Stories Behind the Songs: “The Inner Life”

Posted by  Grand Poobah  August 29, 2014  •  No Comments  • 

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Hammered Dulcimer“The Inner Life” is obviously inspired by the Beatles’ B-side “The Inner Light”. George Harrison took the words for that song verbatim from a passage in Lamps of Fire, a collection of religious writings by Juan Mascaró. That passage was a translation of Chapter 47 of the Tao Te Ching.

I got the idea for “The Inner Life” while in Florence, Italy in 2009. I was thinking about how contemplation must come more easily to the introvert than to the extrovert. I’m an introvert, and often have a hard time comprehending extroverts, so I wrote a verse from each perspective. I had a melody in mind also, but since I was traveling abroad I had no musical instrument, and I’m not musically literate enough to write down notes on a staff from my head. So the words were captured, but the melody was lost.

I had always envisioned the song as quiet, meditative, and with an Indian flavor; the drone of the tamboura and the bright, buzzing sitar were definitely part of my vision from the start. So I’m not sure what inspired me, in September 2012, to recast it in a funk mold. But it came to me that way, along with chords and a melody. I quickly wrote a final verse recognizing that we need both introverts and extroverts, and the song, which had languished for three years, was suddenly complete, as what I can only describe as raga-funk.

The recording of the song is notable for the strange instrumentation; I played not only an electric sitar, but a hammer dulcimer, a bowed psaltery, and an ashiko, while John contributed synthesized strings in addition to the bass. Years ago I had actually envisioned doing a sort of Indian-themed song using traditional western acoustic instruments, so this was a chance to give it a try.

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