Careless fight, posted below is from the latest album by Shima, entitled A World Without Music.
The following is a discussion about this album and the music of Shima.
N: you called your latest album a world without music but what does this title mean to you?
Shima: It takes me about a year to put a whole album together and although I am always recording new music, it isn’t until I have some kind of coherent concept that I bring it together into an album. So a world without music came together when I was considering various kinds of dystopia, from nuclear disaster to Huxley’s idea of A Brave New World, where everyone is satiated with their desires, but essentially end up soulless. Bleak stuff really.
N: i can imagine that reflecting on such ideas and then translating them into sounds forming music must of been quite a journey of exploration for you!? i found the song careless flight relaxing and uplifting, it could even be sad but i sense life in it. why is it called ”careless flight”?
Shima: Yes, there was a combination of many things going on during the making of the album. Careless Flight, the melody, was written quite a long time ago, and as I was experimenting with some sounds I recorded the rainfall on the studio ceiling. This then transformed me into this reflective state so I sat at the keyboard and played this melody, which suited the moment perfectly. I then recorded quiet organ sounds to go with it. Actually I did not like the piano sound on my sampler keyboard so I ended up buying a new piano keyboard and re-recorded it. The title, Careless Flight, is taken from a Robert Graves poem about a butterfly. The original version of the piece contained lyrics which can be found on the website http://www.shima.co.nz . They were inspired by a short story by Truman Capote. So the final piece ended up with this night-time feeling of reflective loneliness and beauty.
N: buying a new piano and re-recording the song sounds very determined! and judging by the end result it was worth it! i am interested in your song kursk can you tell me more about it, like if it relates to russia at all? what was your inspiration or message?
Shima: Yes. But originally the idea grew out of listening to some heavy music, metal etc. and looking at the power of noise. The Young Gods, Nine Inch Nails, Bailter Space to name some good loud noise bands, were among what I was listening to. I thought it was time for a Shima heavy noise track and set about recording Kursk. My very good friend, producer and design artist, John Pitcairn, played the noisy guitar with three overdubs and he mixed the track for maximum effect, which was done beautifully. It sounds like an impending disaster, which is why I named it Kursk, after the Russian nuclear submarine disaster, which is now being seen as not an accident, but a torpedo strike from a US sub monitoring the Kursk in the Berants Sea. It could have turned into not only a nuclear catastrophe, but also another war. It fits right into the concept of a world without music.
N: interesting perception of the power of noise. can you tell me about twenty-nine years and your interest in saturn?
Shima: It came about through discovering the Cassini spaceship images of Saturn on the net and being enthralled in their other-worldliness. When I started thinking about cover art for the album I returned back to these images and wrote to the Cassini imaging team who said I could use their photographs so long as they were credited and links provided etcetera. So of course I did. Six images were used for six alternative covers and I’ve continued to use them on my websites as well.
The track Twenty-nine Years is how long Saturn takes to complete one orbit of the sun. It has the feeling of bigness to it and movement, so I once again used the Cassini images for the video montage. I should add there’s some irony to this as well, because Saturn is considered to be the musical planet in our solar system as each of its rings are named a,b,c,d,e,f,g after the musical scale.
images courtesy of NASA/JPL/SSI, thanks to the CICLOPS imaging team, ciclops.org
N: it is a wonderful album cover! saturn is one of my favorite archetypes. the astrological significance of the 29 year orbit represents a return of developing maturity and adulthood; ‘saturn return’ . do any of your other tracks relate to saturn or just this one?
Shima: While making this I was reading a book called Music of the Spheres, by Jamie James. He talks about a wonderful idea that has existed at least for 2500 years that the universe has some kind of musical harmony. Along with this idea is how the planets of this solar system emit musical notes beyond the range of the human ear. The Greek philosopher, mathematician and mystic, Pythagoras, seems to have been the originator of this and was able to use his mathematical genius to devise the musical scale apparently in harmony with the planets. Certainly the ratios of harmony enabled him to calculate the ratios of distance the planets were from the Sun and the Earth. So it was with this idea that I was using planetary themes, certainly with the cover but in the music as well. The track Distance which opens the album is about leaving Earth and coming back again, while Magnetism is about human attraction and the magnetic effect of the Moon.
