The Road Ahead: Being Matt Morris Again

As many of you know, I have two names. There is the name you know me by, Teo Bishop; a name which I chose for myself several years back, and one that I took as my legal name last year. There is also the name which I’ve performed under for most of my life, Matt Morris.

I wrote the following post on my Matt Morris fan page a few days before New Year’s:

Matt Morris in Austin

This year, I got to write with Sarah McLachlanGreyson ChanceMichael Franti, Joe King, & a whole host of amazing producers. Mary J. Blige cut one of my songs, and so did Cher.

All in all, I’d say that makes for a pretty good year of songwriting.

But being in [Ryan] Tedder’s studio did something to me. There was a moment today when I could see myself writing and recording for *me* again. It was the first time that’s happened in while.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions in any strict sense. But I do think that music – my music – may end up playing a more central role in my life in 2013.

This was a revelation. I’m going to do music in 2013, I realized.

Honestly, just writing these words makes my stomach knot up a bit.

Making music was all I did for the longest time. All of my 20’s were devoted to it. Only in the past few years have I allowed myself to explore another creative avenue, blogging, and that has led to wonderful growth and exploration in my personal life.

For one, I managed to get the Solitary Druid Fellowship up and running, and that project is moving forward wonderfully. I’m writing liturgies, crafting prayers and devotionals (which will be up on the site very soon), and I’m living out the kind of ministry that I wrote about so long ago:

Fire, in my imagination, resides primarily in the heart.

Ministry, as I understand it, is the act of nurturing that fire, both in yourself and in others. One who ministers is one who keeps the fire burning, or who teaches others the skills needed for this internal fire tending.

This blog has also been a commitment to my spiritual growth. Bishop In The Grove started out in 2010 as the blog of a student, and it continues to be that on a much bigger scale. Now my religious tradition, my life experience, and my readership are my teachers.

These spiritual projects mean so much to me, and I see them continuing to grow and evolve throughout 2013.

But music? How will making music – my music – fit into that picture? Should it be a “spiritual project” as well?

I’m not totally sure how to answer that question.

The Path, by Cornelia Kopp
The Path, by Cornelia Kopp

Someone suggested I make “Pagan music.” I tried that last year, and I’m not sure it’s the right way for me to go. I never felt right about making “Christian music” when I was a Christian, after all. I think it’s because I think of music, when it’s done well, as a vehicle for uniting people. It’s bigger than any one tradition, any one religion. And (pointing to my own proclivity for Universalism), I respond to music that approches something true about the human condition.

The music I make, or perhaps the music I’d like to make, is music that can be listened to by people of many different backgrounds. I’d like to write – to sing – beyond the boundaries of my current identity, my chosen tradition. I’d like to be bigger than I think I’m capable, and by doing so expand the reach of the sound into new, unexpected corners of the world.

(I haven’t thought these kinds of thoughts in a long time.)

I’m also thinking that I’d like to have my music be simpler than it’s been in the past. I’d like to make it accessible, and beautiful. I’d like it to be singable, and memorable. I’d like to write songs that I enjoy singing, that are comfortable and also challenging.

And, I should probably find a way to incorporate this music making into my daily practice. (Hmm… *twirls mustache*)

I’ve learned a lot about my readership over the past few years, but we haven’t talked much about music. Perhaps that should change.

As I look at being Matt Morris again, I wonder:

What does music mean to you? How is it a part of your life? Are you a connoisseur, or an occasional listener? Do you create music yourself, or have you always wanted to?

Is music a part of your spiritual practice? If so, how?

Tell me —

How do you do music?


47 responses to “The Road Ahead: Being Matt Morris Again”

  1. Philip Avatar

    Not only am I in shock but I am so grateful to have ended up on this post. I was going to send you a message via this blog but I thought it would be ok to share this comment. I was a HUGE fan of yours when I was a teen when you were on MMC. I remember watching you perform “It’s too hard to say goodbye to yesterday”. My mom video taped it for me and I watched it over and over again (boy crush). I was also friends with Nita Booth back in Virginia. I bought a BOP magazine and cut your picture out and put it on my bulletin board. *blushes. But then the show went off the air… I moved to DC to pursue my dance career and had no more time to pay attention to TV or music living in my own bubble. I hadnt thought about you for the longest time until I saw you on YouTube singing with Justin in a benefit, I can’t remember what it was for, and was like OMG it’s Matt Morris!!! I was so happy to see your face. Anyway in my early 20’s I divorced myself from the conservative religion of my family and went on a spiritual quest which lead me to paganism, Wicca, and other earth based spirituality. Over the past year I have increasingly been drawing closer to Druidry. Now I am starting a group here in Massachusetts called New England Druids. I have a sincere desire to join OBOD. But tonight I followed you on Twitter as Teo, because you were recommended to me. I followed the links that got me to this blog and was scrolling around reviewing your posts. When I saw this post my jaw dropped and I want to say how happy I am that you are a Druid and doing so many amazing things. I have to find out more, obviously I want to be a part, but I think I should now officially give you a proper response to your post.

