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Music, Memory, Beauty, Community | Memory of the Future Project
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Music, Memory, Beauty, Community

By Sara Lovell | December 22, 2008

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heima
“I am a part of all that I have met.”

–Alfred Tennyson

 

I turned on the Sundance channel last night, ready with my take-out Indian dinner, and discovered this beautiful documentary from Icelandic rock band Sigur Ros called Heima.

The band has received worldwide attention, playing large sold out concerts all over the globe. They decided to go back to their country and put on shows in small local villages as a way of giving back and connecting with their fellow Icelanders. Heima is Icelandic for “at home” or “homeland” and the visual imagery of the landscape with the minimalist, orchestral soundtrack of their eight piece, (and sometimes larger) ensemble, and with Jónsi Birgisson’s haunting falsetto floating over the top is breathtaking.

They played in a small café, in community centers, at an abandoned fish factory, outdoors with interesting folk art, and there was an amazing ten or twelve foot long marimba made out of pieces of rock, that four of them played in a cave…along with concerts held out in the middle of the highland wilderness. I was captivated by the music, the exquisite visuals and by the story of these four bandmembers, the other string musicians that traveled with them for this tour, and the townspeople who came to see their shows.

Partway into the film, keyboardist/guitarist Kjartan Sveinsson was describing what they were discovering of their homeland’s history: “In every village there was a choir, and some people say it’s because there were no other instruments, but I don’t really buy that, I’m sure there were some instruments around…”

This reminds me of my friend Shivon Robinsong who founded a 300 person community choir in Victoria, British Columbia. Shivon speaks about how singing brings people together in ways nothing else can. Her Gettin’ Higher Choir  puts on two big concerts each year raising thousands of dollars for two different groups:  Power of Hope, the amazing youth empowerment through the arts program I mentioned in my first post, and the Kapasseni Project, dedicated to assisting in the regeneration of Mozambique by providing children and their families with educational opportunities, medical assistance, community development and spiritual support.

And Shivon’s also helped to found The Ubuntu Choirs Network, a growing community of choirs founded on the belief that the joy of singing is a universal birthright, and that together, regardless of musical background, we can help improve the world by joining voices in song.

Archbishop Desmond TuTu describes Ubuntu and how a choir is a beautiful example of it:

It is the essence of being human. It speaks of the fact that my humanity is caught up        and is inextricably bound up in yours. I am, because you are. I need you to be you so that I can be me. A choir is a choir only because its different parts work together harmoniously. A person truly is a person only through other persons.”

I plan to create a separate post soon that talks about Ubuntu in more detail.

The US has a rich history of people singing around the parlor piano, before audio recordings, before radio and television. Many people knew how to play an instrument and it was common for songs and poems to be memorized and shared in family and community gatherings.

There’s also a history of brass bands throughout the United Kingdom dating back to the 19th century, sponsored by local industry and coal mines, with a vibrant tradition of competition in the local communities. The Stalybridge Old Band was formed in 1809 and was the first civilian brass band in the world and is still in existence.

I love that music and community can weave these webs across generations and cultures. In the Sigur Ros film, all the free shows that were offered brought whole families out to participate, from the babies to the grandparents…it was so intimate, and to see the faces of these people in the different towns and villages as they watched the band perform – they had a deep quality of presence and listening that I don’t often see in American culture.

Wait ‘til you hear their music - I am most definitely going out and buying a set of orchestra bells tomorrow!! Stay tuned for some tingly sounds on my next recording!

 

“We don’t accomplish anything in this world alone … and whatever happens is the result of the whole tapestry of one’s life and all the weavings of individual threads from one to another that creates something.”

–Sandra Day O’Connor

 

Sigur Ros’ website

Click here for the beautiful lyrics from the title song Heima.

 http://www.myspace.com/sigurros

and a photoblog from the film with music


One Response to “Music, Memory, Beauty, Community”


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    SG
    Says:
    May 10th, 2009 at 4:32 am
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    The Choir of Hard Knocks from Melbourne,Victoria, Australia, is a classic example of the power of community and music/singing. A wonderful collection of people from the streets of Melbourne who all have a story to tell. The inspiring Jonathon Welch, who encouraged these people to join the choir and sing for the masses inspires my students at secondary school.

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