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A song can elicit a much more immediate emotional response than a piece of visual art. I’ve said before that as an artist performing a live song, that immediate response, even if a polite ripple of scattered applause is a heady thing, compared to the slow burn response that has only happened after much thought, perhaps discussion, and even going away and coming back that happens after viewing one of my installations. No applause there.
Both responses are gratifying.

I had a conversation with someone about the army greatcoat I embroidered… We talked about her grandfather, she talked about him being far from home and how he never came back, and how he was missed, the effect he had had on his family… She wept openly, and I joined in.

I was told off by a ten year old. The children’s clothes I had embroidered with hand marks were viewed as jolly representations of other children by her classmates. On the way out of the room she frowned at me and said “I don’t think these are happy children AT ALL!” and stomped out.

On the same installation someone picked out a piece of work that had never been remarked upon by anyone else. It was the piece that did not have a hand mark, but a series of stitched concentric circles, as targets for prodding. As she spoke, she held her hands against the top of her chest, protecting herself from further prods.

The bra that I made with bandages on was a quiet item, and hung among the others. I always let viewers handle my work. This piece was lifted, and stroked, let down, stilled, then walked away from. A crumpled tissue came out from a pocket, a tear was wiped. A deep breath was taken. Life carried on as normal.

These emotional responses are rare, and I feel extraordinarily privileged to have prompted them, witnessed them, and be involved in them. These are the things that make me carry on. Most of the time I do the work for myself, and I never see this.

A song is a different thing. Music is magical. Before the first word is sung, a mood is set. The right feel is crucial. Sometimes it is good to have an uptempo piece of music to a miserable lyric, and vice versa, it is a counterpoint, it draws attention to, it slows down that initial response and compels the listener to take more care with the listening. But the right piece of music to the right lyric adds more than I can explain. A chord change in the right place can add poignancy. A space, a silence, holds a breath… A driving rhythm takes you right where you need to go. This is what elicits the immediacy of the response. The lifting up, the resolution, or not, is what the applause is for… Thank you for getting us there, thank you for asking the question and giving us an answer, or not. Thank you for holding back the punchline. Thank you for seeing the world in a different way.

Being able to make things, write words, and add music to an installation is powerful. Performing a song I have written is a whole soul activity. It takes some getting used to. It exposes everything. It takes huge courage. But the rewards, when you get it right, are immeasurable.

I have previously talked about avoiding tautology, and worried that by writing a song, I am just repeating myself. But, I think differently now. It isn’t a tautology, it is a torch.


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