We are not machines, but we are surrounded by them. We’re an ancient species who have surrounded ourselves with technology too complex for most of us to understand. Our society has embraced burnout-inducing narratives that coerce us into thinking we can always do more, work harder, be better. But we are not machines. We are infinitely more complex.
The keystone of Danny Mulhern‘s beautiful, cerebral album Singing Through Others is the title track. Nora Bateson, poet and philosopher, calls on us to consider one aspect of our humanity that separates us from machines: our resonances.
…Knowing that the way the conversation went at dinner
Will resonate into the children’s way of being in class tomorrow
How they feel about themselves
Resonating into their friends’ families
Resonating into their resonances
Lands in a teapot of other notes
What are they brewing?
Is it integrity?
Those relationships are making more relationships
What have I contributed?
How is the ring of my being singing through others?
As she speaks, her voice triggers a reverb hazed keyboard, which itself triggers computer beeps and boops, subtly reminding us of the world we’ve created for ourselves.
This is an album about how to be human to other humans in a world of machines. The opening track, “Cloud Cuckoo”, joyfully flings around computer noise before the exquisitely played strings of the London Contemporary Orchestra enter to sweep us off our feet, making our hearts ache and sing. The dialogue between the string sections and the later woodwinds shows us the unassailable humanity of our species, but the ever-present electric glitch hold us in context. It’s full of warmth and hope, and the optimism continues in “A Different Kind Of Blue” which centres a gorgeous trumpet solo (unsurprisingly, considering the referential title.)
Danny Mulhern is a thinker. An active member of the Rebel Wisdom community, he’s got a deep interest in philosophy and the modern world. He creates the aforementioned moments of optimism, sometimes even moments of lightness and fun (“Woodlark”, “Porcelain”), but he’s also clear-eyed about the costs (“We Are Not Machines”, “The Fertile Night”). This may be a cerebral album but it’s also full of beautiful musical moments: he’s got a wonderful ear for melody and a real talent for orchestration, evidenced by the skilful way he forefronts the diverse talents of the LCO (this is the fourth time he’s worked with the orchestra and it’s well-worth checking out their previous collaborations on 1631 Recordings). In 2018 he soundtracked the critically acclaimed Hollywood movie What They Had. The press release tells us that this prompted him to examine the motivations behind his work, leading to 2020’s Flow States which, as he details in this interview, helped him to rekindle his love of music through collaboration. Collaboration is working together, being generous with one another while staying true to oneself. We have the opportunity to do it every day and, to refer back to Nora Bateson, the way we do it matters.
So take a moment to listen, and to ask yourself: how is the ring of my being singing through others? (Garreth Brooke)