Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | August 3, 2009

To be Pelted with Projections and Fantasies

Every year the Order gives an award for a paper on a subject related to Druidry. This year’s Mount Haemus Scholar, Dr.Andy Letcher, author of the magnificent ‘Shroom’, has written a paper on what it might mean to be a bard in the modern age. The whole paper will be up soon on the Order’s website. Meanwhile here is an extract:

Performing is undoubtedly tempering. It necessitates honest introspection, a thorough self-examination of one’s limitations and motivations, one that is forcibly imposed during those lean periods of creative stagnation. The demon of self-doubt is never far away. One misconception about the word ‘performance’ is that it implies pretence or make-believe, and yet the opposite is true. The very act of standing up in front of others is willingly to place oneself in the stocks, to be pelted with projections and fantasies, desires and jealousies. In turn, the temptation is for the performer to project his own needs and vulnerabilities onto the audience. It takes courage and self-knowledge to stand firm, buffeted on all sides by these pushes and pulls.
Good performance requires integrity and honesty. What is it about someone like Chris Wood that when they walk on stage we fall into an expectant hush? Confidence, certainly. Presence, yes. But also humility, a humility born of honesty. Bards work to be more honest, to be more faithful to themselves and the tradition, so that the truth can be heard.

Andy Letcher, ‘What Is a Bard?’ The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids Mount Haemus Lecture for 2009


Responses

  1. Can’t wait to read it!

  2. I look forward to reading the whole paper. I think Andy’s point about integrity and honesty is so true, and I believe that the best performers reach into something in themselves that resonates with an emotional truth, and in doing so enable the viewer/listener to connect to that place within themselves.

    Many years ago I saw a blind, black American bluesman called Jay Owens play in a tiny pub in Portsmouth. A friend of ours was in his backing band for his UK tour and this was a kind of warm up gig. I will never forget it. It sounds rather over the top to say that it was a truly transcendental experience to listen to him but it really was. He sung and played from a place of such deep emotional honesty and knowing, that it was impossible not to feel changed by it. It’s that perfect combination of feeling and skill – the folks that do this seem to have a tap root not only to their own souls but also to the things that connect us all and I think that Andy is right about what it takes to achieve this. I have been listening to a lot of Bobby Bland and Donny Hathaway lately, voices that, for me, have that ‘plugged in’ quality and move me deeply. What strikes me is that the gift of the Bard is not only one of helping us all to access spiritual truths within us, to deepen our understanding of what it means to be human -Bards are also healers too. The lines seem to blur between the role of Bard and Ovate, the Ovate travelling to those places that others might not feel able to, bringing stuff back to the surface to bring change and healing. For me, the best performers have that Ovate/Bard thing going on. To reach that deep down place takes courage and honesty but what a gift for the rest of us.

    I recently saw a wonderful play called ‘Legacy’ about Dorothy Elmhirst, the founder of Dartington Hall. I find her so inspiring. I read an essay of hers about the role of the arts and she puts it so well:

    ‘If art, then, is a process of discovery about ourselves and about life, if it brings us delight and joy, then surely it follows that we should not live without it. The great artists have always been able to communicate something new; they have penetrated so deeply into an experience that they have brought back some fesh vision: some new relationship of words, or new relationship of sound in music: a deeper insight into human beings: whatever it happens to be; they have uncovered some intense reality that lies behind all the broken and dissonant life around us; they have discovered a fundamental unity that lies at the heart of things.’

  3. Thank you for sharing these words. They speak directly to experiences I’ve had on stage, and in preparation for performances. I look forward to reading the entire paper, and I’ll link to this entry on my blog, Bishop in the Grove, and on Twitter.

    Blessings,
    Teo Bishop /|\


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