N: i like the impersonal element of leaving the earth then coming back again and also the personal element of human magnetism in relation to the moon. do these tracks have any correlation with a world without music?
Shima: Oh, I thought you were going to ask me about the music of the Sufi and its relationship to Pythagorean scales.
The concept of a world without music for me includes these ideas you’ve picked up on. A friend of mine wrote to me with his impressions of the work and he said that although the music does convey a dark dystopia he also found within it humour and the human spirit forever coming through as if this is what will endure. He picked up on something very interesting I think.
N: wow! yes, please continue with the pythagorean scales and its relations to the sufi…sounds very interesting, including what your friend picked up on!
Shima: My friend Cameron sent me the following: “The first thing that struck me was the title. I’ve always been fascinated by different ideas of ‘dystopia’ and what could be more dystopian than a world without music? What would that mean? What would that kind of world be like? I was curious to find out… this is my own perception, but I get the sense that you’re telling a story throughout this… the darkness of some of the tracks gives way to music bubbling out of the most unexpected and unpredictable places, breaking free from some kind of enormous suppression, unstoppable despite any authority’s best efforts… with a sort of laughing eccentricity… that’s what I hear. It’s sort of like music emerges from everywhere and anywhere and I found myself chuckling at times because I was continually surprised at what came next… while there is a lot that is dark and, yes, dystopian (in a very atmospheric way) a lot of the music seems to be rebellious, but in a sort of ‘cheeky’, totally unserious way. That’s what I love the most about it. It actually sort of tells the story of the impossibility of any world like that… and how music goes on being created…”
I think he picked up on many layers the music conveys. As I mentioned, I was reading about Pythagoras and his scales of perfect intervals, thus the octave, the fifth, fourth and so on. The mathematics and sciences of the Greeks were kept alive in the Islamic world during the dark ages which is how the mystic Sufi got onto it as well. Music is integral to their faith and they talk of the perfect balance of sound and its power. They see it as a force akin to the spirit.
The Sufi mystic, Hazrat Inayat Khan, wrote in his book The Mysticism of Sound and Music: “Our sense of music, our attraction to music, shows that music is in the depth of our being. Music is behind the working of the whole universe. Music is not life’s greatest object, but music is life itself.”
These are beautiful ideas and I’m inspired by them. Most cultures, including the current Western scientific age look to the stars for answers to existence and speculate on how things began. The idea that stars and planets have some kind of musical order is echoed throughout time by different cultures. My track Chronia incorporates the Druid idea that night is older than day as they too mapped the stars in sophisticated ways and celebrated their beliefs through music and dance.
N: the name ‘thousand eggs’ sounds intriguing, including the music and the music video. what was the inspiration for doing the song? what are the words used? and can you say something about the music video?
Shima: Finding titles for music is always an interesting process and what I often do is make notes of interesting words or phrases I read in books. This one was from the Roberto Bolano book 2666. But it did also inspire me to write lyrics for this track:
She laid a thousand eggs
Pearls in an ocean of time
I found one and gave it to you.
Are things still the same?
Drifting in an ocean of time
Winding forward to now.
Memories of our past
Watch as we drift apart.
Black never turning white
Will I always stay?
Dreaming of another past
Right when I’m always wrong
Rescue me tonight.
Black never turning white
Rescue me tonight.
The images I chose to put with this were taken from a wonderful film “Farwell” by Ditteke Mensink about the Graf Zeppelin flight around the world in 1929 . Her film documents this interesting voyage from the dairy of journalist Lady Grace Drummond-Hay who previously was having an affair with another of the journalists also on board. So there was this relationship tension played out against this vast backdrop.
Using this film for the music was my interpretation of the steampunk idea of a reinvented past to a surreal romantic age that exists in our imagination.