Valerie Grove Artist

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Nature Strikes Back 
Voices From The Void: Original Music About Facing Death
Wilson Bros/Shrink Wrap
After reading Stephen Levine's' A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last, I started a musical project with the idea of trying to become more open to my own mortality. ​​

I began recording spoken messages about facing death and embedding them into music that I liked and listened to consistently. The music was created using a digital music program called Ableton 9 Live and recordings of me playing drums and trumpet. The voices were gathered from a variety of sources and were chosen because I either found them inspiring or thought that they contained a message that I ‘needed’ to hear to help me overcome my fear of death.

After creating enough music to determine that the idea might be feasible, I asked my brother James, a fine composer and saxophonist to join me. Collectively we are Wilson Bros/Shrink Wrap. 
Since we now live in different states, our collaboration on this project was done digitally.  In most cases, I would send him the files I was working on and he would improvise over sections where it seemed appropriate and send the tracks back to me. 

The end result is music which I am hard pressed to categorize.  Down Tempo Ambient, Psybient, Psychedelic Trance, Tribal and Fourth World (coined by trumpeter Jon Hassell) are some terms that come close to describing our music. Many of the tunes incorporate the drone sound, which is often found in meditative or spiritual music around the world.  I find these sounds absorbing and they allow me to be more fully open to the voices embedded in the songs.  But, I like to dance and so most tunes have a solid beat.  James’ sax improvisations add a sense of freedom, complexity and emotion that is not usually found in electronically produced music.
About half way through the project, James told me that he felt as if he were channeling John Coltrane as he improvised.  Coltrane, did not use the computer but did experiment with simple harmonic structures and repetitive rhythm, found both in traditional and modern electronic music (his album Love Supreme is a good example of this). This experimentation allowed Coltrane the freedom to express himself in ways that he and others considered to be spiritual.  I hear this in James' contributions to these tunes.

The voices/spoken words heard in our music represent a variety of views on the topics of death and dying. In most cases the voices or messages were chosen because they presented a different way of thinking about death and dying, a way that could possibly counter my own rather gloomy and reality-avoiding views.
I am a Zen student but there are many Buddhist voices taking many forms and this collection of tunes is not intended to offer a unified set of beliefs, Buddhist or otherwise. Nor is it intended to provide metaphysical answers to what happens at death. The fact is nobody knows and I am certainly not pretending that I do. However, the views embedded in our music seem to have a ring of universal truth to them, and for whatever reason, provide me with some degree of comfort.

​Was this experiment successful? I suppose I won't really know until the end.  However, at this point, I do notice myself thinking about my mortality more often and using those thoughts to put whatever is happening in perspective. The underlying messages in all the tunes, whether stated explicitly or not, seems to be that if we are willing to fully face our own mortality then we are in a position to live more authentic lives.  The understanding that I have the freedom to choose how I live the rest of my life is becoming more real each day.
  
The four tunes above are from the Wilson Bros/Shrink Wrap album entitled Dancing With Death. 
The whole album can be heard on our SoundCloud site:

Wilson Bros/Shrink Wrap


Our music  was created to be heard through headphones.  So for an ideal listening experience  we recommend that you listen through headphones and play the music when you have enough time to mindfully listen without worrying about being distracted by other issues.  

Steve Wilson's Blogsite 
www.artandzentoday.com


Serenity is the balance between good and bad, life and death, horrors and pleasures. Life is, as it were, defined by death. If there wasn’t death of things, then there wouldn’t be any life to celebrate. 
Norman Davies