Music and My Life by Hamish Barker
If I am asked about my earliest significant childhood memories they would definitely include
hearing songs on the radio. I can recall feeling a sense of wonderment, almost like standing at the doorway to another familiar, yet more exotic world, having a sense of comfort and well-being and wanting to express and interpret my happiness through physical movement.
60 years on and I can say that music can still have that effect on me! — although these days I am rather more discerning in my choice of music.
I think it was because my response to music was spontaneous, that, despite early attempts to learn an instrument at school, I simply could not relate to written music. Indeed, I have never learnt to read music, although I understand theory and chord construction.
In my teens the doorway to that exotic world was opened wide by The Beatles— suddenly it was possible and valid to make your own music in your own way— to ‘do your thing.’ I joined a band formed at my local youth club and started the process of teaching myself to play-.first bass guitar, then guitar, then flute, then drums and finally keyboards. I played professionally for a while in various bands at home and abroad before my interest in the art of making records led me to getting a job as Sound Engineer in a small London recording Studio. Here I learned much that I would put to use in the future, although after 2 years a longing to be making music rather than recording others led me to leave.
After several years of trying to find a situation that would enable me to express my musicality I was at a point of frustration and disillusionment. Here Subud found me.
I initially let go of my musical ambitions, then started to think in terms of playing solo- a very scary idea at first. I slowly put together a repertoire of singer songwriter type songs and eventually played clubs and pubs for some time, learning as I went.
The next phase of my life found me running a retreat centre with my new wife, Latimah. We had a large country house where we hosted groups of 20 or so. Events included massage, dance, creativity, relaxation, yoga, counselling and Shiatsu. Playing in pubs was no longer either possible or attractive.
After a while I became more tuned in to the type of New Age music various groups were listening to and I started to record my own atmospheric music, multi-tracking principally flute and guitar to create a relaxing soundscape. I was able to introduce my music to guests as they came down to breakfast in the morning and started to sell tapes and later CDs fairly steadily including to many therapists who found it an ideal backdrop for their practice. This phase continued for almost 20 years until we felt that we needed to move on.
I now have a Recording Studio at our present house where I spend a lot of my time. In recent years I have been teaching myself to play piano and find the keyboard a much richer and more expressive form of accompaniment. It also seems to support my singing voice in a way that feels more natural. Indeed I find myself more interested in writing vocal pieces these days. Writing lyrics however does not come naturally to me. So if there are any gifted lyricists reading this I would be most interested to hear from you!
MUSIC AND THE LATIHAN
Over many years doing Latihan I have observed how my musical life has run parallel in many ways to my inner process. Similar purifications, re-evaluation of motives, and letting go of old ways and the discovery of new talents and ways of working seem to occur.
When I was first opened I felt I really wanted to sing, but it was some years until I actually began to sing in the latihan. Now singing is what I do most in Latihan and I can confidently say that for me there is no finer tuition for my vocal chords. I now regard the ‘songs’ I find myself expressing in Latihan form the benchmark of what I need to express in the world. Of course, one cannot hold on to these Latihan ’songs’, they are of the moment and cannot be captive.
Still, the feeling remains and I strive in my musical endeavours to have enough ‘effortless’ technical ability to allow the channel to be open and let something of true content come through.
I can really recognise and feel when it works and conversely that makes it very unsatisfying when it doesn’t! Truly a double-edged sword! -And a journey that I sense will never end.