Celtic Music for a
"New World Paradigm"

Music has the means to offer a major contribution to the shifting paradigms of our new era.

We are in the midst of the rising popularity of Celtic influenced music, which dares to express a new unfolding of inner feeling as an antidote for our unbalanced world. This feeling is contributing to a change in emphasis in current music industry trends.

Though the "Counter Culture" took off in the Sixties, it's been said that what happened then is almost insignificant when compared to the magnitude of the cultural movement now unfolding before our eyes, in the late 1990s, as we approach the turn of the millennium. Global communication technology is the leading facilitator. Digital technology has become necessary to the growth and expansion of intelligence. That's because communication multiplies the effect of cultural movements.

In The Global Brain (1995),  Peter Russell shows how biological evolution alone could not have given us the capacity for communication that we have available to us today:

"The image a society has of itself can play a crucial role in the shaping of its future. A positive vision is like the light at the end of the tunnel, which, even though dimly glimpsed, encourages us to step in that direction."
Peter Russell, 1995

When you think about it, from the very beginning "The New World" was populated by people who were forced by varying circumstances to immigrate: The Africans were sent to North America as slaves. The Celts were transported first to North America and then to Australia as indentured slaves and refugees from English oppression.

The well documented continuing movement of the Celtic people over the past hundreds of years is an excellent illustration of the making of history.

While it is hard to imagine what life might have been like in ancient times, we can trace the impact of history's making on the Celtic people through the vast research sources available today.

After William the Conqueror's incursions into Scotland with the 'Great Harrying of the North' in 1067, and Norman English incursions into Ireland from the late 12th century, these disinherited populations began to leave in large numbers. From the beginning of the 17th century many tens of thousands left with their defeated armies and made new lives on the Continent and in North and South America.

England's first expansion as an empire began with plantations in Ireland and Scotland. Forests were felled and rich agricultural lands were confiscated. Following Cromwell's expansion of the British Empire from the seventeenth century, thousands of men, women and children were transported to a life of indentured slavery throughout the eastern United States, and to the West Indies; the Virgin Islands, Jamaica and Montserrat.

The English land Lords exported Irish agricultural produce to England and the Continent while a million people were 'transported' and millions at home died of disease and starvation during the most devastating Irish famine of the mid-nineteenth century, effectively 'depopulating' Ireland under genocidal English expansionist policies.

Most of us make big changes in our lives only when forced by circumstances. These immigrants left their homelands only because they had to, but behold the wonders they have created in new cultural forms. Multicultural collaborations contribute immeasurably to advancements in science, technology and global communication. Cross-cultural pollination is an asset!

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National borders will not define communities of the future world.

For the most part, these people didn't arrive in tribal groups, but as individuals and small families. Longing for connection to the old country, they preserved their customs. Links to ethnic roots are intact in every one of those cultural groups. And we have a multi-layered, multi-cultural global network of connections -- a Global Village.

As boundaries crumble we may venture into many fields of traditional music to encounter local masters. Recent decades have seen musical form move through experiments and collaborations fused stylistically. We have been seeking and discovering the unfamiliar, integrating it and going the long way around to appreciate the familiar in ancient traditions.

A new world view is still being defined.

The scientific concept of a new "paradigm" has come into everyday use over the last few decades. A new point of view expands understanding of human potential: A visionary world view is the wand that makes dreams real.

New sensibilities are reflected in the way we live, our circle of friends and the work we choose to do. Contemporary trends in music are a direct reflection of this growth. Musicians and songwriters are sounding out the harmonics of a full life.

Music entrances and thrills.

The soul reveals itself through emotional gestures in music. New music technology makes it possible, as never before, to capture a sense of "the music of the spheres": Music is a kind of truth our bodies know -- rhythms and reflections of what we feel, even in silence, until we hear the voice of the muse in our heart's original song.