    Music has and will always be a huge part of every aspect of my life and especially when it comes to my meditations and spiritual practice. I have my favorite nature cd’s that I will play during rituals to feel like I am closer to being outdoors then sitting in my apartment. I read spiritual books and write my own blog posts listening to mellow electronica. I teach Yoga so I have tons of playlists for when I teach. I am into Reiki and massage therapy so I have massage music. I even have more erotic music I play when I am practicing Tantra and “self cultivation” techniques. I only really listen to pop music when I am teaching dance or am going to be doing a performance. I listen to rock when I drive. But for the most part my “spiritual playlists” or what I have deemed my “spiritual playlists” are what I listen to most of the time. I enjoy the Druidcast podcast by OBOD because they feature a lot of “Druid music”. I am extremely eclectic in my tastes. I really would love more than life for you to produce an album for the Druid/Pagan community, but only if it flows from your heart. I also want to see you make music again for the general public which I will love also. Without reading any of the comments below I can say I would love to see more decent pagan music of higher quality out there. Enya is the only artist I can say I would consider of decent production quality and talent to put into my spiritual playlists. I wish there was a male singer who would follow the same kind of idea for us. As a recovering alcoholic I use music to keep me sane and sober. I need music, and especially my inspirational music, to keep my mind on higher things… on God and on my Druidry.

    I am so glad that I made it here and glad to see you are doing very well for yourself.

    1. Philip Avatar

      And OMG I just watched Live Forever… I’m totally breathless. You are amazing. God bless you for giving me inspiration tonight.

  2. Herald Cedarsong Grove Avatar
    Herald Cedarsong Grove

    I was personally quite excited when I discovered that the Teo Bishop (he of the soul-inspiring blog) and Matt Morris (he of the soul-inspiring music) were no more than sides on a coin, and I would love it if you were to get more into music. But only if you’re doing it because you WANT to, because you NEED to.

    You have always put a sense of self into your music, so finding the time to do so now just might have a therapeutic value, also. Perhaps, instead of thinking of yourself as Matt Morris when writing music and Teo Bishop when writing words, you just need to stop thinking and see what you end up writing? I know, easier said than done, but I have no doubt whatsoever that the results will be amazing.

    Good luck. May the music in your soul remember its voice.


  3. Anbar Mahar Avatar

    I have been thinking about this blog all week long and had to come and comment. This blog post so timely. Just a few weeks ago, I was at an event and there was this ice breaker activity where we had to rate these random items and its importance in our lives. In my group, ‘music’ was one of the items and I was the only who placed it pretty high in my priority list. It was a weird moment for me because I didn’t spend time explaining why it was important; I just assumed people understood why music was important. But everyone else kind shrugged it off was like ‘I don’t find music at all important in my life.’ I guess I was a little shocked because so many people in my life find the same importance in music as I do.

    And then in your blog just a few weeks later, in one sentence or two, you described exactly how I feel: ‘I think it’s because I think of music, when it’s done well, as a vehicle for uniting people. It’s bigger than any one tradition, any one religion.’

    Music has honestly brought some amazing people, experiences, and stories to tell which have made my life so interesting. I would say it has even made my life a little unique. More importantly, it truly has been a mood changer for me. Always for the better, of course. Just recently a friend and I have made 90s playlists on spotify and when I sit down and start listening to the list, I find myself giggling every time a song comes on that I haven’t listened to in ages. I sometimes even wonder if it has served as something that kept me sane during stressful times in life. I have nothing to prove that. I just know how much energy it gives me at all times of the day. And I think because it brings that energy, there is no denying that it is easy to turn to that during spiritual practices. I love listening to musicians like Anousha Shanker and Karshe Kale during meditation or pilates. It helps enhance that moment of spirituality and inner peace.

    I have always wanted to make music but have never made the time for it. I have had a guitar sitting in my room for two years and I haven’t picked it up once. I know, I know – it’s lame.

    Anyway, that’s all I wanted to share. I’m so excited that you are picking up music again. I can’t wait to add your new tracks, whatever they end up being, to add to my life.

