The Singing Earth by Barrett Martin
Barrett Martin is a drummer. He is accustomed to seeking the rhythm, the base, the foundation of songs. In the essays of The Singing Earth he seeks those rhythms, those foundations in all the places he visits and translates it into a global tempo, for he did find many commonalities in his travels. His book lightly touches the incipient rock scene of the Nineties; it’s also his reiteration of the cultures to which he was exposed and it contains political and environmental messages. His environmental message begins early in his treatise. In the prelude he states,
… the Earth is singing to us all the time. … A huge amount of information is transmitted to us in this way and part of our evolution as a species is learning how to listen and understand these messages.
Then he proceeds to chronicle the various places he’s visited – Australia, Belize, Senegal, Cuba and several others – and reminisces about the experiences in listening to and understanding Earth’s song. It wasn’t linear storytelling; therefore there do seem to be some continuity errors and the tang of nostalgia.
The book is brief, so the stories were told in broad strokes and the writing sometimes suffers from banal metaphors and cliche construction but Mr Martin’s enthusiasm cannot be denied. He enjoys it and so his readers will as well.
The nostalgia and subjective evaluation of the rock scene of the Nineties was entertaining. Each generation feels its music contained attitude. Compare “Rebel Yell” to “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Pour Some Sugar On Me” versus anything from Pearl Jam, depending on what generation your musical impressions derived from. (I’d go back farther, but music began and ended in the 80s for this writer). Music expresses the zeitgeist, the young are always ready for attitude. Anyway … on to less subjective things.
Martin relates an experience from Croatia which highlighted the power of music. He relates that during the Balkan civil war. Some youths he met had listened to Pearl Jam and Mr Martin’s own band, Screaming Trees, as they watched the fighting in their city. He writes this about that being one the most
poignant examples of the power of music – that it has the ability to help people mentally survive a war and find hope and possibility in the midst of chaos, destruction and death.
He writes, too, about the legal power of music; how drumming is shamanic; music’s correlation with subatomic particles; Middle Eastern musical terms; various musical instruments. And within all that is the environmental message. Be caretakers of the earth and listen to her song.