Sympathy, Multitudes, Oblivion
Magnalith’s second EP was interrupted by the premature birth of my son; a welcome but harrowing arrival. We spent a day in the recording studio, then a hundred in the neonatal intensive care unit. Mercifully, he was a textbook case and we’re fortunate to have access to high standards of healthcare in New Zealand. Today, he’s thriving.
I don’t want to trivialise what my family went through, but I do want to share some context about my recent work. Magnalith is a solo project that keeps me productive. However, it’s enabled by a team of friends and supporters like our subscribers. We all have families, hopes and hardships. Everyone has gone through something indelible in recent years. This has given me a stronger sense of self: of who and what is important to making a meaningful life.
I didn’t listen to music in the first few weeks of my son’s journey. I found solace in the vulnerable, even unremarkable moments of caregiving—and books. I knew the songs I chose to hear next would be imbued with the weight of our experience: a trauma but one with room for hope. I had a sense that incidental songs might take on almost sacred attributes; other touchstones might become unlistenable. In the end, I found a gentle way back to music by sharing it with my son for the first time.
The three Magnalith songs on the new EP are temporally distinct from this: the lyrics mostly drafted earlier and production completed recently. Still, it’s tempting to analyse imagery in the new single like ‘a new heart pounding brightly,’ “hydra-headed sorrows,” and ‘aging in gloom.’ Song interpretation is, however, what meaning you make of the manifest and latent content. The expressionistic elements of this music encourage openness over prescriptiveness.
Generally, songs remain nameless right up to the point of publishing. This too is a function of an evolving sense of meaning that resists categorisation. At times, I’ve been interested in titles that were inexplicit (Henry Moore, Mark Rothko) or beguiling (Dillinger Escape Plan, “Farewell Mona Lisa”) to protect some mystery and allow for maximum interpretation. For this work, my instinct was to simply find a single word from the lyric that had resonance; one enigmatic idea with fuzzy boundaries.
Sympathy, Multitudes, Oblivion.
Considered together, they may seem like an allusion to my family’s experience. Watersheds tends to impact the familial, professional and creative selves. The earliest form of the song, “Sympathy,” claimed it was, “Invoking who you were / And are and will be again.” I’m struck reading that as a father.
In any case, I feel compelled to share. I wouldn’t normally release an unfinished work—we’ve been delayed by some final mixing and mastering—but sometimes our careful plans are disrupted. We’re met with urgent and irrepressible forces when unprepared or unworthy. It’s humbling to finding meaning and new vitality in the journey itself.
In that spirit, please enjoy this private link to stream the new song. [The final version is out now on Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp and elsewhere.] Let me know what you think.
The Little Miracles Trust provides support to families of premature or sick full-term babies as they make their journey through Neonatal Intensive Care, the transition home, and onwards. Learn more and consider donating.
This post was originally published in the Rothko Records newsletter.