“…illness really is the greatest healer, as it forces people to confront anything that is out of balance…”Jeannie Evans
I recently caught up with the inspiring musician Jeannie Evans. In her darkest moments she was able to harness a unique gift, a gift that eventually led to the beautiful “Message From the Mystery.” Check out what Jeannie has to say.
Samantha: I have to say that “Message From the Mystery” is absolutely beautiful. What can you tell us about that track?
Jeannie: Well, that was a bit of a curiosity. It came through back in December 2009 when I was still very ill. I’d had psychic experiences since I was a kid, some of them music-related and things had been escalating. Then, one night I was out in my music shack (I have a room in the garden which I work from, and it’s kind of peaceful at night because there’s a skylight and I can lie back and see the stars through it) when I suddenly heard music playing at me. As it became louder, I realised it was a choir. My first instinct was to check all the windows I had open on my laptop. Once I realized it wasn’t coming from there, I shut it down and checked my Hi-fi, but that was already switched off. Then, finally I checked to see if it was coming from outside, but all the neighbours were asleep, and that was when I realised it was playing in my head.
Anyway, I quickly messaged a friend, who told me to get it written down. It took about an hour to notate as it’s very repetitive and I wanted to make sure all the patterns were in the right order. I found that I could ask to hear certain bits again and the music would respond for me. Afterwards, I played the harmonies through on the piano and then left it. I felt it was too static to do anything with and I didn’t change my mind until a couple of years later when I met an artist called Louisa Fairclough on the riverbank. She was camping next to the water and we’d both been going through rough patches: her sister had taken her own life, and I was in this position where I’d lost everything: my health, long-term relationship, job, house, etc.. We had both gravitated towards the river by way of healing, so we connected over that, and ended up collaborating on a sound installation for the 2014 Bristol New Music Festival. “Message From the Mystery” was recorded for this project.
The whole recording process was fraught with difficulty as the piece was almost unsingable. The trouble with disembodied voices is that they don’t breathe, so the choir we initially recruited had to ‘pass the breath’ which means that everyone had to breathe at different times in order to create a continuous sound. The other issue was tuning. The music I heard came through at pretty much bang on 432hrz tuning, which is slightly lower than concert pitch. But, we decided to record at concert pitch anyhow in the hope it would keep things simple. It didn’t. Every take without fail, the singers would end up a semi-tone down from where they started. It was as if the piece itself was trying to drag them there. In the end we decided to re-record it at the last minute and Gloucester Cathedral Youth Choir kindly stepped in to do it. This time the track was recorded in short sections in order to keep it on pitch and then ‘stitched together’ in the studio by Richard Jeffrey-Gray of Hox (who is brilliant). The tuning was also changed to 432hrz in the post-production.
Samantha: You mentioned briefly on your bandcamp page that you became ill after an incident in 2002. Would you care to share more about that?
Jeannie: This is something that is difficult for me to explain, because it’s one of those unusual, invisible illnesses. I went on an ordinary plane flight, but my ears didn’t equalise the pressure properly and I was left with all sorts of problems: constant pain, vertigo, feelings of pressure in my head, and extreme sensitivity to sound and movement. These were all exacerbated by everything from hormone changes to the weather. I couldn’t travel more than a couple of miles by car and at times it was so bad I was unable to stand, and all I could do was lie down in a dark room and cling on to the floor. Even sleeping is impossible with severe vertigo, because as soon as your body thinks it’s falling, it automatically produces adrenaline, which wakes you up, and so you just lie there feeling like you’re being thrown over and over. And, of course, with regard to the music, it was just horrendous, because any sound at all, even the vibration of my own voice, would make everything a hundred times worse. Although logically I understood I was ill, as a musician I found it incredibly hard to accept, because something that had always been there as an outlet and a comfort was suddenly causing me pain. I was selective mute as a child, so for years music was the main way I expressed myself, and then suddenly I didn’t have that anymore.
