl cooks spaghetti for a supper. She is eating them, her mouth is red and she is watching news on a TV. And there… more catastrophes. After the news, she sits next to the video, she is smoking a cigarette and she could hear the sounds of the night city. Again, but this from outside, monsters are attacking her at the window. She is pushing them away and she is winning. Quickly closing a window, so they cannot reach her. She is almost enjoying the fact, they cannot get to her. Than she is preparing her stuff for the morning, shoes, and clothes. She is laying in the bed. Even though the monsters are still attacking, she is falling asleep. She realizes, she is able to handle the evil all around her. Evil that people around her are doing to each other and to themselves. It is her choice.
This seemed to me as the biggest epiphany. Human being, as a member of the group or a single person has a choice, if he or she wants to listen to the evil and possibly even cause evil, or just fall to it within some group. Or if he or she, will stand on the other side. He or she will with its powers help the good. Hopefully also with a god’s support, enough strength to fight. Even though it’s more than clear, the fight is endless.
Dan, I am extremely thankful for that evening. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t listen to music like this. Not talking about listening to it so carefully. And if I did on the radio, I would very probably switch the station, if it came up. I would not reach this phase…
I wish you from all of my heart all the best, in you activities.
Antonín S. (Grey sweatshirt)
Good day to you,
World is chaos at first, where there are pillars built step by step, on which we can rely. At first, we can imagine a person, which is walking on the street. He or she might have just stepped out the tram or a train. He or she doesn’t know anybody around. Is there anybody, who would listen? Is there anybody who would spend some time with this person and get to know him or her? Can anybody handle all of that schizophrenic depression he or she has inside and will have the courage look for the bright and gentle somewhere inside? Somebody actually did and is willing to go through the story full of despair, deep depressions but as well full of peace, empathy a desire to show gentleness and care. Here we are being led by this story. A figure is not abstract, we recognize her and experience everything she has to offer. She is willing to let us inside the massive deepness of her soul, till the core of her existence. I am not any of those personnel. I am not even the person, who is listening. Everything is fictional, but as I said, only to a certain extend.
Here are few things which came to my mind:
“We are not conquerors” – We cannot ensure anything in our lives. No one will secure, we will feel the same tomorrow, as we felt today. In the case of our schizoid character, she lives day by day. She is loving, but you cannot hold her in. You cannot be a conqueror of her heart. Even she doesn’t know what will happen tomorrow. In what condition she will be and how life will progress.
“Behind ugliness, look for beauty. Behind roughness, look for gentleness.” – She hopes to get understood, heard, but at the same time she has to be tough and defend herself from herself and everything around.
“I told you who I am, so why are you surprised by my moods?” In the third track I can feel her defense. Maybe even criticism for others, she is not understood. Even in our cases, some people left and were not willing to listen further. How many will stay and what they can expect?
How it will end? We spoke a lot about the end and it seems as a sort of a celebration. Something ended, conquered, accomplished and nobody quite knows what will happen next. We can only wish all the best to our character. We usually say, everything will be fine in the ned. And if it’s not fine yet, it is not the end. Let us not be fooled by that joy, excitement and fun. She actually lives day by day. Despair, fear, depression, hate, love, harmony, relax, desire and escape. These are the emotion album Mariner has to offer. And of course a lot more, plenty still unsaid.
I wrote what came to my mind, without checking it after me. Thank you for understand. If I did, it would not be as authentic.
Thank you once again for this. It was unique, inspirational and it helped me a lot.
Next session is planned for tomorrow 10th April 2019.