Since I released the album, people have been writing to me with questions about the meaning, inspirations and stories behind certain pieces. So, I’ve decided to write a series of articles in order to shed a little more light on them. Consider these a virtual backstage pass…
This article will be about ‘Ocean‘, the album’s first (and last) track.
I don’t think we can ever ‘know’ the absolute truth of anything.
I don’t think that is how our minds work, and I don’t think that that is the game. I do think that at least part of the game is learning how to become OK with that fact. Learning to accept the mystery; the perpetually chaotic and ever-changing question mark that is our experience of life.
To me, it seems that metaphors are the closest we can get to any kind of absolute truth. We are creatures of symbols and narrative. That’s why we love stories. Narrative imbues events with a comforting meaning, a small haven of certainty, and we understand truth more thru symbolic images, than we ever will thru dry and dusty texts.
Ocean,then, is as close as I have been able to get to the truth of things. It is my symbolic interpretation of ‘all that is’.
It seems to me that everything in our world is made of the same stuff; call it ‘energy’ if you like. I see this ‘stuff’ like the water of the ocean. And I see all the objects which seem particular and separate, like waves. If you took a film of the waves in the ocean and slowed it down, each wave would look unique. If you slowed it down enough, the waves would appear permanent, and unchanging.
All ‘things’ in our world, including ourselves, (or at least, the meat of our bodies) are like this to me. Everything appears permanent but, on a long enough timescale, every seemingly distinct object first: rises up, then exists and changes for a time, before finally returning, dissolving back into wherever it came from. Just like the waves on the sea.
I think that it is the most challenging piece on the album. By far. It is, structurally, very unusual. There are four distinct movements that are: related to one other, and which form a progression, but which never repeat themselves. At first it may seem random and chaotic. But in reality, it was meticulously written and constructed; coming together slowly, over the course of many years.
Capturing the final recorded version took many, many takes. Firstly, each movement needed to be correct in and of itself, secondly, each movement needed to work together to form a fluid, flowing progression. Then it had to be edited and mixed so the whole piece maintained balance, equilibrium and momentum. This literally took days and nights of exacting effort to get right.
But it was worth it. When I heard the finished version for the first time I thought: ‘no-one else could have written this’. I don’t know why this is so important to me, but it is. To have created something that I feel is at once truthful and yet so completely my own… It feels pure, in lieu of a better term.
Listeners have said, pretty universally, that when they first hear it they don’t know what to think. They are not sure if they like it. But after repeated listens they ‘get it’ more and more. Some have said that, over time, it has become their favorite piece on the whole album.
One of the most frequent questions has been: ‘why did you put the most challenging piece at the start of the album?’ The answer to that question is: because the album itself is like a wave. It fades in, you hear the first 3 movements of Ocean, and then you hear the whole album until, finally you hear the fourth and last movement before it fades out.
All waves rise up, they change, and then return.
I wish you well.
My name is James Radcliffe and I am a 100% audience supported independent artist. If you like what I do (and can afford it) then please consider buying some of my music. Each purchase really makes a big difference to me and 10% of every sale goes to a charity which: houses, feeds, clothes, and educates orphaned children in Nepal.
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