Folk Music & the Techno-Age
the Invasion of the Machine
By Kevin & Donna
“Be a sweet melody in the great orchestration,
instead of a discordant note. The medicine this sick world needs is love.
Hatred must be replace by love, and fear must be replaced by faith that
love will prevail.”
– Peace Pilgrim
of the Techno-Age
come to a point in our evolution where our reliance on technological
solutions is creating a disconnect within us between the desire to survive
comfortably and the longing to feel satisfied. Throughout most of man’s
long history, tools and machines have been utilized to make work and
survival easier. But we must collectively begin to recognize the
associated high cost of every technological solution we create.
techno-age has taken away our connection with real life and left our
hearts empty. We are missing
the personal connections with each other and the essential exchange of
life energy that came from working together for food, survival and
community. Humanity has lost
its’ phylogenetic connection to real, organic life.
intrigue and obsession for more and more techno-gadgets, cell-phones,
computers, cars, instant entertainment, convenience food, and designer
drugs has ultimately succeeded in taking us away from the natural world,
which we are biologically attuned to in the most profound and mysterious
way. Each human being is a complete DNA-library of genetic history that
has thrived for millions of years on the biogenic energy of the
terrestrial world. Through this evolutionary process we have been divinely
programmed to function in accord with the natural rhythms of life - the
stars, the seasons, natural elements, herbs and animal life.
Yet over the course of just a few decades we have thrown much of
we’ve artificially entrained ourselves to the clock (a machine), adapted
to eating genetically modified food (techno-sustenance) and strategically
insulated ourselves from the environment by living inside climate
controlled and artificially lighted buildings. Each of these advances in
modern civilized living comes with a high price – our own individual
level of physical and emotional health and sense of connection with the
earth and each other.
Food, Folk Music
& Real Life
many years now, Donna and I have chosen to radically alter our lifestyle
to accommodate a return to the wisdom of what we are now calling “real
life”. When we began
our EarthStar Primal Habitat project in 1997, we were attempting to
create for ourselves a life of voluntary simplicity in order to reduce the
complexity and burden of contemporary life.
This is when the web-site was created and we began to write about
our experience and the things we valued.
Having achieved all that, we’re experiencing the benefits of good
health, a peaceful environment and quality time together to enhance our
still happy to share what we’ve learned with others about the lifestyle
of Voluntary Simplicity, we recently noticed a growing sense that
“something is not right.” During the long years it took to build our
place on a pay-as-you-go plan, I had to temporarily put aside my love of
singing and playing guitar. There
was simply no time for it. But
since all the building is completed, I have joyfully returned to it with a
renewed sense of passion. And
the answer to the “something’s not right” is finally coming clear
– it’s time to create a fulfilling sense of community through music
process always seems to have its’ own timing.
First we took responsibility for our own lives by radically
downsizing, simplifying and reducing our dependency on too much
technology. And now that we
have loosened ourselves somewhat from the insatiable jaws of the machine
world, we are free to move on to an even bigger perspective, the joyous
homecoming back to our roots and the common thread which sustained and
soothed our ancestors in ages past.
what is the common thread that has been missing? Once upon a time, wasn’t singing and music a part of
everyday life, as much as talking, physical exercise, and religion?
Our distant ancestors, wherever they were in this world, sang while
pounding grain, paddling canoes or walking long journeys.
As Donna and I reached out to our community through the medium of
singing and sharing traditional and modern folk music, participating in
singing circles as well as the sharing of savory wholesome foods, we began
to see more and more smiles. We
are finding a renewed sense of hope that we can create a revival of the
celebratory energy of our ancient brothers and sisters – people who
relied on the security and companionship of one another.
is this kind of connection with real life that gives meaning and
purpose to existence. And
without that sense of union, people are left with a malignant emptiness
that festers and grows until it devours every shred of life-force energy
within us. This is what I see happening to a large extent in the lives of
young people. For example, the modern pop, hip-hop culture-craze is
an adequate reflection of this extreme level of dissatisfaction,
insecurity, rage and frustration plaguing the minds and hearts of modern
music is the most truthful voice describing the social depression and the
stagnant distorted energy experienced by many of our young people. The
gloomy lyrics and discordant monotone voices drone and echo their sense of
hopelessness. This is the
result of having lost the primal connection with the natural rhythm of
life. Just think about the difference in the vibrant life-generating
energy of indigenous drum rhythms to the kind of sluggish, back skipping
beat of rap music and you’ll understand what I mean.
kind of modern music rarely offers any kind of message of hope or a better
condition of life for young people. Instead, the lyrics speak of violent
conflict, drug abuse, gangs, sexual cruelty, despair and so on. Unlike the
songs of Woody Guthrie and the folk music revivalists during the dust-bowl
depression and into the 1940’s and then again around the early 60’s
during the civil rights movement (Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, PP&M, and
Johnny Cash), today’s pop music has lost the power to remind people of
the true values of hope, peace, inner strength and a sense of community.
these true values has been the unique role of folk musicians throughout
history. They brought together and preserved the collective stories and
wisdom of older traditions, the social joys, laments, verses of praise and
love songs and kept the message of hope alive for the children. Folk music
has always been the universal thread, the voice of the common people, the
hope and inspiration, heart to heart, of one generation to the next.