  4. Momma Bear Avatar

    I love music! It pains me so much that I don’t have a musical bone in my body! LOL! Nevertheless, sometimes when I listen to a particular song on the radio during my morning commute, it will “speak” to me. If I am on a meditative walk, I will feel compelled to sing a certain song and feel my connection to the Divine more fluidly and strongly. So much so that I will feel as if I had just entered into a “worship” experience. I keep a few songs on my kindle to use in times of prayer and meditation.

    I have friends that consider it ESSENTIAL to have some sort of creative practice as part of their regular spiritual practice. These are writers and visual artists. I am sure it applies to the music makers as well 😉 It keeps our connection to the Divine open,strong and heals us in return.

    With your music Teo, just speak your voice. Don’t worry about genres or labels. Speak for your generation, your tribe and most of all yourself! That is what makes music sacred. You write that music, you feel that flow…given life, the music will speak on its own and we will hear it! Peace <3

  5. Seba O'Kiley Avatar

    Yes, singing the great primal thump from that sacred, truer self. Kudos, my friend. Keep thumping.

    1. Seba O'Kiley Avatar

      One more thought: I teach my spiritual students about the power of rhythm and sound, vibrations and how they both echo and connect us to the Divine. As molecules vibrate, rotate and translate, so do our souls. Humming, for instance, is used in many Eastern cultures to vibrate the soul, rotate it to the universe and translate it back to the body. If vibration enhances reaction 100 fold (which we know it does) then music becomes a very intense magic, indeed. I’ve been listening to your vibrations of late in your blog. They are the sounds of someone returning to the source. Blessings.

  6. Jennifer Marti Avatar

    Music is the external representation of my soul. As any creative outlet should be. Music, art, and for me-cooking is the outward soul showing its true colors. I need music to focus me, to take myself out of my own worrying mind-just like cooking and baking does. Sounds, tones, harmonies, and lyrics all play their own role in speaking to a different part of me. If you need to work on music again, do (and I think you should, your talents are way to good for you to not listen to that side of yourself). What ‘name’ you write or preform under isn’t important. What’s important is not packing away such a beautiful part of who you are. Can you imagine if I didn’t cook anymore? If I didn’t share them with the people I love? I am convinced it’s what I’m supposed to do, and no matter if I become a commercial success at it or not is not the point (though it would be REALLY nice) what’s important is that I don’t hide my true self, because if that dies out, then so does my soul and so do I. I have to listen to music all the time, in the car, while I bake, while I shower. It is the sound track to my life.

  7. Kilmrnock Avatar

    I lay no claims to be a musician or song writer , but love music .In a wide variety almost anything from classical to hard rock and most anything in between . Altho i must admit i love to drum , that drumming for me fills a hard to describe primal need.As a Celt , the calmer celtic music is what i like for ritual , meditation . It touches my very soul deeply and profoundly as does bagpipes . But strangly enuf a powerful piece of music can move me as well, when my mind is calm and at rest , “The Blue Danube ” by Strauss can almost bring me to tears, just from the Beauty and power of that song . Altho the Danube River is named after the Lead Godess of the TDD, Danu.For those nor familiar with it , that is the song at the beginning of 2001 , the Scifi film after the odd monkey bit . Altho some films strick a note with me , music can touch my very soul , deeply . As i’ve aged and along the way gotten more in touch with my pagan heart and soul music touches me more deeply than ever .Kilm

  8. Elinor Predota Avatar

    Regarding your other questions: music is, has and always will be (I hope) part of my life. I took it for granted as a child, growing up around it. I’m lucky enough to have had musicians for parents, and now have a composer for my partner.

    I sing: to my souls, to God Herself, to the Sidhe, as well as simply for fun. I don’t do it as often or as much as I would like. I’m also part of a tradition that sings a lot in ritual. I’d actually like to focus on my voice, to build up my skill and my diaphragm again, so I can do what I choose as well as go with what comes through.

  9. Elinor Predota Avatar

    I’d like to write – to sing – beyond the boundaries of my current identity, my chosen tradition. I’d like to be bigger than I think I’m capable, and by doing so expand the reach of the sound into new, unexpected corners of the world.

    Yes, yes, yes!!!

    I agree with Lamyka. To link it with your fire analogy (and a Christian parable of a flame):

    If you light a lamp that’s all fire and no covering, it’s too bright to be comfortable around, since you can’t actually see anything other than the fire itself; if you light a lamp with a covering that’s too thick, no-one can see a damn thing; if you light a lamp with a covering the diffuses the light, it’s comfortable to be around, and sheds the kind of light that people can see and work and play by.

    It’s possible to write music and songs infused with your spirituality without them being about your spirituality; it’s possible to write songs for your Gods, and Guardians and Guides without them being about Them. It’s also possible to write songs directly about those things without losing the universality of theme – either lyrically or musically.

