Sunday, December 26, 2010
MPL Music Review: Touch of Winter: 10 Journeys Through White Magick
Viewers of the Mooresville Public Library (MPL) YouTube Channel are familiar with the music of the library's composer, Daniel E. Buckley. Nearly one year ago, Danny released his CD entitled Touch of Winter: 10 Journeys Through White Magick (Archangel Productions, 2010), available for purchase through Shady Creek Station, an eBay seller. (The album may also be heard free-of-charge from the composer's website.) Given the unusually harsh December weather Indiana has been experiencing, which is, admittedly, tame compared with more northerly climates, it seemed appropriate to review this CD.
In its most basic form, Touch of Winter is a seasonal allegory. It reflects the perennial life cycle typical of temperate zones worldwide. But, as is true of great literature and music, there is so much more. Each listener may freely interpret its meanings, discerning personal, emotional significance as s/he finds it.
One may recognize the spiritual overtones that permeate the composer's ten journeys: the withdrawal of visible life as winter's embrace tightens upon the land; the dormancy, or sleep, of new, potential life; and the gradual rebirth of life as winter recedes. Rebirth is a principle religious theme, and risen deities such as Jesus Christ, Mithras, Osiris, Dionysus, Zalmoxis, Inanna (Ishtar), and Persephone are familiar names among Christians; ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Sumerians, and Persians; and the followers of the Eleusinian mysteries. Pagan faiths, as well as more modern philosophical systems, such as Transcendentalism and Theosophy, have long recognized the natural rebirth that follows seasons in the northerly and southerly latitudes. Spiritualism is fundamentally concerned with survival of bodily death and a continued, future life following a transitional period of rejuvenation. Reincarnation, or transmigration of the soul, which is the literal physical rebirth of the spirit following bodily death in a new body, is a central pillar of Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Neoplatonism, Spiritism, Rosicrucianism, Gnosticism, and Druidism, to name but a few. These concepts find a foothold in Touch of Winter, if one chooses to find them there. Of course, one may equally choose otherwise.
Although it is acceptable to interpret music through one's personal cognitive or emotional filters for one's own personal satisfaction, it is important not to superimpose one's interpretations upon the composer's work as an overall pronouncement of meaning for everyone. The composer invites you to enjoy his work, and he leaves its relative significance, if any, to his listeners to unveil. He believes in the transformative power of music, which is sufficient. There is much here for you to enjoy.
But an academic reviewer, particularly one who has listened to this album about 500 times (and never tires of a reprise), has to give some interpretive suggestion, so here goes. Readers, naturally, should feel free to claim what s/he likes, discarding any (or all) found wanting.
The music moves through the seasonal life cycle, alluding to the Roman goddess Diana, the deity of the hunt, whose life must withdraw through winter and become reborn with spring. The ten journeys begin with "I Am Winter," a declaration of the approaching end of cultivation. "White Magick" is an affirmation of the Wiccan trust that virtue (i.e., order, as exemplified by society's cornucopia and spiritual goodness) shall triumph over evil (disorder and corruption). "Yule" is celebratory of the grand harvests upon which human survival is dependent. "Ice Skating on Glass" reminds of the transitory nature of all seasons (and, by implication, all physical existence). "The Allure of Diana Under Pale Moonlight" emphasizes the attraction people feel for living a productive, satisfying, physical existence, reveling completely in the "now," when life's pleasures and enticements are in full bloom. "Moonlight Funeral (Diana's Final Breath)" shows life entering hibernation (i.e., the illusion of death) as it retreats before winter's onslaught. "Winter Sleeps" reiterates life's hibernation, rather than extinction, telling of approaching rebirth as spring warms the countryside. "Shadow Moon" reveals that death and rebirth are, like day and night and sun and moon, simply opposing sides of the same coin. "He Who Comes for My Soul" is an exuberant march, announcing that life returns (in spring) following the physical "death" of winter, although we must accompany "The Midnight Visitor," who guides the soul through this seasonal and spiritual passageway to salvation.
Is this what the composer meant? Almost certainly not; but each listener, especially academic ones, likes to discover the meanings that most resonate with his or her ideas and philosophies. The only certainty is that the composer wishes you to enjoy his music. That you may do effortlessly. It is as easy as your next breath.
Karl C. B. Muilliwey
MPL Readers' Advisory