While creative impulses assert originality, musicians must know the cultural ethos of the music. It must be firmly implanted so that understanding can be used to create a new idea without losing or contradicting the character of the music. The roots must be there but we should not be bound to those roots. The aim is to find the mode that has survived in a traditional form while retaining its identity and improvising a new idea in the moment of play -- expressing a feeling to play in a certain way that liberates the music; a contemporary idea so subtle that it enhances the vitality of the music.

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Great artists are not easily categorized.

This may be the time to quit labeling. Fashion in music is as obsolete (or diverse) as fashion in apparel. Imperfect as they are, the new concepts of World Music and New Age Music have helped to free up the restrictive forms of older musical styles. Artists can experiment within a broader frame of reference to convey new feelings and messages to meet the needs of people who have travelled the world, read widely, tuned in to good filmmaking, good radio and TV programming, and learned to blend old and new.

Re-emerging Celtic culture is a natural model for newly emerging cultural sensibilities: A freedom movement which is buoyant and mystical. It's music entrances, e.g. as in the music of jigs and reels and the slow airs. Beat comes from the song: It can be a sound -- a motif every now and then -- contributing to the musical form or it can be silence.

Celtic music is spirited. Its vibrancy is improvised.

Sean O'Riada came to public notice during the 1960s in Ireland as a pioneer in the revival of ancient Celtic musical traditions. He was the first to give harmonic structure to the traditional melodies. Ceoltoirii Chualann, O'Riada experimental group, evolved to become the Chieftains, and led to many more musicial explorations melding of traditional forms with classical and popular styles.

Since first becoming a Free State in 1922 and then a republic in 1949, Ireland has seen tremendous progress in the reclamation of its language, literature, and music. A celebration of freedom is evident in the diversity of musical styles embraced as popular culture. For example, the annual Jazz festival in Cork is considered to be an important part of the European circuit for Jazz lovers. Today, Billboard's top 10 includes Irish musicians from Rock, World, and New Age music genres. There has been an explosion of Celtic compilation albums on mainstream labels. These are samplers from the tradition designed for people of Celtic heritage who are just beginning to discover the interest their heritage can bring to their lives.

Celtic culture is now front and center on the world stage.

A new voice of Celtic culture has reached the Diaspora: Celts as far-flung as Latin America, Africa, Australia, and the United States are reawakening to their ethnic heritage. Musicians in all these places have been performing traditional Celtic music for years. Most of the Australian folk songs were written to Irish or Scottish melodies. Hundreds of musicians, who play jazz, blues and classical music, also know and play the traditional Celtic repertoire. Many find value in playing Bach as well as Celtic music as part of their skill development.

The US, Canada, Australia, as well as England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Brittany, host Celtic Music Festivals which have become important gathering places for thousands of music lovers, offering a heightened sense of community for organisers, local and visiting artists and their expanding audiences. Well established festivals book over 300 performers for their annual programs and there are at least an equal number of artists who apply, unsuccessfully, to perform. Some of these large festivals actually ration the number of appearances allowed to the most popular groups, e.g. three years in a row then at least a year break. Even the ever popular Highland Gatherings are broadening their music programs to include the new and old music of their Celtic cousins.

The spread of these festivals and the growing mainstream appeal of popular Celtic influenced music, and a growing fascination for unaccompanied singing, is finally reaching the larger population it belongs to and it brings with it riches beyond imagination.

"There is nothing more tenacious than tradition, nothing more firmly rooted than the ancient beliefs and systems of thought when they are concealed within new forms. ...the myths never die, they are constantly being revived in new and varied shapes, and sometimes surprise us in unexpected places."
-- Jean Markale - Professor of Celtic Studies at the Sorbonne, Women of the Celts (1986).

The music is a conduit to the ancient Celtic myths and philosophies which are coming to life again to feed starved imaginations.

