Full disclosure: when I hear Mairi Campbell’s voice, I feel at home. Campbell’s version of Auld Lang Syne is my regular YouTube go-to cry-song (it featured in Sex & the City The Movie) and when I hear her voice I feel safe, and warm, able to cry… I feel home. Watching Campbell’s journey to find her home and her authentic voice, therefore, felt like a journey I already associated with her.
Much has been written on the science of the voice and of music (Wellcome Collection’s This is a Voice exhibition being a recent major example), from the study of how the voice and ear physically understand and receive sound, to the chemicals released in our brain upon hearing music, to the physical benefits derived from dance. In Mairi Campbell’s Pulse, however, it is the quest to find the music which suited her body, to find the music which fit with her bones, which is the central journey. The history of music (and folk music in particular) is inherently bound to questions of nationality, or migration, of colonialism, and of intercultural exchange – and this is an area around which Pulse treads lightly – but in Campbell’s journey, an idea of ‘home’ feels less psychological or political and more physical, even genetic.
Recent scientific studies have attempted to locate either a music gene, or a scientific correlation between distinct populations and the music they make. For Campbell, her experience with both classical music (at Guildhall and in Mexico), and folk music (both with and without footwork in Canada and Scotland), seems to entail a complex interplay between genetics, nationality, gender norms, environmentalism and spirituality. For us as audience members, however, we experience her music in the bones, the ear, the heart. Part of me wishes I understood, scientifically and intellectually, how music and this voice makes me feel home… or maybe not… I wouldn’t want my brain to get in the way. (BL)
Pulse is at Summerhall Old Lab until August 28th. Venue is wheelchair accessible and BSL shows are available - https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/mairi-campbell-pulse
On Mairi Campbell: https://mairicampbell.scot/
This is a Voice Exhibition: https://wellcomecollection.org/thisisavoice
Nature vs. Nurture in Music Taste: http://phys.org/news/2009-11-nature-nurture-reveals-musical-genes.html