Music: Intention and Invitation

by Kerry Dexter /
Kerry Dexter's picture
Jul 23, 2020 / 0 comments

Shifting times: when we chose the name for this series, four years ago now, we did not know quite how many areas of life would be shifitng, and how continually and at what depths. There were already many important issues needing attention then. Now, there have been so many deep calls for attention in just the last four months at this writing, not to mention the last four years. Making one's way through all this with courage, grace, and impact requires focused intention. How to focus intention, and on what, will vary.

Music will help with focus of intention. Music also offers ways to refresh that focus when needed.

Music: Intention and Invitation

Eliza Gilkyson's song Promises to Keep speaks of some of the emotional shifts in recent events, and their costs. Gilkyson, who is based in Austin, Texas, has never been afraid to take on the hardest of questions in her music. She does that on 2020, the album where you will find Promises to Keep. She also finds ways to offer, as she does in this song, the idea that working together in love is the way forward.

Jud Caswell writes his tunes and songs in Maine. He's a fine singer and songwriter, who also writes instrumentals, and often mixes in music from Celtic traditions along the way. This piece, Pemaquid Sunset, is named after a place near where Caswell recorded the album on which it appears, Live at the Seagull Shop. He's playing a cittern, and has said that the tune seemed to waiting for him in the instrument when he received it from its maker.

Lauren MacColl, who comes from the north of Scotland, knows about the focus of intention it takes to find stories and music in instruments and places, too. This tune is called East Church. It is recorded here in that church, and appears on the self titled debut album of the quartet RANT, with whom Lauren also records. RANT's most recent album is called The Portage. Lauren has a solo album forthcoming, called Landskein, with original music inspired by the landscapes near her homeplace. Note: let the video play on a bit, after Lauren walks out of the church.

As part of working on the Spell Songs project, Rachel Newton, who also comes from Scotland's north, came up with the song Acorn. The words come mainly from Robert Macfarlane's words in the book The Lost Words. Newton's setting and singing illuminate the story, and collaborative music and voices from her fellow Spell Songs artists add to that. The album The Lost Words: Spell Songs and the book The Lost Words are both well worth your attention. Note: the video begins quietly, with sounds of nature. It ends that way as well.

As rock is to mountain
As drop is fountain
As near is to far
As light is to star
As kindness is to good
So acorn is to wood

Rachel Newton's main instrument is the harp. She has been working on a new album during lockdown, which is planned for release in autumn. You may also wish to see her recording Here's My Heart Come Take It.

Carrie Newcomer was thinking about the idea of intention when she wrote Stones in the River. You will find it recorded on her album Before and After. If you have been following this series, you will have met Carrie's music here in other stories. She often draws ideas from the landscapes near her home in Indiana. Before and After is an album of thoughtful songs well worth your time. You may also wish to look for her most recent recording, The Point of Arrival.

At times -- especially in the midst of constantly shifting times -- the best intention to have is one that invites peace. That has been a thread through all of these pieces of music. To draw the threads together, listen to Emily Smith and Jamie McClennan sing Sunset Hymn, a song of summer reflection and blessing. You will find it recorded on Emily's album Too Long Away. You may also wish to see her solo album Echoes, and their album as the duo Smith and McClennan, Small Town Stories.


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.