Arrival, Change, Travel: Music for the Journey

by Kerry Dexter /
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Apr 15, 2019 / 0 comments

Perhaps you have made journeys and travels in landscape which you planned and looked forward to. Perhaps there have been other travels which you've made not so willingly. At times, it may feel as though things are moving even when, geographically, that is not so for you. There are, too, events which spark changes and journeys in imagination, thought, and questions. All this is part of the reason we chose to call this series music for shifting times.  

Physical travels and ones through imagination both play their parts in the music for this part of the journey. 

Arrival, Change, Travel: Music for the Journey

Ewan Robertson and Michael Farrell were thinking about people's dreams of migration as they wrote the song Birds of Passage. They decided to use the idea -- the metaphor -- of flight as a way to speak of both strength and fragility of immigrants and other travelers through music. The song is recorded by the award-winning band Breabach, from Scotland. 

Ewan Robertson sings and plays guitar and cajon with Breabach. The other members of Breabach are Megan Henderson on fiddle, song, and step dance, James Lindsay on double bass and song, Calum MacCrimmon, who plays bagpipes, whistle, bouzouki, and sings, and James Duncan Mackenzie, who is also a piper, and plays flute and whistle as well. 

The song is recorded on their album Frenzy of the Meeting. The band commissioned BAFTA-award winning artist Cat Bruce to make this animation for it. 

Karine Polwart considers movement and changes and migration in her song Laws of Motion, as well. She evokes specific yet mysterious images of people moving, fleeing hardship and danger, seeking refuge. Polwart's regular musical collaborators, her brother Steven Polwart on guitars and Inge Thompson on backing vocals, keyboards, and other instruments, help create that mystery through the song and the album, and especially in the introduction to this song. Those specific images lead to ones both direct and indirect, such as "Strike that rod and build that wall, defy the laws of motion/ but the anchor lines /of love and light /are deeper than the ocean" and the repeated question, "Who doesn't want another chance?" It is a song filled with image, questioning, and perhaps, several signposts to answers as well. You may find it recorded on Polwart's album also called Laws of Motion. Explore other songs on the album, too, including one you've met here before (but was not available on record when first I introduced you to it), called I Burn But I Am Not Consumed

John Doyle tells a story rooted in images of  a specific journey. In the song Liberty's Sweet Shore, he tells of a traveler leaving Ireland during the years of the Great Hunger and arriving at Grosse Isle in Quebec. It is a hard journey, and in Doyle's telling, one that moves beyond that immediate story to become both timeless and timely. "Hope and despair both are calling," Doyle sings. Doyle is a renowned guitarist in addition to his gifts as as singer and songwriter: listen out for his playing through the tracks on the album Shadow & Light, on which Liberty's Sweet Shore is recorded. You may find another fine version of the song from Cathie Ryan, on her album Through Wind & Rain.

Molly Tuttle knows what she's doing with her guitar playing, too. Her creative clawhammer technique has been astonishing people for a while, as well it should. She's a fine singer and songwriter too. Rooted in bluegrass, studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston and a move to Nashville have added to her musical sources. You can hear all that in her song Take the Journey -- and you do not need to know any of it to see how it fits with the other songs in this story. "Take the journey, no matter where it starts or where it ends/Someday you'll make it back home again," Tuttle sings in the chorus. You may find Take the Journey recorded on Molly Tuttle's debut album, When You're Ready.

In her song Point of Arrival, Carrie Newcomer considers journeys both physical and spiritual, both direct and indirect, of places and spaces which sometimes appear between letting go and acceptance. That idea of space and place and time leading to acceptance and perhaps, to hope is a thought which recurs in the songs on the album where you will find Point of Arrival recorded: in fact, Newcomer decided to call the album itself Point of Arrival

Those birds of passage in Breabach's song and Karine Polwart's searching travelers following or defying laws of motion understand those places and spaces. So, too, do those storm and change tossed shipmates of John Doyle's Liberty's Sweet Shore. Those who take up Molly Tuttle's advice to take the journey may also find, in the words of Carrie Newcomer's song, that the empty spaces are filled with hallelujah now.  

The journeys we are all making in these challenging times are not often easy, but there can be hope and friendship and learning along the way -- and at the point of arrival. May these songs make good companions on your journeys.




Thank you for staying with us through this journey. Below, you'll find a link that will take you to an article which has a bit more backstory on the series. It also has links to a number of the stories, including ones called Listening for Community, Music for Winter's Changes, and The Geography of Hope.

Music for Shifting Times

Music for Shifting Times



Kerry Dexter is Music Editor at Wandering Educators. You may reach Kerry at music at wanderingeducators dot com.

You may find more of Kerry's work in National Geographic Traveler, Strings, Perceptive Travel, Journey to Scotland, Irish Fireside, and other places, as well as at her own site, Music Road.