Interviews with James Part 2

The following are responses to questions which have been asked of James Gibson in recent months, by a number of different interviewers, fans and friends. Comments are welcomed at jamesgibsonallarts@gmail.com.


?      Do you have a favorite period in history?...especially as it relates to music.
JG:  I love history! I go in and out, sometimes obsessing with it for weeks, at other times barely paying attention to it. I watch a lot of history docs on tv. Not long ago I started a pattern of studying one century in history for an entire year. I started with the beginning of the Christian -- and 'Common' -- Era, because I figured it would be too time-consuming to find enough references about pre-Christian history, fascinating as that would be. So in 2019 I studied the first century A.D. Now I am in the second century. As you can imagine, the beginnings of Christianity and the Roman Empire dominate a lot of that time period. I am largely concentrating on Europe and North America, because I am much more familiar with them than with the rest of the world. Once I thoroughly learn what I pretend to already be familiar with, I'll take on Asia and Africa and the Pacific! In terms of music, I am just beginning to delve into that. As far as Rome is concerned, all I can say is that considering how deeply Italians love and create music with a passion, I imagine Romans back then had plenty of good music!

?     Aside from those two early centuries, any other favorite eras?
JG:  The Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the 19th century....again, with a wide focus on Europe.

?   Can we talk about music and healing?
JG:    I could talk for days about that. I am not an expert......I have only a little training in that realm and a lot to learn. But I have no doubt that music can be as powerful as medicine or psychiatry in healing people. It's great that there are now societies and conferences which focus on this topic. Music therapy is a wonderful and important field. I hope more people enter into that work in the future.

?   You know something about meditation, right? How does that play into music therapy?
JG:   I'd love to find answers to that question. I studied transcendental meditation briefly with a famous physicist-psychic, and that led me to begin learning more on my own. There definitely are connections with music, though I'm not sure I am far enough into this study to describe them well. But I have no doubt that our mental and psychic processes are closely connected to sound, especially music, and vice versa.

?    You are somewhat known as a spiritual person. Does that conflict with TM or with paranormal experiences?
JG:    No, not at all, not for me. Some people believe that anything 'paranormal' or 'psychic' is incompatible with religion. That is nonsense. Our psychic experiences and metaphysical connections exist because of religion. Native Americans can teach the rest of us a lot about these things. These events are no longer merely science fiction. People have paranormal experiences every day, but often we do not realize it because we are not trained or experienced in investigating those things. Humans have always tended to dismiss things we cannot explain. But that is bad science, isn't it?

?    Can you share a paranormal experience of your own that had some musical connection?
JG:   Sure. Two of my favorites are a distinct memory, and an out-of-body experience. As I stated somewhere in a blog on one of these sites, I once stood in front of Chopin's final residence in Paris, and got chills because I felt that I could actually see him inside and hear his breathing as he was dying. Of course most people would say that was just my over-active imagination. But they were not there; they do not know how I felt inside.
        The other was once when I was dealing with a deep friendship that was crumbling, ending painfully.....I actually saw and felt myself going into the house of the other person, hearing the voice and seeing what this person was doing. I had been writing a song just prior to this experience; it was a song about breaking off from someone. The music in the song began to merge with the sounds from my ex-friend's house. It was so absurd, frightening, odd......but very real.

?    That's amazing! Switching topics for a bit, what about the future of music? I think young musicians ask that question a lot but never find good answers.
JG: I'm not sure anyone has a good answer. Sometimes, trends or curves in music are fairly easy to predict. For one thing, I am convinced that everything in human history goes in cycles. Everything comes round again at some point, even if its appearance or details have changed. Trends in music are very much tied to everything else that is happening in the world. This is happening now in classical music. It's not that composers are all running back to the tonality of Haydn and Schubert, but there definitely has been a shift away from extreme dissonance, aleatoric and revolutionary forms. Composers in general are paying more attention to things like beauty, continuous line, and peaceful resolution of statements, than they were in the '60's and early '70's. Rap and hiphop are really not all that different from some of the bolder early blues songs in the mid 20th century. All the great rock and folk music of the late '60's and '70's will come back, though probably somewhat changed, if things like the viral pandemic and the turgid politics in USA and Europe continue, though the return of that music may sound fairly different. History always goes in cycles; there is a precedent somewhere in the past, for everything we create.

?   Has the importance of music in society changed, in one direction or the other?
JG:    That is a tough question to answer because history is so broad and complex. I tend to think that music has always been vitally important to people -- and to animals and maybe even plants, for that matter -- who knows?  Certainly the earliest humans must have been conscious of some sounds other than just words and sentences. Who knows for sure about these things? But as a composer, I like to think that music may save us from worldwide disasters such as the one we are currently facing. If you include poetry and theatre and visual arts and dance, the arts may just be our second-best hope for cultural survival and future peace and joy. First-best would be spirituality---help from a greater power.

?       These are deep thoughts! All very fascinating.
JG:    Lots of deep thought, and sometimes with very few definite answers. Maybe that's why I love history so much!

?       Do you have a musical composition that best expresses some of these thoughts?
JG:    Hmmm...not sure if there is one that sums it up. But I wrote a song in the '90's called Hard to Believe, which I did with my band at the time (Mozart's Children). It seems to be pretty apt at this moment in time. I'll put it on this site soon, for anyone who wants to hear it.

?       Do you think people like Beethoven and Puccini thought about these things a lot?
JG:    I think in general, composers have always had to think constantly about how to share their music and how to get paid! That has not changed much. But I have no doubt that at least some musicians of the past went into very deep places, mentally and spiritually, in ways that may always elude even the best musicologists!  Bach spent much of his life in church. Beethoven certainly was an icon of human morality and goodness. Liszt had some fascinating views on religion and humanity. Composers don't always talk a lot about their inner thoughts and visions, probably because so many non-creative-artist people have troubling understanding some of this. It is highly personal. But using myself as an example, composers sometimes reach into very foreign and very deep, profoundly deep, places of discovery. Often, the only way we can communicate those discoveries is to compose music.

?    Fascinating! Thank you.
JG:   Thanks for the great questions!      



 

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