So, as I mentioned on my bandcamp page, because the symptoms were mainly on one side of my head, I found ways to block off the noise on that side. I continued teaching piano with an earplug and practiced small amounts on a digital piano with the volume down and the headphones rigged so the sound only came out one side. It actually helped my teaching in a weird way as I couldn’t rely on demonstration and had to find other ways to communicate what I meant. Eventually, after 9 years, 4 different hospitals, and 8 different consultants, I was finally diagnosed by a research scientist in London and was able to get some treatment. By this time I’d had to stop work entirely. It turned out to be a very rare form of migraine, which then required me to have 10 months of physiotherapy so that my brain could build new pathways, and compensate for the fact that the signals from my ears were conflicting with the signals from everywhere else. I’ll have to be on a truckload of different meds for the rest of my life and it looks like flying is out, but that’s a small price to pay for essentially having my life back.
This experience taught me so much though. It’s funny, but illness really is the greatest healer, as it forces people to confront anything that is out of balance, quite literally in my case. I went through a big spiritual awakening because of it. Also, that whole ‘What am I when all the things I thought I had, all of my abilities and the things that made me feel like me are gone?’ is a very interesting state to be in. Once you let go of the outcome and accept everything as it is, the Universe often has a way of handing things back to you and saying haha – but they were yours anyway. Plus, all my friends now get to take the piss and ask me how my headache is, and I wouldn’t want to deprive them of that!
Samantha: Having embraced being clairaudient, how has your music changed?
Jeannie: I didn’t actually write very much before all this happened to me. “Message From the Mystery” sort of kick-started the whole thing and I’m not sure I’ve fully embraced it yet. I still question everything I experience; I have to, both for my own curiosity and for other people. There are a lot of sceptics out there. Also, although I’m primarily clairaudient, I am to an extent clairvoyant and clairsentient too, which means that I see and sense things that are considered to be paranormal as well as hearing them. Since “Message From the Mystery” came through, I’ve been working with various guides and they have different ways of communicating. You’d think that it would all be done clairaudiently, but that way is actually not very efficient. It’s okay with a short simple piece, but almost impossible with an orchestral one, at least with my limited transcription abilities. So, for example, sometimes one of my guides might put energy into my spine while I sit at the piano and move my hands for me. Although this is something I’m very careful about and won’t allow unless I’m fully protected and am am absolutely sure who’s with me. A lot of the time music comes through in a similar way to reiki healing, like a sort of energy download through the crown and I just sit there with manuscript paper and write. And of course, I have my own input too. It’s a combination of energies: mine and whichever guide is with me. “Message From the Mystery” was unique in that it was given to me whole. I had no obvious input. On top of this, in 2010 I went through a full kundalini awakening, which has definitely helped the whole musical process.
Samantha: Do you have any plans of releasing more music in the forseeable future?
Jeannie: I have a lot of music that’s ready and waiting to be recorded, but as to when it will be released, in what format and in what order, that very much depends on what opportunities I find or can make. I’m open to presenting it in vastly different ways if necessary. I mean, it never occurred to me that I’d end up recording monologues for the art installation, but I did and they turned out to be a good way of explaining the background behind the music. So there could be all sorts of avenues that I haven’t considered or that I don’t know exist or that haven’t even been invented yet. Incidentally, those monologues will be out on vinyl soon, although I don’t know the details at the moment as I only found out about it a few days before the pressing, so I guess that’s the first thing that will happen.
I also have about 10 piano pieces that I need to record myself – I’m primarily a pianist. These will likely be next on the list.
Then there’s a big orchestral piece in four movements (sections), which I feel is important energetically as I began it when I was ill. I had stopped working on it, not knowing if I’d ever be well enough to go back to playing. And then by the time I’d finished writing the piece, I was better. So the piece really documents the whole journey. It’s very different from “Message From the Mystery,” and needs some tweaking, but with any luck it will sound dramatic and filmic, if I can get the orchestration right. I’m hoping that it will help others who have been kicked in the teeth by life and are going through similar awakenings. But these things are never predictable, and I’m not sure I’d want them to be.
Those interested in checking out “Message From the Mystery” can find the track on Jeannie’s bandcamp page: https://jeannieevans.bandcamp.com/releases.