Jay's Musical Notes


15 December 2015. It was a very emotional day for many. We saw the tears flowing from the eyes of our leaders and from the hearts of the indigenous people in the room with them. Canadian Supreme Court Justice Murray Sinclair, an Indigenous leader, presented the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The focus was particularly on church-run residential schools but we all knew it was a much broader indictment of Canadian society, both in the past and today. I shed tears that day, too. I know we have to remember and never forget if we are to change the relationship between Indigenous people and settlers for the better.

I had a number of images that day. One was a memory of Indigenous people and settlers dancing together at a Pow Wow I attended years ago beside the Grand River. May we all work together so that all our children grow up in a better world.      

"Never Go Home Again" 

Many novels, biographies, movies and documentary literature point to a common experience. As children we ache to grow up, to get older because the freedom we see in our future is so attractive and compelling. But, as is often said, freedom has a price. We don't always know what that price will be, what we may lose, what we may regret until we have stepped through that door. Sometimes, there is no going back. We can't un-see what we've seen. We can't un-hear what we've heard. And we can't believe what we know in our hearts isn't true. The price for this freedom can be steep. We may lose the love that has nourished us, the certainty that reassures us and the righteous and clear path laid out before us. Where we once gleaned all the answers now we find very few. Where once we were surrounded and bolstered by like-minded companions and teachers now we must take a lonelier road. It's hard work. And our old world still calls us to come back as if we could simply discard our new found convictions. It's a call to come home but we know we can never really return.

Still Have Something to Say 

For as long as I can remember, the best music, the music that I reacted to, that I liked most, had something to say to me. Everything from simple love songs when I was an early teen to rousing anthems of the social justice movements over the decades became songs I remembered without even trying because they spoke to me. Something in me resonated with the depth of feeling expressed by the words and the melodies, the rhythms and the harmonies. If a music teacher in school tried to teach us a song about fox hunting in England in the 1800s or about the merry, merry month of May, I couldn't wait for it to be over. There was nothing there for me. But when society was in an upheaval and I was waking up to what was around me, "The Times They Are a Changin"' spoke so loudly to me. Even all the gospel songs that were constantly around me in my childhood about sin and hell, salvation and heaven meant a lot to me then because of my strong childhood beliefs.

Today, I have a little different perspective on a few things. I've experienced my share of living and learning, seeing and believing, holding on and making changes. Different things are more important to me now than in the past so I feel the urge to express myself differently today. I remember how important the words and the feelings in so many songs were to me over the years. Someone else's expression in those songs meant something to me and helped me get to know myself. I wasn't alone if someone else said what I thought, felt what I felt, reached out to me through the speakers to connect our hearts and minds.

Human beings need empathy, crave connection and seek out solidarity. Or, in the words of Ringo Starr, "Peace and Loov. Peace and Loov." I'd like my words and music to reach out to someone, to let them know I feel what they feel, to offer connection, to point to courage and compassion, to validate pain and suffering, to create hope and healing and to share our joy and tears. Peace and Loov. Peace and Loov.

What's It All About, Alfie? 

Choosing a title for an album like "Time Flies" should be no surprise for anyone who knows what it's like to get through most of a lifetime and, if they're lucky, get a chance to say something about it. I'm still here and I'm that lucky. 

Someone once said something like songwriting is poetry that has been forced into a girdle. What you communicate in a song comes through in the rhythm, the beat, the tempo, the melody, the structure so the words you choose need to fit those elements. When someone asks, "What comes first, the words or the music?" I say, "Neither." The words and the music are like the mind and the body - they are not separate and they cannot exist without the other. A song needs all of you to create it, to sing it, to hear it and to feel it.