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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
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:
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
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
"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
Arts Dialogue, Dintel 20, NL 7333 MC, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands