Issue 2 Volume 1
From Greece and Anatolia to Edmonton
by Loreena McKennitt
July 15th, 2005
Well, “the view from here” is technically similar to the last View From Here I wrote for this website in September of last year, except it is now June, 2005 and much has moved on since then.
The summer solstice is only a few days behind us now and these southern Ontario nights have been blessed with a full moon in the sky, lighting the darkness with an eerie blue shade and hanging at the lowest level since the 1980s, flooding my bedroom with the most delicious light.
Probably the main item of interest to most of you, however, is that “the train has finally left the station” as far as the next recording is concerned. Although this train has made a number of forays over the past couple of years, in fits and starts of research from the Anatolian plains in Turkey via Greece, Mongolia and China, we are finally starting the recording process this summer.
In February, while passing through London, I attended a delightful exhibition called Turks: A Journey of a Thousand Years 600 – 1600. I was mesmerized by the depth and breadth of the visual feast embodied in the presentation of clothes and artifacts: the textures, the array of cultural and historical threads fanning out over generations and over great swathes of geographical territory.
There were the Uighurs, a Turkish group dating back over a thousand years in what is now northwest China, and whom I encountered when visiting the museum exhibition of the mummies of Urumchi in China in 2002, to Mehmet II who was responsible for ushering in a period of religious tolerance and cultural renaissance around 1453, mere years before such a period of tolerance would end in Spain and the Inquisition would begin.
Later in the spring I have made a few forays to Greece. The first trip was a return, for me, to the island of Chios, around the time of Orthodox Easter. Nestled away in a delightful garden house amongst the orange grove in full intoxicating bloom, surrounded with my books and musical bits and pieces, I delved deeper into the Greek-Turkish Celtic connection. A mere stone’s throw from Chios was Turkey and the city of Izmir (Smyrna).
I read, slept, went for long walks amongst the rabbit warren of old Genoese estates, listened to Homer’s Odyssey and ended up on my own odyssey of sorts after getting hopelessly lost, had delightful breakfasts on the patio of the bed and breakfast I was staying at, surrounded by a company of cats and one dog, ever hopeful for some delicious treat.
As I gazed out onto the wonderfully ancient hills, I wondered about the state of the known world at the time that the Celts had begun making forays into Greece. In the quest of exploring that question, I would graze through a selection of books that included:
1. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill
I was surprised to learn that there are those who believe Homer actually lived on the island of Chios at one point and I felt chuffed that I was right there while reading about him.
2. Life Along the Silk Road by Susan Whitfield
My friend and photographer Demetris regaled me with stories about his father raising silk worms being raised on the island of Chios…
3. Portrait of A Turkish Family by Irfan Orga
A most moving personal account of a prosperous Turkish family around the time of the Second World War.
4. Antiquity : From the Birth of Sumerian Civilization to the Fall of the Roman Empire by Norman F. Cantor
5. Alexander: Child of a Dream by Valerio Massimo Manfredi
6. The Celts: A History by Raithi O Hogain
The audio books that accompanied me on my rambles were Desire of the Everlasting Hills, read and written by Thomas Cahill, and a CBC recording of a radio series delving into “The Great Book” as discussed by Bruce Meyer and Michael Enright. Accompanying this was a companion book based on that radio series called The Great Books.
I returned home after an intense infusion of literary stimuli and started brewing the music. About a month later I returned to Athens to work on some of those musical ideas with a complement of Greece’s most proficient and established of musicians. Accompanied by my longtime work colleague Brian Hughes, we worked away for a few solid days in the very homey and hospitable studio of the fine composer /musicians Evanthia and Panayotis.
And, in just a few days we will begin to finally lay down the musical culmination of these motley explorations.
Around this creative exercise, there is much going on with the infrastructure at my label Quinlan Road. As most of you will know, the music industry and all that comes with it has changed drastically and we are attending to many internal matters to ensure the “delivery” systems are conducive to the times and your desire to acquire the music while being viable. It is a daunting task, to be sure, but more on all of that at a later time.
Essentially, I wanted to give folks a little update to let you know where we are at and what I am researching in preparation for the recording. It is always a mystery to me to know – after all the research – how much of that actually appears in the songs, and it is always a challenge to tell the full story in the limitations of what liner notes can offer. We will see. It is all an act of humility and mystery, without doubt.
By the way, I have invited various friends and colleagues who are connected to my interests and passions to prepare their own View From Here in the coming months, so please stop back and check them out – beginning, very soon, with a contribution from the great traveller and acclaimed travel writer William Dalrymple. Pieces to come may be discursions on anything from why CDs cost what they do, to what it is like to be a crew member on the road, to the place where the Slow Food movement meets the environment and the importance of agriculture. In the meantime I will try to keep you posted.
I’m looking forward to seeing those of you who can make it to the Edmonton Folk Festival where I will be performing in the beginning of August. It will be great fun – laced with a little trepidation for me – and it will be great to test out a bit of the new material if it’s ready.
Happy and safe travels.