for the most part, the folk world is slowly fading away. There are still
many who treasure these old songs and work to keep the flame alive, but it
is still relatively small in our world. I believe the steady decline is a
direct result of our civilizations’ seductive fondness for the toys of
the techno-age, as well as our reliance on credit cards, which gives us a
false sense of security. When
people are able to distract themselves by purchasing electronic gizmos and
toys, it’s unlikely they will return to the ancient custom of engaging
in traditional songs and folklore which held them together.
gadgets are great for providing entertainment around the clock. Anyone can
access a whole library of information (or misinformation) or
instantaneously listen to any kind of music, news, sports, etc., but these
modern devices can never transmit the energy and aliveness that telling
campfire stories or singing folk tunes did for our ancestors.
experience of real life - that is what our civilization is losing.
Thankfully the old songs are still around, but the bonds of community
gathering are dwindling. People would rather drive around with ear-buds
plugged into their own personal IPOD or Blackberry or some other
techno-gadget instead of getting together to break bread and sing songs.
times past, hearing someone play an instrument was rare and highly
appreciated and treasured. Though the rich could hire musicians to write
symphonies to be played in their castles, the poor people had to sing
their own “work” songs. Music really meant something to them because
the very people who were meekly struggling for basic survival generally
composed it. Songs were handed down and they had a heartbeat that was real
and genuine. For simple country people, life was typically about providing
food and shelter, raising children and keeping warm and dry.
Their necessary reliance on each other kept them bonded together.
in our techno-age, we rely on the extension of credit rather than on each
other for survival. This has
severed the bonds of community and real life.
Even though there are a lot of good things to celebrate about the
conveniences of modern living, there are an equal number of negatives as
well. The consequences of the contemporary American lifestyle are often
overwhelming and degenerative. There
is no time or energy left to create the type of community solidarity we
are all craving.
the two of us had spent a number of years working on our EarthStar
project, we began to sense that there was still a missing piece in our
lives. Although we had become
debt free, independent and reconnected with nature, we still needed a
realistic way to connect with others in our local community. For life to
be truly satisfying and fulfilling, we saw that we needed to create and
sustain the delicate balance between “communion” and “community”,
the breathing in and breathing out of life.
Donna and I had successfully created communion, the breathing in
with each other, the earth and the natural world.
But what would life be if we never breathed out?
It would only be about “me and mine”.
To be whole we must learn to breathe out too, caring and
participating in community outside of religious or political gatherings.
must go back to lovingly nurturing our human connections. And what we have
realized most profoundly is that there is so much benefit to be gained in
creating some of what our ancestors enjoyed through singing together and
sharing nutritious food. This is about the closest we can get to our
primal roots and sense of community. Though we may not necessarily gather
together with our neighbors anymore to celebrate the harvest and dance
around fires in the moonlight, we can still gather a few friends together
from time to time and sing songs and break homemade bread. This simple act
of fellowship can do more positive good for us than spending our time and
resources trying to find release from boredom through entertainment
technology. The more basic and primal we can get, the more fulfilling our
this notion appeals to you, then organize a small gathering, call up a
friend who can play the piano, guitar, fiddle or banjo and get some people
together to sing a few old tunes, even if it’s only something simple
like This Land is Your Land, O’ Susanna and Home
on the Range, or even some favorite hymns. Make the musical
accompaniment as simple as possible, no fancy equipment, no microphones.
You don’t need to organize a band, you only need two or three
people and you don’t even have to be a talented singer or musician.
Singing together as a group generates a joyful energy and that’s
all that counts. Everyone goes home filled up and feeling connected.
been getting together informally and sharing some of our freshly baked
sourdough bread with cheese, olives, a couple bottles of wine and singing
together. Maybe there will be one guitar and a banjo while someone else
wails on the harmonica. It’s
really a very satisfying and heartwarming experience.
As Pete Seeger said once, “ When one person taps out a beat
while another leads into the melody, or when three people discover a
harmony they never knew existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though
to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know: there’s hope for the world.”
is our vision of creating community…recognizing and treasuring our
diversity, our different paths and our different values while experiencing
a taste of real life through singing together and sharing simple,
wholesome food. Sadly, most
people are simply content to eat a microwave pizza, listen to the radio or
CD player alone. Even little kids love to zone out on DVD movies in the
car! These technologies have their place, but we have to become aware of
how this influence is eroding away our sense of purpose and contentment in
this may certainly not appeal to everyone, for us, the joy of singing
together is as important and healthy as breathing, eating and making love.
It’s the best method we’ve found to cultivate a meaningful sense of
community. It connects us to real life and allows us to extract
ourselves from the sterile, virtual world of computer-generated
landscapes, competitive sports and action movies. And just as all human
beings need basic whole foods, our minds and hearts do best when we’re
singing simple, uplifting folk songs and inspiring melodies with friends
and family. This stream of sound that we can create together is so
precious in our techno-age. We can go back to our roots and the ancient
wisdom…break bread, share it and rise up singing!
though it’s darkest before the dawn
thoughts keep us moving on
all this world of joy and sorrow
still can have singing tomorrows”
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