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An interesting history:

The Celts have been on the road for six thousand years, give or take a few miles. Ancient Celtic culture was egalitarian and highly developed. Men and women were equal. Personal Sovereignty -- Free Speech and Free Will (as opposed to the concept of Original Sin) were at the foundations of tribal law. The individual was important and was expected to unfold the possibility of 'godhood' on earth -- the veil between the worlds was penetrable by the sensitive spirit.

Ancient 'ways' have parallels with egalitarian practices today.

In my view, western people today are the first to take freedom and equality of the sexes for granted as a social right. Ancient Celtic traditions are a model for these freedoms -- an ancient precedent.

While Romulus and Remus were still pups and the seven hills of Rome were outside the city limits, the Celts were Kings of Europe. For hundreds of years before the Roman Empire, the Celts dominated Europe and the British Isles -- through their trade, technologies and travels -- until the spread of the Roman Empire (from mid 700s BC).

Somehow, throughout eleven centuries of Empire the Romans never went to Ireland. They built Hadrian's Wall across the middle of England around 120AD as a shield against the unconquerable Celts (whom they named Picts) of Scotland.

Irish traditions gradually embraced the radical new idea of "Christ Consciousness" which, of course, was interpreted through the "Natural Philosophy of the Druids" -- forming a rich contemplative practice in the name of Celtic Christianity, which flourished until the Council of Witby in 663AD.

Celtic cultural heritage represents excellent examples for spiritual contemplative life prior to the expansion of Western dualistic intellectual materialism. In ancient Celtic wisdom, the body is seen as the 'threshold' between the natural world and the Otherworld, through which the soul interweaves. In the Irish language this is called coích anama (literally "shrine soul" or “soul shrine”).

Throughout the period of Celtic Christianity, while the Roman Empire was in decline on the continent, Irish scribes were busy copying Europe's great literature, sacred and secular, thus saving them from extinction during the dark ages of transition from classical to medieval Europe.

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From the 13th century, the escalation of political struggle between England and the Roman Catholic Church launched massive aggressive incursions upon Irish soil. Traditional Irish cultural sensibilities were supplanted by dualistic materialistic philosophy within competing narrow-minded patriarchal religious and imperialist politics.

From that time until now, the last of the 'women-centured cultures' in the west joined the majority of the world's women in taking a subservient position to patriarchal power. But, today men and women can be friends and colleagues! For the first time in nearly a thousand years women of the western world are openly involved in reexamining and redefining culture.

Feminine sensibility in recovery.

The poetry of beauty is an expression of the flow of femininity. Jungian psychologists, archaeologists, and mythologists, e.g. Robert A. Johnson, Marija Gimbutas, and Joseph Campbell, talk about the historical oppression of the feminine in our nature (male and female) and the growth of rational science and technology out of our dominant masculine energy. The time has come for more conscious effort in reinvigorating reverence for truly feminine empowerment to nurture.

Nurtured and nurturing, we develop strength and confidence.

The key is to remember delicate feelings of love and wonder -- to remember our capacity for compassonate feeling. This will be the antidote to the alienation of modern society. With compassion and intelligence we can understand each other, forgive our adversarial ways and bridge gaps created by the philosophy of dualism which sees everything in terms of "good-vs-evil" and which result in political strategies based on fear. If women and men collaborate in taking a healing approach to the affairs of the world we can turn the tide of history. The various movements can commit the awesome strength they've recently reclaimed, especially the strength that comes from the spirit of gratitude.

The arts have the power to touch the heart, cut through claustrophobic dogmas, abstract ideologies and social stratas of age and class. More and more artists are taking control of their creativity so that they may serve more effectively. And we have the support of scientists who study the effects of music on tachyonic and quantum consciousness and on the electromagnetic fields of our bodies.

More people are creating 'shrines' to inner stillness, contemplation and beauty in their homes and music is a very important part of that experience.

Confidence is gained through new levels of understanding revealed in the natural creativity of liberal, performing and visual artists: Women and men share equally in celebrating the liberation of greater capacities for feeling and compassion -- a new Renaissance.

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