Intro/Lion of Rock
One of my favorite sounds is that swell of an orchestra tuning itself before a performance. As the individual instruments ring out in their own mildly improvised chaos, a single whole emerges. The sound of individuals becoming a collective. It’s a sound that creates a sense of expectation in the audience. It's the inhalation before the first note is sung. The rolling in of the clouds before the thunderstorm.
That's sort of the effect I was expounding on in scoring this introduction piece. Musically, Intro/Lion of Rock has an enormous amount of textures. In fact, the ProTools sessions had more tracks than our mix engineer, Adam Hawkins had ever seen. (upwards of 160) While I felt bad and even a little embarrassed giving him such a huge session (that's a lot of work to mix), each texture felt important to me for the big picture of this piece which seeks to echo the big picture of reality! Strings and brass and winds and electronics, and it’s all part of this one thing. This is, after all, the driving idea of “One Wild Life.” All the variance and chaos and spirit and flesh and bones are just expressions and perspectives of a single unified reality. So in that respect, 160 tracks is quite conservative actually. ;-)
This introduction is the incoming of the tide to be examined and considered in Lion of Rock. It is the warming up of all of the voices that will soon begin to sing.
Lion of Rock was written from an experience that I had in New Zealand. We were playing a festival and on our day off, we went to this beautiful black sand beach. I climbed this large rock that looked sort of like a lion. As I sat on this 'lion of rock’, it was as if I saw the whole earth around me swirling in one unified reality. Shadows of billowing clouds over the sand. The wind blowing the sand in wisps over the crashing waves. People on the beach running and playing, and the whole thing just looked like this one single, breathing organism. And I realized, maybe that's kind of what it is. It's all connected. It's all one unified and beautiful reality with a single Essence at its center. That great homesickness that we cannot shake off (thanks to Rilke for the imagery in the second verse). Maybe learning to be okay with both the inhalation and the exhalation of it all is part of what it means to live a full life. Maybe love is (like Richard Rohr says) just saying yes to all of it. If we see the connectedness and grandeur of Reality, I believe we begin to see what a grand and noble thing it is to be a human being in this marvelous universe, giving it eyes to see itself with.
About two years ago I went to a silent retreat in Sacramento CA. They ask you to be silent to give space for reflection, prayer, meditation – our lives are so full of noise, it feels strange at first to embrace silence.
After four days of letting my mind rest, I walked up a hill before the sun rose. I could see deep clouds gathering in the distance, all rolling in together like a great oceans wave; wind bringing in the smell of rain. In dim light I could see cows and sheep sleeping on hills. Houses with inhabitants still tucked inside, not yet woken by the day.
I sat there in the dim light for an hour, then, slowly, I saw shimmering orange and yellow peaking over the farthest stretch of earth. It gently crept over mountains, seeping into valleys like water spilling in slow motion. It found its way to the cows and sheep and crept onto houses one by one. As the light crawled, it all began to awake.
And I had this realization – everything was giving and taking.
The cows I could see in the distance, the trees, flowers and grass and the breath I was breathing. Everything I saw was both giving and taking something from the earth – chickens giving eggs and taking grain, cows giving milk and taking grass, trees taking water and giving shade, removing and storing carbon while giving oxygen back into the air. Me - working each day to hopefully give something good to humanity, give something good to the earth, building and creating. But I’m also taking, I’m taking the fruit, the vegetables, eggs, taking all sort of elements from the land, emitting radiation and carbon dioxide and pollution. All in the same breath. All of the life I saw coming from the ground would return to the ground and supply more life. Dust to dust. Life to life.
It wasn’t tragic - the thought of death in order to bring about life. It was poetic, balanced, everything having it’s place, everything giving and taking in turn…”grace in it all.” And there was beauty in it, the birth, the life, and the death - all working in tandem with each other like an elaborate symphony.