Notes from John Timmins:

Adventures, Observations, Set-backs and Promotions:

On the featured recording of In My Time of Dying from a rehearsal at Barbara Lynch’s home in early 2010.

by John Timmins

Don’t know much about Mr. Schopenhauer, but his flash of wisdom on music and the true nature of things certainly caught my attention. In his The World as Will and Representation, published in 1819, Arthur Schopenhauer, philosopher. wrote …

“The close relationship that music has to the true nature of things can explain the fact that, when music suitable to any scene, action, event or environment is played, it seems to disclose to us its most secret meaning, and appears to be the most accurate and distinct commentary on it…

….music differs from all the other arts by the fact that it expresses the metaphysical to the physical in the world. This is the reason why music makes every picture, indeed every scene from real life and from the world, at once appear in enhanced significance, and this is, of course, all the greater, the more analogous its melody is to the inner spirit of the given phenomenon.”

A song like In My Time of Dying, a traditional/gospel song, recorded by Bob Dylan on his self titled, debut album (1962), and by many others before and since, is for me a great example of music evoking the naked truth, or being “the most accurate and distinct commentary” on anything that it is analogously applied to.

Barbara Lynch and I interpreted this song at her most recent show at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto, January 21, 2010, and I hope it sounded as good to that audience as this digital recording of our rehearsal sounds to me.

True, it may sound a little rough, unedited, unmixed, unwashed but therein is beauty in all its uninhibited glory. Listening to Barbara’s untethered, lighter-than-air evocation of the eternal, a classic cascade of fifths on the keyboard repeated throughout the song sets the soul free to take flight. Even the most moribund soul has to feel a lightness of being when these fifths come rolling through.

The musicians are listening to each other. The piano and my banjo support each other as comfortably as our voices blend, neither of us really taking the lead, but creating a unified voice that seems to take its lead from somewhere else. And I have no idea where that sitar is coming from! Listen to the continuous playing on the root note in key of D, like a slow funeral dirge, or an old blues just rambling on, just rolling through, no beginning and no end, intuitive, familiar. The high lifting instrumentals, the low whispering vocals, and the lyrics!  I would love to have met the enlightened soul who wrote these profoundly beautiful and evocative words. What a well-lived life that must have been.

These words and music anticipate the moment of death, for some the source of a lifetime of dread, whereby we are swallowed in the cold, dark ground and for others the source of a lifetime of joy and anticipation, not to mention fear, whereby we soar to heaven. But the song says to me – perhaps evoking my true nature, or pointing towards the secret meaning of my life – that one should embrace inevitable death without fear, and live a better life for it,  and that, after all, we are just rolling through like Barbara’s fifths.

Please give it a listen. I’d love to read your thoughts on this song.


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