At the beginning of 2018 I commenced post graduate study at the Griffith University in their Doctorate of Musical Arts program. What I present below is a reflective account of my personal journey with music, available for any who may be interested but also aiding the reflexive component of my research. As such this is deeply personal and at times sensitive. Please read with this in mind if you so desire. Sincerely, PW.
While at boarding school I developed the habit of sleeping as close to the wall as I could, finding perceived shelter in the illusion that that created. It was almost like I was in a cave! My time at boarding school was possibly no more difficult than my time at standard schooling had been except that now school never stopped. Now there was no escape from the treacherous landscape of school aged social life. I am not blaming anybody, just illustrating an all too familiar case of the child that doesn’t ever crack the puzzle of how to ‘fit in’. At the age of 15 or 16 I discovered instrumental fusion music, particularly the music of Weather Report. In the orchestrations and production values of albums like ‘Weather Report’ (1982) I entered soundscapes that I vividly experienced as hallucinated landscapes as I drifted off to sleep. I would later discover that this is called synaesthesia and while I never experienced chromesthesia I consistently experienced hallucinations associated with textures and orchestrations.
These episodes are hard to explain. They seem to require the brain activity present as one drifts from alpha waves to theta brain waves into sleep. Basically I see textures in vivid detail associated to the textures and/or harmonies in the music. So a sine wave or solo flute may invoke something akin to vinyl while a saw tooth wave synth or rich harmonic structures would invoke a visualisation akin to thick, fluffy woollen carpet. It’s hard to really be sure if the textures and/or timbres were being visualised independent of harmonic correlations because the two are overlapping and interactive. It is only now, looking back that I realise the experience I had, and continue to have in the experience of this music is something of structure, of shelter. It was a similar feeling to what sleeping close to the wall gave me except that now it was truly enveloping and most conveniently it was mobile. I listened to music constantly. I would sneak my cassette playing Sony Walkman into class and recline into the shelter of structured sound while the insane world around me continued on its impenetrably mystical (to me) way.
In that warm shield of music I was (and am) protected. I am in the moment, I am present. I am no outsider, I am harmoniously at one with my universe. I am creator and creation. The structure of this surround is no analogy, it is a very real physicality. The structure of musical sound is as real to me as the physical structures that have sheltered me throughout my life.
I have had some close brushes with chaos. One incident in particular stands out from my youth. Without going into detail I was celebrating graduation from high school and having had little exposure to alcohol I foolishly drank too much. I stumbled off into the darkness of a gold coast beach and promptly lost consciousness. Things were bad and about to get much worse when by the grace of the Universe a stranger walking past saw that I was in trouble. They could see that what was happening was not harmonious. They carried me from dissonance. Shelter, structure, harmony.