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Jeremy Martin   singer, songwriter, musician, New Zealand.

Jeremy Martin, 1999.


At present I am working as a soloist, singing and playing acoustic guitar. My style has developed in such a way that I work more with vocal rather than instrumental improvisation. The songs on my latest album are concise recordings of the material in my songs, but my live performances develop the improvisational moment more, with the audience.

One way that my songs come to me is by my crafting a particular moment, story or image into song, a process that can mean months of development. One example of this process is my Dream Song. In 1998, while working on my previous album, I set about writing a song cycle. I wanted each song to stand in its own right, and the progression of songs to have meaning as well.

I used an arbitrary modulation scheme, with each song alluding to the musical ideas of the previous and following songs, to give a subconscious sense of connectedness within the whole cycle. Some melodic themes also appear in different guises throughout the cycle. The cycle moved through group experience, to personal experience, then spiritual, mythical and transpersonal experience and finally returning to the group, community and family. What resulted was a piece of music that was performed by an ensemble called Shore, comprising flute, violin, cello, guitar, voice and percussion.

The centre piece of the cycle is the "Dream Song", which encompasses the modulation scheme of the cycle, and is about the realisation of our innate truth, and the discovery of belonging and individuality. I deliberately chose a mythical setting and style to open the tale to people of many backgrounds, because I believe that myth enables us to access different parts of our selves, our deeper, historical self, our timelessness - like the Australian Aboriginal concept of "dreaming". The story itself is about a boy, who symbolises the need for the development of masculine roles that enable men to rise above patriarchal stigma and show honour and love as spiritual beings and human beings.

Some the song's lines, which develop the character of the boy are:
"He kicks his feet and dives down deep and he comes up with his mouth full of water, squirts it out through a gap in his teeth". This is his playful free spirit. In "Sadly the boy takes his place, there are only two seats at the table", the boy is moved by the absence of his father, the symbol and role model of his masculinity. His father is absent, lost, presumed drowned while fulfilling the selfless task of providing for his family...
"Without thinking he breathes deep and sounds beneath the waves, where his senses lead him down, he grabs hold of a man in his mighty jaws and carries him safely ashore". Here the young boy, who has become a whale, symbolising his true self, rescues a drowning fisherman, the symbol of his father and of the masculine provider. The boy is also expressing his compassion for his heritage. The boy returns the fisherman to where he has come from and continues on his way, to be with his own kind, a pod of whales.

The music developed from my playing with a harmonic idea on my guitar and developing a melodic theme from the words "He kicked his feet and dived down deep and came up with a mouthful of water, squirted out through a gap in his teeth". The whole cycle was composed simultaneously, each song feeding each other. It arose from conception to performance over about five months.

..."Walking with Thor" is about a young boy who was the son of a friend. The city of Christchurch is beside a volcanic crater Te Whanga Raupo. Te Whanga Raupo translates as 'The resting bullrushes'. This crater forms a peninsula and is the site of the largest sea port on the island. One day I went for a walk with my friends for a short distance around the rim of this crater. While descending back to the car, this young boy Thor, who I didn't know very well, insisted on holding my hand all the way down. I was deeply touched by this; he needed some security and he reached out for it and I found myself feeling a great sense of responsibility and willingness to be completely available for him, as a man. We played and at one point, where he became frightened by a precarious section of path, I was able to be with him while he overcame his fear.

Earlier this year he died in a house fire, and my immediate response was this song. It is a celebration of the day together, and of his divineness, using his given name, Thor, as a metaphor, Thor being a mythical god. The lyrics are conceived in a poetic sense: "Now he can walk with the gods, like he always did" means that now he is dead, his divine spirit is united with the universal spirit, and because of his name, Thor, he has always been a god. In "he's resting in the raupo", the word "resting" refers to death, and also it is a play on the name Te Whanga Raupo. A magical moment for me was to discover after writing these words that Thor is buried in a cemetery on Raupo Street. Once again my words weave for me a tapestry that continues to unfold meaning and surprises. I don't expect anyone to extract my own personal meaning from my songs but I do believe that their richness to me enriches my performance of them. It is this richness of expression that an audience can more fully participate in. I also hope that my writing is open enough for people to find themselves in it in some way.

