Last night I uploaded a blog which was a review of sorts of Jahméne Douglas’ new album Unfathomable Phantasmagoria (U.P). I was absolutely delighted when I received some incredibly positive feedback on the review. I was delighted because while it is great that people are reading the blog, it is even better than they are becoming aware of this phenomenal artist. In the course of the feedback being received some people suggested that I not only do a review of the album but also that I would take some or all of the songs on the album and write about them specifically. This is no easy task but automatically I was captivated at the thought of at least attempting this.
For anyone who is new to this blog I am a writer. I not only write blogs but I also write talks for school retreats, articles for newspapers and I have recently edited and released my first book; Space for Grace: Stories from the Catholic Chaplaincy at Queen’s University Belfast. It is my hope to continue writing into the future. One of the publications I have a desire to write is a book of reflections and stories which will be carried out over the Lenten period. Lent is a process which lasts forty days and I hope to write this while on a forty day pilgrimage. This will require serious discipline and concentration.
However when I considered U.P (I can’t keep typing Unfathomable Phantasmagoria!) it occurred to me that excluding the two tracks of scripture (they to my view are part of the following tracks) there are fourteen official tracks on the album. Therefore to write about these tracks would set aside fourteen days and this could itself become a pilgrimage of sorts as we travel the beautiful waters of U.P together. To achieve this will require discipline in itself but I believe it will be a worthwhile venture. It is an absolute treasure for me to have been asked by some to carry out this work and I do so in full knowledge that my understanding of the music in this album may not be the same as everyone else and may not even be the same as Jahméne’s. However I can at least make an attempt at this. To do this effectively will mean that I must immerse myself in this music for the next fortnight and see what thoughts each track brings to mind. Frankly, I’m rather excited about it all. So please join me, get yourself a copy of Jahméne’s magnificent opus and let us begin this time together. If you have any thoughts or comments please feel free to leave them at the bottom of each post. Keep sharing these posts if you like and we can get spread Unfathomable Phantasmagoria to as wide an audience as possible, because frankly I believe it is worth sharing. You may want to click the wee ‘Follow’ bottom to be notified when a new post goes up as I’m not sure what time of the day I’ll be posting at…it could be in the middle of the night! Whatever else, I ask you to be patient and kind with me…like the great Michelangelo I am still learning!
First Day: Never Too Far Away – Immediacy
As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, I believe U.P is a remarkable testament to love in it’s many faces and forms. The opening track taken from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:4-8) sets the scene for the album beautifully. This album is going to be about love. This will be about the remarkable power of love, the qualities of love, the unending nature of true love, the ability of love to conquer all things, and so on. We have our scene and this is an incredibly positive one.
The first half of the album is a collection of music that is upbeat, fresh and exciting. I think anyone who has been in a relationship or dare I say it, has been in love, will attest that the early days of that relationship are filled with experiences and moments that are upbeat, fresh and funky! Everything seems possible and you cannot remember a time before that person came into your life. It follows naturally that you will want to speak to others of your love for that person. Speaking as a Christian I remember the early days of coming to know the person of Jesus Christ better and wanting nothing more than to speak to other people about how important He is to me.
Never Too Far Away is a remarkable way of echoing this. In this song the artist sings about various experiences of daily life; meeting an old friend who he hasn’t seen in years who may be struggling with something in their life, encountering people in their community who are suffering domestic violence as well as his own personal experience of a lived relationship with the person they love. It is common knowledge that Jahméne is himself a Christian but the person he sings about that moves in him everyday certainly could be the person of Christ, but it could just as easily be the love and influence of another person who has impacted his life in a positive way – a family member, a friend, colleague, etc.
I think the real point of this song can be summarised by one word: Immediacy. The opportunity to love is always with us. When we meet our friends in the street we have the opportunity to offer them a kind word. We do not know if they are in trouble or not and so the need to offer a kind word cannot be taken for granted. It is a reminder that each of us needs to be mindful of our present situation; none of us can take the chance that we will be here tomorrow and so we must make the most of what we have today. If you meet a stranger you have the opportunity to extend to them the gift of love…or not. Only you can make this decision. In this song Jahméne sings about instances in which he has chosen love and that he sings of these experiences so joyfully only goes to show what a worthwhile venture this is. Each of us has that same opportunity…right now! As you read these words you may be sitting on a train on your evening commute and have the opportunity to talk to someone who may be a total stranger. With love all things are possible.
The other element to this song is the person for whom we love who moves in us everyday. I will not take for granted who Jahméne is singing about in this song. The important point about this song is that even though we may be separated from the one we love by distance, those we love are never too far away from us. They go with us in all that we do. Their influence stays with us and our many positive experiences with these people remain with us. We carry them with us in our hearts and minds and if we truly love them then we can not help but share our experiences of them with those that we meet. If the person in your life is Jesus then you will know that he is only a prayer away. If that person is someone else you will know that when you need them they will be there for you…
This first track is great way to establish the nature of U.P. Once we have experienced love in all its immediacy we can then begin Exploring it. This will be the subject of tomorrow’s blog on the next track; Love.
See ya’ll tomorrow I hope. Have a blessed Wednesday!