The real significance of Jon Hopkins “Singing bowl (Ascension)”

Jon Hopkins popped up in my Google News ‘suggested articles’ this morning. He has released a new ambient track called “Singing Bowl (Ascension)”. The black and white photo of him floating in a pool with his shirt on, looking numb and calmly staring upwards at nothing resonated with me. This was the first sign that JH was tapping into a collective state of mind. I scrolled through his twitter a bit and read through the NME article and the Clash article. Nowadays, music journalists are so used to commodifying musicians and their work that it doesn’t occur to them anymore to draw parallels and interpret their work as giving a voice to a collective consciousness. They missed an opportunity to remind us of the role of art in reflecting life back at us.

His tweets almost intentionally leave a trail of breadcrumbs to a commentary on isolation and self-exploration. It was an opportunity to write an elegant article describing how “Singing Bowl” and the creative process behind it, is a metaphor for the quietening of life and ongoing collective personal development. It’s not particularly interesting to know that the instrument he used is a 100 year old singing bowl from Delhi. The interesting part is where he describes it as ‘pure’ and ‘liberating’ to use a single sound source and pare back his creative process. This is a beautiful illustration of a wider social awakening.

Quarantine has made us all adapt our lives and find alternatives for old habits. We’ve all conjured up solutions to carry on activities that are important to us which depended on leaving the house like connecting with family members. In a shutdown world we’ve also had to pare back our lives significantly and live with less choice. In a mundane way, going to the supermarket and buying whatever is there because the usual shelves are bare and you impulsively buy whatever you can because what if everything goes to shit and next time the shops are closed? In a literal sense our world has been forcibly reduced to our neighbourhoods, the walk to the shops and the route we take in our daily quota of exercise. When there’s nothing to plan to do or regret not doing, no friends or places to see, no FOMO, we’re pushed to look more intently to our immediate surroundings for alternatives. Our lives are stripped back and we’re made to look inwards, relearn what we like and who we really are. We realise that we actually enjoy solitude. The illusion of endless choice as a necessary component for the pursuit of happiness (itself nothing but code for material gain and fulfilment of one’s consumer self) is broken and in reality, we can find freedom and contentment in simpler ways of living and being. If we’re lucky they might be beautiful, pure and liberating too.

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Working at Believe, licensing and managing relations with digital music platforms. LLM Intellectual Property Law.

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