    And more than that, I believe you can do those things 🙂

  10. thalassa Avatar

    I grew up in a family where making/doing/being music was as essential as breathing. Unfortunately, in my family of musical talent, I got the short end of the stick (discalculia means I have issues reading music–and therefore playing music, and my singing voice is rather mediocre)…and its just not my passion. But I still love music–from Andrea Bocelli to Big Momma Thornton, or Iron Butterfly to Sara Thomsen, Broadway show tunes and Sweet Honey in the Rock to Nickel Creek…you name it, I’ll listen to it. I admit it, I’m eclectic with music too.

    I might be unmusical…but I know this: good music moves. It moves you from your seat and it moves you from your heart…and different sorts of music will move you differently at various points in your life. But regardless of how it moves you, if its great music, it moves you into something better than the sum of your parts. IMO, great music is a great source of energy in ritual, and can be a ritual in and of itself–it doesn’t matter if its Pagan, or Christian, or secular…as long as it moves the individual.

    I’m not a musician and I know nothing about the music business…but as a listener of music, as a person to depends on music to move me when I don’t want to move myself…I’d like to turn on the radio and hear more songs that sound like they moved the person recording them. Whatever you decide to do, please–just do that!!

  11. Nicole Youngman Avatar
    Nicole Youngman

    I have precisely zero musical talent, but the bands that I love (whether Pagan, Pagan-friendly, or nothing-to-do-with-Pagan) seem to be ones that write/record what they love and trust that other people will love it too. It seems to work fairly often, though with varying degrees of commercial success depending on how independent vs. big-label they are, etc.

  12. Heather Greene Avatar

    Music is my other life. Only when writing or singing (or both) do I lose all sense of time and space. …Many Blessings for all your pursuits. I look forward to hearing your new sound.

  13. Karen Dougherty Avatar

    I’m the chick that sings along to the radio while driving, mostly pop/rock music. It keeps me awake & focused. Heck, if I know all the words, folk ballads &pagan chants will work just as well, even on long distance drives.

    I came out and of age in the 70’s, so womens’ music and protest songs have been ingrained in me, along with a preference for folk music in general. Listening to Stan Rogers energizes me as much the same way listening to Pink does. ( OTOH, I try to ignore the bar music of the era, and have no real desire to return to FunkyTown, thank you.).

  14. Diana Rajchel Avatar

    What you speak of is a familiar road. I sorted out my issues – the “am I doing my spiritual duty by pursuing this seemingly selfish but fun/really pleasurable path?” by working my way through the majority of Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way/creativity books. The answer garnered for myself from that: it’s OK to follow the impulse, and it’s OK to minister to yourself. I have found that by honoring the impulses that resonate with myself first, I am very much of service to other people and in strange, surprising ways. It’s even allowed me to put “priest” before “Pagan” and minister to those outside a religious path who happen to need a priest or at least a perspective rather than a whole bunch of religion. While I admit painful ignorance as to music – there’s baggage there for me – I have seen what someone else’s highly personal words can do for someone else. Sometimes music is the only empathy a person can find, and that goes for high points and low points in life. By saying what you need to say through music you minister to yourself. By not making it specifically about Paganism, you minister to who needs you, rather than aiming for a sometimes fickle bunch.

  15. Crystal Blanton Avatar
    Crystal Blanton

    I think you are incredible. An incredible writer and talented artist. You are a gift to us, whether with your mission here writing or with your music, and a blessing to have both.

    Music is the rhythm within my soul. There is a higher level of consciousness that is enhanced by music and taps into a place within my spiritual being that I don’t always achieve by other means. I love to sing (while I don’t sing a lot anymore) and I love to hear music that is moving. I love music in ritual, meditation or even just to set the tone. Because I have always struggled with shutting my brain down in order to do silent meditation (Gemini) I like to use music to set me into meditative state.

    There are so many uses for music. thank you for considering how you might move us with you music once more. Hugs!

  16. Alioth Avatar

    “I’m also thinking that I’d like to have my music be simpler than it’s been in the past. I’d like to make it accessible, and beautiful. I’d like it to be singable, and memorable. I’d like to write songs that I enjoy singing, that are comfortable and also challenging.”

    This. This, this, this. Please.

    I do not at all mean to call “inaccessible” or “unsingable” any of your previous work (which I know nothing about), or the work of people like Damh the Bard (which I enjoy). It’s just that I feel a lack of pagan songs that are “folkish” in this particular way, but also aren’t chants. (Then again, being a newbie, I may just be looking in all the wrong places… I’d love to be pointed at a songbook that proves me wrong ^_^)

    I’ve often wished for more pagan songs that make use of the… /technology/, from the UK/American folk song tradition, that made the songs of that tradition so catching and so enduring. Especially features that facilitate rapid learning and sharing in a song circle: a simple verse-chorus-verse structure without bridges; a tune that allows lining-out; a high ratio of refrain content to verse content; or even just a sizable repertoire of lyrics and tunes that all scan well together (*cough* ballad meter). All these features make it much, much easier for a bunch of people who don’t know the song to sing along with a leader.

