Loreena McKennitt - No journey's end
"This 30-minute documentary film (...) uses Loreena McKennitt's own words and music to highlight the influences behind albums such as The Visit and the mask and mirror. Includes segments of live performances of 'Santiago', 'The dark night of the soul' and 'The Lady of Shalott', and an excerpt from the promotional video clip for 'The bonny swans'."
Transcript of the 'interview' (without an interviewer) on the video No Journey's End (1996) of Loreena McKennitt, as printed in the booklet that comes along with the video (text in italics is from me):
I would like to say that I am a pilgrim like anyone else is a pilgrim, in the sense that we use our tools, our skills to make our way through this life and try to make the sense of it the best that we can. When I am able to stand back and look what I am doing, I am definitely using my career and my talents as a vehicle of exploring, in one sense, many things and subjects that are of interest to me and, I suppose, more than just a deep fascination. I wonder, how does the world go around? What makes us tick? It's wonderful to be able to use my music, my travel and research to explore these questions.
So when I take that back to my music and what I am doing with my recordings, my recordings become more like a travelogue; they become a document of my path of exploration.
I've had a very difficult time coming up with the answer to the question of how to categorise my music. I thinks it's largely because the influences are quite diverse. People ask me how it is that I got involved with Celtic music, coming from Canada, and my response is that in Canada we live in a very multi-cultural society now. It's a country what has a lot of immigrants from all over the world. So in that sense, I suppose one could call my music ... "world music"!
A sense of journey, I suppose, has been a major part of what I do, but in different ways and at different times. When I got interested in Celtic music, my first major trip was to come to Ireland and to track it down in its various indigenous forms. But again, at that point it time, I was just following something that really fascinated me, but I wasn't really aware of myself on a quest, as it were.
I had, through my research, discovered that the Celts were much more than just this mad collection of anarchists from Scotland and Ireland and so on. They were actually a motley collection of tribes that emanated from middle and eastern Europe as far back as 500 BC, and throughout the course of centuries - and with a good deal of encouragement from the Romans, you might say! - were thrust to the western margins of Europe.
There was a piece that we've been performing for several years called "The Bonny Swans". It's a great, metaphorical kind of fable and the song was also inspired by a wonderful book I have travelled with for several years base on the Unicorn Tapestries, and the metaphors and the iconography woven into these tapestries. Elements that tap into very pre-Christian elements that had a lot to do with nature and the natural world.
The Celts didn't make a large distinction between this world and the next, and it is certainly a great example of that idea. A story where a young sister is drowned by an older sister, and becomes transformed into a swan (which in the Middle Ages wa a symbol of death) and then in turn becomes transformed into a harp, and the harp is brought to her father's hall.
I quickly learned when I was studying a bit of Spanish history that (medieval) Spain had comprised three religious communities: the Christian and Judaic, and then the Islamic, in the Moorish community. I learned that Spain in those years, for example, heavily influenced the way our western civilisation developed in the areas of agriculture and architecture and literature. On the subject of literature, for example, tit appears that the Arthurian legends may have been influenced by poetry that came from the north of Africa via Spain through the Moorish community.
As I researched the material on this project, I discovered that people do reveal or conceal themselves to and with each other in different ways, and certainly in the area of religion and spirituality.
"The Dark Night Of The Soul" is a poem by a fifteenth-century Spanish mystic called St. John of the Cross, who in turn was very strongly influenced by another mystic of the period called Theresa of Avila, who came from a more Judaic background. And St. John of the Cross was very influenced by that very direct approach to God, in which there was no intermediary.
This poem, in a very beautiful and very sensual way, explored this very direct relationship of the human species with that essence called God.
With my last recording, "the mask and mirror", the inspiration began in the north-west corner of Spain in Galicia. It is a very Celtic corner of the country, particularly in a city called Santiago de Compostella, which was a pilgrimage site for people in the Middle Ages. It was on a par with Jerusalem, for example. People came from various corners of Europe down through the south of France and over to this shrine, and they became like bees carrying the pollen of those influences as they went back to their homes elsewhere in Europe. So to highlight that point, I was drawn to a piece of music that actually comes from that period. We simply called it "Santiago" (instrumental).
I also went to Morocco, and spent about two weeks there during the tine of Ramadan. Because it was a time of fasting during the day, the night was a time of great celebration. In the market, there were all sorts of festivals; in fact, there were actually circles in the market, and each circle encompassed people who were telling their own particular dreams, of snake charmers, of a fellow with a monkey on his shoulder, and there were musicians as well. It was quite fascinating; I'd never learned anything about Islamic cultures before. ("Marrakesh Night Market")
I've always tried to infuse different perspectives into my music, and so I subsequently go to other writers. I've used the poems of W.B. Yeats, and Shakespeare, and William Blake.
"The Two Trees" is actually a W.B. Yeats poem that I set to music. I also thought that it was quite fitting from the Celtic point of view that he would draw on the symbolism and the imagery of trees. I felt that after the whole journey of exploring the question of "what is religion, and what is spirituality?" that Yeats' sentiment of looking into one's own self for goodness was a very comforting one.
I've a belief that voice is the instrument of instruments in so fat as it is connected to the human being, and it has a great range of articulating and expressing ideas and feelings.
The Sufis have an expression of "polishing the mirror of your soul", and perhaps my voice becomes that polishing aspect: that it is a vehicle of expressing things in a very primal and instinctive way, and I think that that is part of the strength of what I do. You try not to have any barriers. You've opened your soul; you've opened yourself up.
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