Behind The Scenes #1 / Ocean

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.

Black Sea

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.

Also, every month I send out a newsletter packed with Interesting and Exclusive Things.  If you sign up today you’ll also get 3 FREE tracks of my music as a welcome gift.

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47 Comments

  1. Fantastic piece and i agree with you that in reality nothing last forever. I’ll look forward to obtain the album. sound like it is evergreen. Thanks for passing by.

  2. Enjoyed your concepts and the clarity of your thought. Though we may view life from a somewhat different perspective the passion behind your inspiration captured my attention. As a musician and a writer, the interplay of both media connects the dots of life for me in amazing ways. The moving expression of both is something I have come to enjoy.

    1. Thankyou very much, you obviously really understood what I was trying to communicate.
      I think that we all have different viewpoints and live life from different perspectives. The important thing is: to recognize that fact and accept other’s perspectives as being as valid as our own.
      Music is the great uniter tho, isn’t it? 😉 Where words and concepts can divide, true music goes straight to the heart.
      I wish you well my friend,
      – J

  3. I think that is what we all want, to know the absolute truth, we all seek it in some form daily. But there is beauty often times in what is unsaid and unknown. And knowing the truth is not always necessary. I love your wave metaphor for your album 🙂

      1. Hey James! It’s awesome! Please stop by The Chicago Files when you get a chance. I’d really love to know what you think, especially my music post!

        Can’t wait to read/hear more from you, James! Big hugs, Cher xo

            1. It’s very cool, and there is a lot in there, well done! 😉
              I used to play in the subway stations when I was at University in London. You can find some great stuff, on the street.
              Keep it up Music-Lady of Chicago,
              Hugs,
              – J

              1. Awh, thanks so much for that, James! Oh did you? That is wonderful to hear! I truly believe the streets are filled with incredible tunes. Sometimes we need to focus our attention in that direction!! Hugs, Cher xo

  4. James… again, eloquence and insight merge into your creative process… be it music or writing. =) The way you explain interconnectivity as you feel it was beautiful. You are truly a creative person, so glad to have stumbled upon a “kindred spirit” =)

    1. Dear TREEGIRL!!! 😉
      I am VERY HAPPY to hear words from your fingers. Your messages, invariably, make me smile.
      1) I am very happy you like it, I made it myself.
      2) I am glad you approve. If you didn’t, I would of course, end EVERYTHING.
      3) *Hug*

  5. Hello,
    My name is Andreea and I am the owner of http://mylittleastrology.com/ and I have been following your wordpress account and your writing. I loved this post and please let me know if I can quote you in one of my posts. I would like to write about Pisces and this post is very inspiring.
    Thank you.

    Andreea

    1. I am in a very healthy condition! 😉
      I am actually feeling really good at the moment. It is great to be back doing music, and making things for their own sake, at least for a little while.
      It’s nice to hear from you, I hope you are well,
      – J

      1. Thanks James, yes I feel okay, I’m happy the Spring is coming now, at least it is on the right way.

        Have you thought about going out and play some places, where you could bring some CD’s for sale too?
        Just an idea.
        Enjoy your weekend. Nice to see you back in a good shape.
        Irene

    1. This is truly Awesome. I have watched it twice already.
      Thankyou for the link. 😉
      I think artists are right to be fiercely proud of having the courage to do what they love even in the face of extreme poverty, but that it is a mistake to be proud of the poverty itself. This guy deserves to make a good living from this, you know he has The Thing, it is right there for him.
      Thanks again Christian, this is really amazing. He is definitely of the same tribe. 😉
      Hope you are well,
      – J

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