    (Additionally, if the song is written with solo unaccompanied voice in mind, and doesn’t sound bare and empty with only one singer… it’s that much easier to just casually sing as you walk down the sidewalk. Which sounds silly, but that’s how I make a song part of my life.)

    The reason this is important to me is that song circles are responsible for the two most uplifting and genuinely religious moments I have ever had in my life. When I lift up my voice in a large group, it really feels — almost /physiologically/ — like the voice of the whole is coming out of my own throat. It’s an incredibly powerful rush. “Communion” is really the only word for it.

    I realize that, with my laundry-list of specific features, this’ll probably come across as nitpicky and demanding. But that’s not my intent; I’m only giving suggestions based on my own experience and taste, and no one is under any obligations to fulfill them. (Arguably, if I have such specific requirements, I should really be writing the songs myself!) Anything you put out would still be a joy to listen to. And in general, I agree with what some others have said: there’s no need to think too hard about writing songs that are “Pagan enough” or “too Pagan” or “Pagan in this particular way”. Maybe you’ll want to write one specific song with references to certain deities or certain themes. But even if there’s nothing explicitly Pagan, I suspect people will be able to taste it — and the flavor will emerge naturally out of the whole body of work.

    [Disqus seems to have eaten my previous version of this comment. Argh. I apologize if this is a double-post.]

  17. David Salisbury Avatar

    I don’t make music other than pounding my little hand drum for trance journey, but I absolutely love listening to it and experiencing it. I’m always upgrading my mp3 player on it to jam as much music on there as possible. I’m actually pretty glad that I don’t have any musical gifts because it means music carries a certain romantic mystery to me that I might not appreciate as deeply other wise. I can see someone make music and simply be in awe at what happens.

    Oh and anything you put out this year will be nothing less than absolutely kick-ass, because that’s what you are, kick-ass in every way shape and form. Happy new year, Teo!

  18. Lamyka L. Avatar

    Maybe all that needs shifting is how you look at things in your head, right now it seems there’s a division of yourself when you look at Matt & Teo but seems to me like they’re one in the same–always has been.

    For Hawaiians, and myself, your calling is your calling. Being Pagan, being Druid informs who you are as a musician, lyricist, singer, etc. What makes your music Pagan is that YOU are Pagan. It’s that your Pagan mind on conscious and subconscious levels forms the music that flows forth.

    Perfect example, a Hawaiian song that’s well known and loved is about a Steamship journey from one island to another. Doesn’t seem Pagan at all, but IT IS! What the song is really about is two lovers making love (steamship going along up and down) and the passion builds (pressure in the mechanisms) and explodes (steamship whistle) then slows nicely (journey smooths out). The lack of ridiculous inhibitions about sex and the joy to sing about it for the enjoyment of others, exhibits in it’s subject matter our culture. Even the technique shows Hawaiian mentality by veiling the subject in layers of what we call Kaona (hidden meanings).

    There’s a time for specifically religious music, devotionals, liturgies, prayer songs, etc. That’s wonderful, but it’s how you shape your music not dropping God-name dropping. So if you make music again in the mainstream bring the practical Teo with you and we’ll all enjoy! (Hopefully you too :P) I’d love to see someone write love song(s) between the Gods, but all in metaphor of analogy, like how we have. Or a song from a husband to a husband or wife to wife.

    Either way Teo, you already make us all so proud 🙂

    Lady Bless,

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Well now my heart’s all bursting out of my chest.

      Thank you for this comment. These words are good medicine.

  19. valerie Avatar

    I can see you doing something Into the Wild-esque. Do return to music, Seriously.

    And yes, I do music, too. Primarily playing flutes. At one point I wrote music, at one point I sang, too. I’ve played just about every common wind and percussion instrument to the point of at least “fluent”, but most of them well beyond that. I’m not sure where those things went but they left. I still play a few different kinds of flutes, though. 🙂

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for the comment, Valerie, and the words of encouragement.

