UK musician and composer Daniel Brew explores the theme of healing and Mark 5:1-20 in his hypnotic new piece, Away and Began.
(Matthew 8.28-34; Luke 8.26-39)
1 And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gad´arenes. 2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3 who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: 4 because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. 5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones. 6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him, 7 and cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not. 8 For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit. 9 And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many. 10 And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country. 11 Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding. 12 And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them. 13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine; and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand,) and were choked in the sea.
14 And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done. 15 And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine. 17 And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. 18 And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. 19 Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. 20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decap´olis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
I chose these words from the passage as the title for the piece because I think it captures something incredibly powerful about the healing of Legion. We meet someone here who is an absolute outcast from society. However, it’s actually much worse than this. Delving deeper into the narrative and the language used we see that actually we meet someone who personifies death itself. He is as good as dead.
“This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” Mark 5:3-5
This man is away from the town and other people, living in self destructive solitude among the tombs. The image of God in which he was created (Genesis 1:26-27) is clearly warped and distorted. But after he has been healed, what we see is that immediately, by the astonishing authority of Jesus and his word, he is “sitting there, dressed and in his right mind”. It is here we see a theme that is repeated throughout the Gospel of Mark right up to the cross. We see surprising reversals.
“Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.” Mark 5:17
Upon hearing of this the people were afraid of what they had seen Jesus do and they began to plead with him to leave. The demon possessed man now goes away and begins to tell of what Jesus has done for him, but consequently in healing the man Jesus himself becomes an outcast being told to leave the region.
The piece was written from the start with this theme in mind. I tried to portray this and many other details from the narrative through every aspect of both the compositional and audio production side of the piece.
It is written for the following instruments:
Canvas + Electronics
Drum Kit and Percussion
Prepared Electric Guitar + Electronics
Although I am a guitar player I was keen, first of all, to simply experiment with sounds away from my instrument to try and provoke a creativeness that was not restricted by the habits and technique of my guitar playing. Therefore, I quite literally started with a blank canvas, which I amplified. I attached two contact mics to it, one on the left and one on the right, making it stereo. I then ran each mic through various different guitar pedals and experimented with the sounds it created. I began just by recording the canvas, played with a variety of implements to create a wide range of sounds. I also experimented with prepared guitar wanting to capture something of Legions destructiveness through unconventional ways of playing and using the instrument. Some of the set ups involved were playing the guitar with a violin bow, a washing up sponge and weaving paperclips between the strings, whilst further manipulating the sound using electronics. An overwhelmingly number of ideas came from these initial experimentations and a small handful of these then went on to form a sort of scaffolding behind the main landscape of the whole piece on top of which I was then able to further compose. I added more colour and texture to this landscape through harmony and melody, exploring the altered scale and playing around with the dissonance and consonance from within that to try and reflect the theme of healing through the gradual movement form dissonance to consonance. Also, other instruments were added to help create a wider sound spectrum providing more depth or brightness when I felt it was needed both as the piece developed in its own right and how the narrative of Mark 5 was being outlined in the piece.
I was concerned about setting the scene. I want to take the listener on a journey and help them feel, be it only a reflection, something of the transformation that we see in Mark 5. I also want the listener to enjoy sound. Not just relationships between sounds, such as harmony and rhythm, but simply the sounds themselves and how they are all beautifully and complexly detailed in themselves, but then come together to paint a picture which I have tried my best to reflect the narrative we read in the Gospel of Mark.
Daniel Brew: At the age of 17 I moved to Manchester from my hometown of Cleethorpes to study music. I have just recently finished those studies and graduated from the Royal Northern College of Music with a 1st class degree in Music. My principal study was guitar and I feel was very fortunate to be able to study with some great world renowned musicians both from the jazz world and the classical. Having the opportunity learn form such excellent and inspirational teachers has helped me to excel greatly in many areas of my playing and overall musicianship.
During my final year studying at the RNCM I began working closely with a composer and teacher of mine called Mauricio Pauly for whom I recorded one of his most recent compositions written for solo electric guitar. This was a huge learning curve for me and provided the main platform for me becoming involved in contemporary music. I am currently preparing some more pieces in preparation for a concert with his ensemble, Distractfold. I have also recently been offered a place to study at Impuls 2015 Academy for Contemporary Music in Graz (Austria) that will be taking place in February for 13 days.
I now work as a self-employed musician in and around the north west of England and I am always involved in many different projects covering a wide range of musical styles. I have my own contemporary jazz trio (Apes Grapes) in which I do the majority of my composing and we are all very influenced not only by jazz but a wide range of contemporary music which no doubt leaks into our compositions.
I have also recently started working with the Architectural Association Interprofessional Studio in London exploring ways of translating structure and spatial design into/through music, challenging the frontiers of working in between art, architecture and performance.