What Do You Want To Do Today? Make Music, or Start a Revolution?

by Cassie Norton

What Do You Want To Do Today? Make Music, or Start a Revolution? by Cassie Norton

I’m a musician. I used to just make and teach music, but lately I have been consumed by climate activism because I love people and nature. I can’t continue living without doing something to prevent it all from disappearing.

E. E. Cummings wrote:

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. That makes it very hard to plan the day.”

This describes pretty much every day of my life now.

Listen to the song while reading the text.

Creative Impulses

I feel compelled to write songs, because I have an overwhelming creative impulse. When I don’t make things, I feel sick…. overslept, under slept, not enough coffee, too much coffee, need to go outside, scared of going outside, completely off.

I prefer music to visual art because it doesn’t take up any space. You can’t see a song and every time you play it, it is different. Songs have a life of their own. Once you write a song and share it with the world, you never know where it will go. It might not always take you with it. Songs resist ownership. When a song is sung the singer literally embodies it by using their body to sing it. Even if they didn’t write it, in the moment they sing it, it is a part of them.

When I share my songs with my band they add little bits of themselves to the stories with sound. The stories my songs tell are not just told with words. They are shaped by the groove, the melodies, and the harmonies created by all of the other players. When we perform we become one narrator, and we change the story we tell a little bit every time.

I crave live music because it makes me feel human. It allows me to express individuality and be part of a community all at once. Multiple people can simultaneously tell a story or create something new. It can be literal, abstract or both.

Climate Activism

Lately I have been consumed by climate activism because I love people and nature, and I couldn’t continue to live now, if I didn’t do something to prevent it all from disappearing. I don’t love climate activism because I feel under qualified, the work is hard and often boring and it doesn’t pay.

Sometimes I have music-less days because of climate activism, and those days are grim. I’ve started to realize that music and activism are not mutually exclusive, and that live music, because of the powerful connection it creates between individual creativity and group creativity music is among the things we really need to get us back on track.

The system which caused, and is perpetuating the climate crisis is one which separates individual creativity from group creativity by mass producing expectations. We all feel an expectation to be completely unique and amazing (like everyone else). This encourages us make more money to buy specific things, and take specific vacations so we can have the same exclusive experience as everyone else. Obviously this is not possible or sustainable, but it is the engine behind an economy of constant growth, which is the economy that is perpetuating the climate crisis, as well as widespread anxiety.

Live Music

Live music is in some ways the the psychological opposite (and perhaps an antidote) to a market driven economy. Live music requires a group of individuals to use different skills to work together to make one intangible thing and share it with a small community. A market driven economy mass produces one idea/product and markets it to millions of individuals, robbing us of our individuality, our creativity, and our sense of community in one fell swoop (not to mention the massive side effect of climate change).

I’ve started to realize that maybe my role as a musician in this whole mess is to provide some perspective, to slow people down, and maybe win a few people over. Not with my lyrics, but just by trying to maintain a space were live music is possible. Most musicians (I’m not talking about the highly successful ones) have a relatively small carbon footprint, because they often can’t afford a car, or to travel (even for gigs), or to buy very much at all. We are also known to get excited about free food, and for eating the leftovers. It’s difficult, in a market driven economy to sustain live music because it doesn’t fit. It doesn’t make much money, and it satiates rather than creating more expectation. So it doesn’t grow the economy.

If you are still reading, and haven’t written me off as a crazy radical by now… (I really feel sorry for scientists these days), perhaps you want to know a little bit about my songs?

Songwriting & Storytelling

Almost all of my songs are at least partially improvised. I love to be surprised while I am singing, so I leave room for improvisation in my arrangements. I feel like these little changes keep the songs alive. There isn’t a specific topic that I tend to write about in my songs, but the element of storytelling is very important. It could be my own story, the story of someone I’m close to, or it could be the wispy tail of a wandering thought from a conversation in a park with a stranger.

As far as the details go, I will leave that to you. I believe songs are meant to be interpreted in different ways. Even I don’t always feel like my songs have exactly the same meaning. I like songs that can shift a little bit with context.

That said, if you have any questions about the songs or this blog feel free to contact me through my website. I’d love to hear from you. If you are interested in hearing us live or just want to find out more, check out our website: www.cassienorton.com.

Cassie Norton

Cassie Norton, Category: Artist, Albums: The Quiet Wilderness, The Quiet Wilderness, Little Strength, Top Tracks: Trainyard, All around the spot, Little Strength, Sleepy people, This time, Monthly Listeners: 1, Where People Listen: Querétaro City


Artist’s Note
Toronto, Canada
Folk, Chamber Folk, Experimental, Punk, Folk Pop, Rock, Orchestral, Improvised
strings, violins, accordion, trumpet, Regina Spektor, Andrew Bird, activism, climate activism, community, live music, story telling

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