  20. Chefette Avatar

    My thoughts on this is just that…my thoughts, so take them for what they are worth. I personally think that you are over thinking it. If you are being guided back to your music then that’s what you should be doing. I over think projects with what I do for work also and when I get that way I get quiet and go within, I ask for a blessing that my hands be guided to do my best, that I can make it pleasing in the sight of the God(dess), and that it will bring joy to those who see/hear/enjoy what I do. It’s never not worked for me!! I hope this in a small way helps you. You might ask what do I do for work? lol I am one of those lucky people who gets to play with my food….carving fruit and veggies is part of my work. I find it very important that I honor the God(dess) with what I do because the items I use come from the earth. You will be guided to what is correct for you I have no doubt, stop worrying and just let it happen. Wishing you a very happy new year and tons of blessings to come your way.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I may be, June. I have a tendency to pick things apart, especially things that might look they like don’t need a picking. It’s a part of my process, but it can also be stifling. I’ll keep in mind your words as I move ahead.

      Blessings to you!

  21. SS Avatar

    I’ve never really thought about it before (so thank you!) but I guess I use music the way other people use drugs. I have a rock station I put on that energizes me while I’m cleaning the house or working on a project. There’s a jazz station I listen to when I want to escape while engrossed in a book or cooking and enjoying a glass of wine. Recently, I created an eclectic “separation songs” playlist when my husband moved out. I play it when I’ve done enough escaping, when I need to feel something again and let the emotions come to the surface while I’m journaling or am in a place where I can let the tears or anger flow. (P.S. Someone to Love You is one of those tracks.) I may be in the minority, but I very rarely turn on music without a purpose. I music intentionally.

    Also, I really appreciate your words about ministry and the fire metaphor. In my earlier life, I went to Christian college and got a ministry degree because I felt this strong desire and need to teach and nurture others. Over time, I realized that the church was not a good fit for me and what I wanted to do, and I am now a therapist. Some people look at me cross-eyed when I talk about my counseling practice as a ministry, but I can’t see it as anything else.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for this comment, SS, and for sharing a little about yourself. I’m glad that we have this common conception of ministry, and I imagine your clients are well served by you. You must bring your heart into it.

      “I music intentionally.”

      This may be one of my favorite sentences of all time.

      Blessings to you.

  22. Erik Avatar

    I don’t really “do” music as much as it “does” me. I am a singer, not professionally but existentially – song is pretty much always with me in one form or another. I volunteer as a songleader at my UU church, and also sing in the choir at the local Reform synagogue, both of which I have done for many years (I also sang for a few years in the chorus of our regional opera company, until my daughter was born and time became limited :). Anyone who knows me can tell exactly what kind of mood I’m in, or whether I’m sick, by what I’m humming (or not humming).

    I also spend a lot of time listening to music, not infrequently spiritual music from various traditions – particularly pagan and Jewish – and what I have noted is that generally the “best” of it is identifiably rooted in the tradition, but speaks *from* the tradition rather than just *to* it. My gut feeling is to say don’t be afraid of writing pagan music; as long as you feel you can speak to universal themes from that place, the music should be accessible. For instance, I love a lot of Christmas music that is identifiably Christian, but is really about peace, love, etc – as opposed to being *about* their particular theology.

    I also second the recommendation of the Robert Gass book mentioned above… and can suggest some others:
    * Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Mysticism of Sound and Music (Sufi)
    * Joscelyn Godwin, Harmonies of Heaven and Earth: the Spiritual Dimensions of Music (western esoteric tradition)
    * Joscelyn Godwin, Music, Mysticism and Magic: A Sourcebook (ditto)
    * Russill Paul, The Yoga of Sound: Healing and Enlightenment Through the Sacred Practice of Mantra (Hindu/a little bit New Age)
    * Steven Rosen, The Yoga of Kirtan: Conversations on the Sacred Art of Chanting (Hindu)
    * Ana Hernández, The Sacred Art of Chant: Beginning to Practice (Christian)
    * Robin Skelton and Margaret Blackwood, Earth, Air, Fire, Water: Pre-Christian and Pagan Elements in British Songs, Rhymes and Ballads (Pagan)

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thank you for the readings list! This is wonderful. I have a gift card from the holidays that I may spend on some of this. Thank you.

      And thank you for sharing with us your connection to music. I appreciate you being a part of this dialogue, Erik. Blessings!

  23. Tracsar Avatar

    The importance of music in my life or path cannot be overstated. I seem to have been led into connections with people who have almost made it their “work” to see to it that I get in touch with, develop and use my voice.I sing opera/classical music and I had cut it out of my life because that’s what I thought ‘adults’ did, and only later realized how much damage that had done. It has led to the most important connections in my life, and learning that singing, like writing, is ultimately a form of communication. And communication requires an audience. It’s one of the most profound of exchanges.