The next step in writing is performing new material. I usually perform a song as soon as it has a minimum of 'form'. This helps me to shape the work and gives it the life of the audience and my own experience. Currently a focus for me is the compromise between artistic honesty to myself, and the musical realities of reaching an audience. What do I want and need to say through my music? Do people want or need to hear this? I find that returning to the street and busking reminds me of performance as an act of service. Music is a form that I love, and I both share this love and passion for performance, and feel a professional need to make what I have to offer marketable.

I remember listening to the Beetles, "All You Need Is Love", as a boy and feeling uplifted with joy, playing it over and over again. I sang in the school choir of a small town until I was the only boy doing it. I didn't start playing guitar until I was 19 and played for a number of years in alternative guitar bands. I toured New Zealand with one group and finally felt that I'd had enough of that scene. A personal crisis in my mid-twenties made me look inwards; it was at this time that my passion for vocal expression began to emerge again. I had not really sung since I was at intermediate school. I have gone through a process of overcoming a lot of performance anxiety, to bring myself more fully to the stage and share my passion. I hope that my music is uplifting and that people find it soulful, because this is my experience of performing it. I feel that it is important to step onto the stage with emotional honesty and, rather than always looking to the lighter side of life, partying and forgetting about the harder things, I like to encompass the whole breadth of life experience, and see everything as having value and spirit.

The song "Don't Need To Pretend" talks about the reality of pain, sadness and despair...
"Ten thousand years some have still got their pride" expresses the fact that some people hold onto the depth of their heritage as a way of keeping their head held high. Pride can mean honour and love, it can also be foolish. This line can be read as both honouring and judging pride. "These are my eyes and they burn with a fire, ten thousand seconds and the flames just burn higher" refers to fire in the eyes, passion, passion that grows with life and experience, fire the destroyer, anger, desperation. The words speak of the trials of the spirit. "These are my feet and they hurt from walking, ten thousand footsteps there's some things beyond talking". Life is a journey, I can stop and rest my feet but they itch again for the road. Life is in the living of it, action speaks louder than words: "there's some things beyond talking". This song delivered itself in the way that "Glacier Bay" did, and within its simplicity it continues to reveal levels of meaning to me. It is a song that calls up my vocal passion and fire, and I enjoy improvising with this theme.

The song, "Eye of the Storm", also called "Like The Spheres", is the oldest musical idea on the CD. Composed about three years ago, the words are an unedited journal entry. It is about my spiritual centre in the turmoil of human existence. This song evokes the calm, the eye of the storm. The title refers to the divine music of the spheres, the resonance of all things with all others on at least one level.

My lyrics develop through an organic process of keeping a lyric journal, and then distilling the essence from this. This process of distilling reflects where I am in my life's journey at the time. I like to call on cliched phrases like 'close to the bone', which carry meaning already. More and more I find myself bringing in sentences from conversations, which feel poetic and carry several layers of meaning. I like words to paint pictures and to be open enough for people to find themselves in them. I also enjoy the poetry of everyday language and seldom strive to be clever. Rather, I prefer to look for honesty and openness, words that don't define a reality, but invite people to create for themselves, to see their own meanings.

I made a CD for promotional purposes and to make money. I also find that until material is recorded, I carry it very close to me, like a baby. Part of the process of letting it go into the world is recording. It grows up and finds a place of its own that I then need to accept and support. This brings me to learn more about my place, and how I present myself artistically in the world. I am now freed up to write more songs, and already have many new works in progress.

I am marketing mostly by word of mouth, and selling at my performances. All the expenses for the project have come from my own pocket, funded by performing and from cafe work and some acting work. I am a member of the Christchurch Playback Theatre Company.

My CD can be bought through mail order for NZ$30 including postage, from Jeremy Martin, Singer Songwriter, P.O. Box 4097, Christchurch 8001, New Zealand.


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