It is impossible for me to write poetry without the assistance of certain artists and musicians.
Although I am not a fan of listening to music with lyrics while writing (the equivalent of thinking your own thoughts while hearing the mess of others), I find the touch of piano, neo-classical, and ambient music to be subtle and necessary for the artistic process, especially for my disposition.
There is certainly something to be said about the power of silence, though, and I think it is important we acknowledge what is actually in our experience without the fillers, for many of us are ignoring the silence, and doing what we can to stay away from it.
But as a poet, I cannot help but float to other places, and I have found certain music extremely useful when sparking my imagination and setting it free to discover what will be, and what is yet to come.
In fact, I do not remember the last time I sat down to write a poem without listening to some form of neo-classical music, so I want to share with you the musicians and artists who have taken me to the edge of my imagination, where certain figures, images, and symbols have sparked frightening and equally intimate realizations.
There is nothing quite like the feeling of putting a few words on paper, turning away from them, and then reading them again, only to find them more alive and thick with the breath of God—a God we are yet to become familiar with but who incessantly lurks within us nonetheless; a God who is unspeakable, and yet, knowable through our deepest feelings.
There have been countless occasions where I have come into contact with a potential inside of me that is yet to manifest, and yet, I feel and know it so deeply. It is here already but has not yet come out to play. When I write, that force points to who I really am behind the small self, with all its neuroses and habitual patterns.
It is, as Kabir said, the breath inside the breath, or, as I like to think of it, the place we are in that is becoming in time and space.
I don’t know if I would have been able to do this without the assistance of these musicians. Here are my favorite artists to listen to while writing:
1. Frederico Albanese
When I first heard this man’s music, I felt like I was walking into a purple mist, and images of my childhood sprang up. Simple things, like doors and hallways, roamed through my imagination, took on a supernatural element, invited me in for tea. There I remained and still remain, as my pen strokes across the page—reminding me of the true passion and journey of being a mystic.
2. Otto Totland
Melancholic, wide, and spacious, Otto Totland’s modern compositional elements are sure to leave you a little airy. His music is as haunting as it is inspiring. Sometimes, you will hear the creak of an old wooden floor, a breath, or a sigh of relief that leads to an unknown passageway where you must walk, face your demons, and say something true.
3. Jackson Mullane
I am fortunate to know Jackson. He is a good friend of mine, and recently, he released a video that displayed dancers from all around the world moving to his song, “Into The Abyss.” The video is nothing short of stunning, and it is a clear display of how human beings from all over the world can connect to music and dance, regardless of race, gender, or nationality.
Jackson himself is an extremely deep and intuitive soul, who has gone through a fair share of different lifetimes. From being a rugby player to an Australian Gladiator, and now, a classical musician, you can hear the journey he has gone through in his music. You can hear the artist’s journey, the depths of self-inquiry he has plunged into, and the otherwordly essence that haunts him every day.
(I am actually included in this video, 45 seconds in.)
4. Goldmund (Keith Kenniff)
Like Totland, Goldmund’s music is somewhat eery and haunting. His music can be categorized under post-classical piano music, but he also produces ambient/electronic music under the name Helios. Goldmund’s music is dynamic, serene, and minimal. I have often listened to it while meditating and contemplating. I suggest you do the same.
5. Nils Frahm
The first time I heard “Says,” I felt like I was falling through a hole that would not end. And when I listened to it again, this time sitting on a bench at a park, I watched the world flicker past me. I saw deep and undeniable meaning in an interaction between a mother and daughter. The laughs of the daughter carried a melancholy message—one that reminded me how impermanent this life thing is, but how magnificently beautiful it is at the same time.
If you have music to recommend, please do comment below.