    When a local Pagan community who purported to be “teachers” decided to eventually make my status as a student contingent on giving up my music (and very close friends who support it), telling me it’s just a “gift from the Goddess” and I should just be happy “singing in an empty building”, I couldn’t have been more shocked. Negating all the time, energy, work, and money invested in shaping a talent into something that others enjoy hearing led me to realize that this group which purported itself to be invested in my best interests, was all about.. something else. Devastating is not too exaggerated a word to describe how that felt. I’m still picking up the pieces from this whole experience, and have found that the most magickal place for me is with a group of people all contributing their talents to produce a well done opera production- something that’s bigger than any one performer. It’s not an exaggeration either to say that music saved my life.

    I’ve since decided that any path, Pagan or otherwise, any God/dess that requires me to give up such a fundamental part of who I am just to follow them is not one I want to be affiliated with. I believe music can be a profoundly spiritual path of its own.

    I believe as a Druid and a professional musician you may have the best of both worlds. You can make the kind of music on a level that most others do not get a chance to, but you can also make it as spiritually based (or not) as you are comfortable with. Spiritual development should not have to be an either-or proposition. Music can reach inside when words fail and can express the numinous if we pay attention and let it.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I’m sorry that you had such traumatic experience, Tracsar, and I pray that you find more opportunities to experience the transformative healing qualities of music. Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I think you’re right — spiritual development should not have to be an either-or proposition.

      I’ll remember that.

      1. Tracsar Avatar

        Thank you as well for your kindness, and your blog, Teo. It’s been a bit of a gentle refuge for this Pagan still sort of looking for spirituality in others I admire.

        Question for both you and your other Druid readers, though.

        Based on the information I’ve read and learned about Druidry, there seem to be three main paths: Bard, Ovate and Druid, and many authors seem to regard them as steps along the way to the final destination.

        Couldn’t it also be possible then that perhaps each of those steps could either a) be a path by themselves for those drawn to it, or b) become steps that those who have left, say, the Bardic path behind as ‘I did this in my early days on my way to Druidism’ for the other paths be something that can be picked up again later on as their spiritual development progresses? Or is that not really how Druidry as you understand it (or ADF teaches it) works? In light of your post here wanting to pick up your music again I wonder if those teachings about Bardism would be something to reexplore in order to more fully integrate into your path?

  24. Rory Avatar

    It is not music but there has long been a strong need in the Pagan community for good audio of rituals, such as those currently posted of scripts, and something like that would surely mesh well with SDF. There are several rituals in ADF and OBOD that were captured and preserved as scripts, but how much finer to have those as audio recordings for teaching and demystification. Radio ministry has been a huge part of Christianity since at least the days of Father Coughlin, and has brought great comfort in rural areas and to shut-ins.

    I would love it if folks with professional audio skills such as you and Damh the Bard could capture things such as the OBOD high day rituals in quality audio, and suspect there is a market for quality audio books as well. I’m grateful for all of the current podcasts but the quality is uneven and there is a *lot* of backfill needed in other areas. There other audio opportunities and needs beside or in addition to music, if those might be of interest.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      This is something to consider, Rory. Bringing an audio component into SDF would be cool. I can even imagine it being something apart from but suplemental to the work of the Fellowship — like a podcast that delivers meditations, prayers, brief liturgies or discussions on the relevance and experience of solitude.

      I’ll be churning this over today. Many thanks!

      1. Sophia Catherine Avatar

        A podcast of audio for SDF would be an absolutely *wonderful* idea.

  25. Eric S. Riley Avatar

    I think there’s no one way I /do/ music. It’s woven into the fabric of every day of my life. Growing up my entire family played, we had records, listened to the radio, my father’s band won radio competitions for country music, family gatherings were invitations to jam. I grew up playing clarinet, moved on to piano, and picked up a guitar probably four years ago now. I’m an idler with playing, but singing comes so easily. I sing every morning in the shower. I plug my phone into a speaker set up in my bathroom and pick the mood for the day. Some mornings it’s Joni Mitchell or Nick Drake, other mornings its Kyle Minogue or Robyn, and other mornings it’s KMFDM and Nine Inch Nails. It sets the stage for my body, and where I want to be.

    Music tunes me. It awakens feelings and memories and desires and powers inside me that I wouldn’t have had without it. I can hear an Appalachian folk ballad and think of my family down in Kentucky. I can hear the driving pulse of industrial music and think of the factories where my family worked and rebelling against that life, stomping it dead with my boots. I can hear the sound of my sexual alienation as a young queer person in the goth music of the 80’s and 90’s. I can hear my heart swell and my loneliness fade when I listen to that Athens sound.

