©1990, 2010 by Lady Isadora
Ever since I can remember, little dances of musical notes have arisen in my head, wanting to be let out into the world. As a child I obligingly opened my mouth and sang them, coupled with whatever words first seemed to want to dance along with them. Now, as an adult (you will forgive me, wont you, Peter Pan?), the melodies are still arriving in happy profusion. Sometimes the words still glide forth with easy grace, but sometimes I need to coax them out from backstage with a little more craft and care a frustrating joy known to any writer. And of course, Im still singing, with the difference that now people I dont even know are paying money to listen to my songs. Its a thrilling experience, and one I would recommend to anyone who dreams of sharing his or her music with others.
Im not being facetious, or condescending. Im just giving some of you the following reminder, in my typically Aquarian fashion: dont just dream there, do something! You dont have to snag a deal with Warner Bros. or Atlantic Records, or sell out to mass market commercialism. Save your pennies (or get some kind of grant or loan if you have to), put on your thinking cap, and found your own recording label, as I did!
As you may have noticed, privately-produced albums are a flourishing artform in the Neo-Pagan, New Age, and even rock music genres. Now, dont get the idea that producing an album is a snap, or that even the most reasonably-priced recording studios are cheap, because it isnt, and theyre not. But, as the old saying goes, if you really want to do something badly enough, youll find a way. Isnt that what real magic is all about?
I firmly believe we have far too many listeners and not enough singers in this world. Even if you dont want to record or perform, dont forget to open up your mouth once in awhile to see if there might be a tune inside, hoping youll let it out! Once upon a time, even the simplest milkmaid or field hand sang with gusto while going about their work. If they hated what they were working at, at least they could sing the blues or some reasonable facsimile thereof, otherwise known as a lament. Nowadays theyd be more likely to be wearing a headset, though, listening to somebody else singing with gusto, or singing the blues. Thats cheating! We all love to listen to the music of others, and I for one am grateful for that fact, but while youre at it, dont forget to make some time for your own. If you have a beautiful singing voice, please share it with us. If your songs are interesting but your voice isnt the greatest, dont let that stop you. Bob Dylan didnt worry about waiting around for some fairy godmother (or fairy godfather) to zap him with dulcet tones, and neither should you.
During the 1970s, I wrote dozens of songs, most of which I still perform, and in 1981 I recorded my first album, The Witching Hour, with my former partner, Lord Pan. Id considered myself a Witch since childhood, had been a high priestess since my late teens, and had already written a number of songs with Goddess and magical themes. Since at that time there were only a handful of song-oriented albums available for the Wiccan-Pagan audience the only recording artists well-known to the genre were Gwydion Pendderwen and Selena Fox with Jim Alan I decided to join good company and try my own hand and voice at it.
Pan and I blitzed through the 17 songs on The Witching Hour, many with overdubs, in three days of recording. We got lucky. The stars must have been shining favorably on us, and on our production budget. As most anyone whos ever recorded an album will tell you, and as I subsequently learned while working on my recent dual releases The Queen of Earth and Sky and Priestess of the Pentacle, recording and producing professional-quality albums usually takes much longer, and can be very intensive work.
At this point I have a bit of advice and constructive criticism for up-and-coming Pagan recording artists. When youre writing all those songs about your favorite gods and goddesses, dont forget to include something about yourselves, too. Thats just as important, if not more so. Although the Pagan music genre is expanding by leaps and bounds, and there are some wonderful songs being recorded in it these days, I find that many of the lyrics still lack a truly personal touch: they may describe a particular deity or Sabbat or set of symbols, but often dont truly delve into the specifics of how the songwriter feels about them and interacts with them as a unique individual.
Sure, we need a certain amount of all-purpose seasonal and deity chants and songs that anybody can sing, and those can be very powerful. But other than that, we have perhaps an overabundance of songs about elves and rainbows and unicorns, and not enough about ourselves. Arent we just as magical and mysterious and marvelous? Of course, the other topics have their place, too our child-selves still need to express themselves sometimes but if we write and record little else but the Here-we-go-gathering-nuts-in-May-on-the-way-to-the-Beltane-Sabbat stuff (a colleague of mine refers to it as Puff the Magic Pagan), we will never be taken seriously as a musical genre by others, or even by many of ourselves, and I do so want us to be. We have so much to share with each other and the rest of the world about what it means to be human and divine.
Fellow troubadours, lets write more songs about the seasons of our own hearts, not just about the seasons of the year, and about the gods and goddesses inside us, not just the ones we read about in books and whose names we invoke in our rituals. And even if you never record an album or write a song, dont forget to open up your voice once in awhile and sing whatever melody comes into your throat, for the sheer joy of being alive.