The music in the bell-tipped grass

The music in the bell-tipped grass

The music in the bell-tipped grass

When I was young I could hear music in everything. It seemed natural to listen in this way. As many kids do, I would lay in the grass looking up at the sky, watching the shapes of the clouds and just listening. I remember how the gold bell tips of the grass made musical sounds as they brushed together in the breeze. I felt the totality of myself with no reserve and my senses expanded; everything felt complete and safe.

I can distinctly remember how this felt. I can also remember how this changed as I grew up and joined the world through teenage years and into adulthood. I was faced with, and chose from time to time the usual social lubricants – food, drugs, alcohol and the accompanying soundtrack that went with it – music.

Hours were spent in my bedroom spinning discs on my portable record player, dramatically singing at full pelt. It was a world of my own in which any emotion could be played out. I experienced lost love, raging rebellion, happiness, moody blues and driven exhilaration. I loved the music for the entertainment it brought: it was fun, it filled my life when I was feeling empty and buffered me from life as I romanticised anything that I didn't like or which felt too big to deal with. But it never left me with the space to be me; to see and feel the reality of me. I used music for:

  • ideas and emotions around identity
  • fitting in to be cool
  • being a ‘certain level’ rebel
  • wanting excitement
  • indulging in intense emotions and sadness
  • inciting anger, frustration,
  • or creating a false high were all there for me to hook into ...

Let’s be honest, the emotional ‘highs and lows’ list goes on and on. And I chose all of these to varying degrees.

As ‘hidden extras’ these come ready made in music and can easily influence and affect us if we allow them. I am not just talking about the porn and violence that is in our face today presented in the guise of art .... And it is not only in lyrics in songs – there is a distinct feeling and fashion to music styles as well.

My sister recently remarked ... “Do you remember that beautiful grass on the hill?” ... over 40 years later and I had no idea that she ever thought about it, let alone felt about it the same way I did. It was a time when as kids, we were left to delightfully be ourselves – to feel the joy, playfulness, freedom and innocence within ourselves – and the natural creativity that flowed from that.

Years later this frame of reference still leaves a lasting impression for me. It was something I am able to return to. It was exhausting and debilitating trying to live anything else than that, and a great relief to be able to begin to let go of the so-called fashionable layers I had dressed myself with ... to feel my natural self again.

The greatness I feel in music is when the music I hear just leaves me be. It is not music that tries to manipulate or sway me in any way. Now when I make music and sing I look for that quality.

The girl who played in the long grass is alive and well: how my life has changed, it’s come around full circle ... back to me ... and boy, it feels good.

  • By Jenny James, Singer/Songwriter

  • Photography: Clayton Lloyd