Like most young New Zealanders of my generation and since, in my 20s I frequently indulged in one of our finest homegrown natural products: New Zealand Green. Kiwis claim it's the finest marijuana on the planet: organic, sunshine grown, clean and pure. As any smoker knows, getting stoned on good weed gives the listener a much deeper appreciation of music - you hear things you never did before, and the magic of a single beautiful note can transfix you. I don't believe in any religion or god, but I think music is one of the ways we connect with deeper patterns and meanings in the universe - it can lift us out of our day-to-day lives to become aware of higher feelings that are impossible to articulate in words. That's why music has had such a hold on all humans since the stone age - we need it in a very deep cultural sense.
But as a practising musician, ironically you can lose the magic of music as you strive to master your instrument to channel it. It's easy to get fixated on technical details and get stuck in a rut, playing the same type of things over and over. A nice joint can jolt you out of that and help you see things in a completely new way, play fresh things you never would otherwise. That's what happened with this tune - it came from getting stoned in Auckland one evening in about 1990, playing my harmonica through a mic and some lush reverb and recording the sounds. I knew I'd captured somthing, but it was raw and unresolved. The next day I listened with a clear straight head and was so happy to hear the elemental quality of it still held up. I worked to extend and finish the thing, and started playing it at gigs. The power this piece had was striking! Many times people stood and walked out half-way through, then came back when it was finished. When it first happened I was shocked and hurt - as any musician would be if someone walks out when they're playing. But after the gig they told me it was just too much to take in - because it reawakened memories of some painful experience they'd had. Maybe it does something similar for me, I really don't know - but it's very cathartic to play, I have to admit!
Originally I called it Space Harp but renamed it 'Lament for the 21st Century' in the year 2000 - I don't know why...
Harmonica: Half-valved chromatic in an alternate version of PowerChromatic Tuning.