    I make a bit of music myself. I’m exploring really what that means, and who I am as a musician. Much of my stuff is self-exploratory, but that’s really what I write most days anyway. The story of my life set to music isn’t all that difficult. Just finding the time to do it seems to be. I get a couple nights a week free, and I find myself grabbing the guitar and turning on garage band. For the most part, I do it for me. I’m at heart an introvert. My extroversion is here online. I would be content to never have played a show in front of an audience, but I love to play with friends. What I write, and what I sing is me. And I share that with those I love.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      Thanks for this window into your world, Eric. I appreciate it. Your love of music is inspiring to me.

  26. Debra Betts Storch Avatar

    Music, to me, is poetry that unites mind, heart and soul. That can shift energy, remind us of times past and give us hope for the future. That tells us we are not alone-others have walked this path, whether joyous or sad or, well, “It’s Friday”.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar


      Wonderfully put, Debra. Thank you!

  27. Alan J Sheridan Avatar

    In my early *early* days of paganism, around ages 19-25, I spent a lot of time focused on music. Chants, primarily, because it was all we had to pass around orally. I wrote chants, chanted with others, and helped organize a community “Chant Jam”. I sing in the shower almost daily, in the car, and as part of my devotional daily practice. Sometimes it’s wordless, other times I just open up and let that river of Muses flow through me and desperately try to remember what they’re sharing with me to write down.

    Music is like sparkling honey glowing golden in the sun of my being. The only really sad times in my life have been when I cut myself off from it.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      I love that, Alan. What a great comment. Thank you for sharing your connection to music.

      There’s something about chanting. I really appreciate the repetition, the movement, the cyclical motion. I’ve spend a lot of time writing pop-structured songs, but there’s something in the call and response of chant that really speaks to me.

      1. Alan J Sheridan Avatar

        There’s a book titled “Chanting: Discovering Spirit in Sound” by Robert Gass and Kathleen A. Brehony that I highly recommend. 🙂

  28. Michael Elamson Avatar
    Michael Elamson

    It’s odd in a way. A Christian artist can make music that is not categorized as “Christian music,” even when it has a clearly spiritual influence and talks openly about God and Jesus (e.g. Sufjan Stevens, or Mumford and Sons), but I imagine if Matt Morris mentioned Mannanan or Arianhrod (or whomever you might be inclined to mention), it would raise eyebrows. So the question is, can you write music and lyrics that fully reflect who you are today without it risking being categorized as “pagan music” despite your best intentions?

    Probably, you can. But it does add a layer of challenge.

    1. Teo Bishop Avatar

      And I suppose that’s only a part of the challenge, Michael. There are bands (I’m thinking of Fleetwood Mac, for one) who have themes or language that is associated with Pagan spirituality, and they aren’t labeled “Pagan.” I’d like to think it’s possible for an artist to incorporate spiritual or religious language without your music being labeled “religious music,” and I don’t think I’m so worried about that. I’m proud of who I am.

      In some ways, the biggest challenge is taking on the mantle of “artist” again after having set it aside for so long.

      Thanks for the comment. Glad to have you here in 2013!

      (P.S. I’m curious about your connection to music, or its connection to you. How do you do music?)

      1. Michael Elamson Avatar
        Michael Elamson

        Music has been an integral part of my life from an early age. I don’t play any instruments well, but I can strum a guitar and I’ve written a few songs. Mostly though, I’m a listener.

        Back in the days before downloads, I would spend hours in music stores looking for new things. I’ve discovered more than one favorite artist by risking the price of an LP on one that just looked intriguing, knowing nothing about the artist.

        Music is a powerful vehicle for expressing emotion and spirtuality. Singing as a group — our grove usually does at high rites — is good, but I also seek out artsists to listen to on my own time too. I still like some Christian music — a Rich Mullins song like “Calling Out Your Name” or “Here in America” will always move me — but there are comparatively few pagan artists, at least those specifically identified as pagan, and Damh the Bard seems to be the most successful. (I am a big fan.)

        But by and large, I prefer music that expresses truths about life, the more universal truths you mentioned. At its best, music is less a tool for pushing a point of view and more a way to bring home realities that are true of us all.

        So I do music mostly by listening to it and seeking out new experiences. And when I go to the music I already know, I sometimes select something specifically related to the mood of the moment, and I sometimes just set the iPod to shuffle and let it take me where it will.

    2. Alan J Sheridan Avatar

      I think you can make music that appeals to pagans, although may not be overtly pagan. Omnia makes no bones about being pagan, and Laura Powers has some definitely pagan songs, but others that are just “pagan appealing”. SJ Tucker does a pretty good job of being appealing to some non-pagans as well. I think if Matt Morris sings some “regular” songs and some songs that have a theme about the beauty of the earth and how we need to be good stewards it should work fine. John Denver did it, and to my knowledge he wasn’t pagan 🙂

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