Composers within the New Age music genre usually strive to offer people a soothing environment to 'get away to' during the listening experience. We tend to craft albums that create an environment of peace, magic and otherworldliness. In my case, I cannot say that all of my work is soothing – after all, a song like Valkyrja, from my latest album Northern Seas, is not one I would consider exactly soothing – perhaps energizing might be a better word. Still, I work to create an experience from beginning to end of an album, almost as if it was a film. This song, however, offers a great example of what I am pondering at the moment: bliss in unlikely places.
We tend to think of a blissful moment as something like walking through a beautiful forest, hiking up a mountain trail or sitting by the ocean before an awe-inspiring sunset. I venture to say you may have envisioned such blissful moments simply by reading what I just wrote about these enchanting experiences. However, if I said, "walking down the streets of Manhattan" you would likely have a different vision: one of hustle and bustle, sirens, horns, people moving in every which way. But I can say I have found bliss in just such a place.
A few years ago, during my life as an actor, I used to go to New York's island of Manhattan quite a bit for work. As I lived (and still do) in Vermont, when in New York, I'd prefer to stay outside the city with friends and take the train in, the Hudson line, along the river. This one particular day, I was headed into the city for a few auditions my manager had set up. After the usual preparation, I headed for the station, boarded the train, and sat reading a book. I think, if I remember correctly, it was Dancing in the Light by Shirley MacLaine. I have always liked biographies about actors, and books about quests to find spirituality, and MacLaine offered both in one. Since I am an introvert, I rarely strike up a conversation unless spoken to first. I tend to keep to myself. This time, however, the man sitting next to me commented on my book and we proceeded to have a fascinating conversation about a book he had just published. He was going into the city for a signing. I find that in New York City, artists of every kind tend to attract each other – some kind of radar! I knew then that this was going to be a different sort of day for me. His excitement and energy were wonderful and remained with me throughout the day.
After arriving at Grand Central, I hailed a taxi and headed to the first audition. After surviving a day of auditions, I met up with some friends to have dinner. I was feeling particularly upbeat, the day having gone well. After dinner, and long goodbyes, I decided to walk the twenty or so blocks south to Grand Central, as it was an unseasonably warm January evening. It was the middle of the week and at this time of the night there were far fewer people on the streets than earlier in the day.
I suddenly found myself as if alone in the city. I could feel a vibrant charge coming from all around and flowing right through me. The lights, the relative calm, the buildings reaching almost endlessly upwards into the grey wintry sky. I was filled by an enormous and unexpected sense of peace and happiness. I was the city and the city was me. I had never experienced something like this before in a large city, even though most of my formative years were spent in urban centers. I could have very well been walking in the middle of a peaceful forest. I think I must have floated all the way back to Grand Central Terminal. Once back in the train, the energy still remained with me. It was a memorable, blissful experience right in the middle of one of the largest most vibrant cities in the world. I still remember that evening so very well after all these years. Bliss in an unexpected place.