Thursday, November 15, 2012
Fragility and wonder: the music of Emma Tonkin
When I suggested to singer-songwriter Emma Tonkin that I should include her in my book, she scoffed and said something about not having a proper creative practice. And yet in her own discrete way, Emma never lets go of that delicate creative thread, even if sometimes she feels that she's only hanging on by a fingernail.
A tinkling piano and Emma's exquisite voice often reach me in the quiet hours when the children are asleep. Alive to the sensuous world around her, if at first you think she writes songs about the "small", listen closer...
What seems intimate becomes epic. Her music lifts you out of the chaos of living and transports you to somewhere defenseless, fragile and immense with wonder.
Emma's first album, The Anchor and the Albatross, showcased her unique feeling for melody. Add a swelling four-part harmony to those tunes (as the First Chorus Band of Singers do in Cave of Lights) and the result is nothing short of sublime.
So many creative mothers say to me that they don't really deserve to be called artists because they're not actually managing to juggle mothering and art with any great success. Or that they barely ever produce anything, so they don't deserve to be recognised alongside their more prolific counterparts.
But what makes a "real" artist, anyway? Emma's songs are pretty real, I know that much. And if it takes five or ten years to write a single book or release a single album, so be it. The world is still richer for having that work of art in it. And a life is all the richer for having created it, no matter how slowly.
So if you want to witness something really special, Emma Tonkin and the 25-strong First Chorus Band of Singers, led by Virgina Bott, will be performing at the Wonderland Spiegeltent (Docklands) on Saturday night in Melbourne from 8pm.
I will be there, celebrating what can be achieved in the wee hours and stolen moments -- beyond the laundry and the dirty dishes -- when the world doesn't even realise that you're quietly weaving some magic.