Music and Unmind
Now you may or may not see things quite as primordially as old 'Satchmo' did, but I'm sure you connect in some way to the powerful effect that music has on us humans. Apart from the enjoyment it gives us, music has been shown to have a positive impact on our mental health. With this in mind, we reached out to two accomplished musicians, James Hannay and Jonjo Grisdale, to ask if they'd be interested in collaborating with us to create musical tools for mental wellbeing.
Our first project with James and Jonjo is something we've called 'Interludes'. These music-based meditations have been meticulously composed to help calm and uplift the mind, perfect for a 10-minute wellbeing break at any time of the day. I asked James and Jonjo a few questions to help us get to know them a little and find out a bit more about the project so far.
1. Tell us a little about yourselves and your background
I am a mainly self-taught musician but over the years have composed music in a wide variety of bands, from funk bands to UK hip hop to atmospheric alt-rock. This has led me to my role now as a media composer where I primarily specialise in documentaries. I have scored music for docs on BBC, Ch 4, CNN, Al Jazeera. I also play in and manage a couple of funk and soul function bands. One of which is the house band at a club in Covent Garden, London.
With roots in Jazz Piano, I have played and toured in pop genres worldwide with Artists including The Pierces, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Elton John, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Lauren Pritchard and Kim Wilde. Now focused on composing and production, I have recently composed music for companies such as Nike, Siemens and Google, plus composing and producing in many other exciting up and coming projects in genres from neoclassical to electronic music.
2. What was it like working on the Unmind Interludes?
Great. I hadn't created meditation music before this. Obviously, the scoring of docs has set me up nicely here because you are always trying to find the sweet spot between the music being felt but not necessarily heard. I think the same applies here, though in this case, the soundscape matters more. You want the listener to feel immersed but not distracted. That presents a particular challenge.
It has been a pleasure so far to have worked on the Unmind Interludes, and I am excited for what is to come with Unmind. Having many years of experience with meditation practice myself it has been familiar in some ways, but it has also been a challenging experience producing music that aids the meditation and mindfulness practice without it being 'heard' too much or distracting. I am looking forward to exploring this more.
3. What role has music played in your own wellbeing?
It's hard to imagine my life without music, so I'm convinced that I owe a huge chunk of my wellbeing to music. Creating music plays a vital role for me, particularly to my sense of self-worth. But as a self-taught musician, listening to music was where my passion for it came from. So, in that sense, music really feels like my lifeblood.
I believe that music plays a significant role in the wellbeing of most people, including myself. Whether this comes from listening to your favourite songs or artists or listening to songs that you can relate to at certain times in your life, music has the capacity for emotional healing. Personally, being able to express myself through music is a big gift I am very grateful for! I am also interested in the use of specific sound frequencies to help bring about positive neurological effects. This is something I am interested in exploring more with the compositions I'll be creating for Unmind.
4. Who is your favourite musician or band of all time, and why?
I can't really look beyond The Beatles for everything they brought to the development of popular music and, let's face it, popular culture. Listening to their many, many songs gives me a glow and a sense of who I am more than any other artist.
I think this would have to be both Michael Jackson and The Police. "Thriller" by MJ and "Regatta de Blanc" by The Police were the first two records I ever had on LP. I think they're probably the two most influential artists for me still. I remember doing the moonwalk at home as a kid and also going crazy miming the drums to "Message in a Bottle". Of the more recent bands and artists, I'd have to say Little Dragon is my favourite.
5. Tell us about the highlight of your musical career to date
I helped score double BAFTA winner Marina Parker's last two documentaries for the BBC which I really enjoyed. She always creates vital, human work. I've also composed a series of UNHCR documentaries fronted by Angelina Jolie which has been very rewarding.
I think my highlight must be playing with Roger Waters and David Gilmour from Pink Floyd for a reunion gig they did a few years ago. Being on stage with the two of them was unforgettable. Aside from that, I am currently writing and recording with my own band, and I am hoping that a highlight to come will be playing at a European music festival in the not too distant future!