Melody McKiver is an Anishinaabe musician in the small town of Sioux Lookout in Treaty #3, northwestern Ontario. Following a link from the 2018 Indigenous Music Awards nomination page, I couldn’t believe my ears. I was immediately struck by the emotive and passionate viola playing. I was entranced and enthralled before the end of the first minute.
These instrumental songs are layered and thick in reverb, like sap running down the bark of a pine tree. Melody’s playing sucks the breath from my lungs as I listen in awe. Originally written to accompany a theatre production, these pieces have the grandiose and epic sound you’d expect from a passionate soundtrack. These songs remind me of works by Laurie Anderson and The Dirty Three.
Unaware of their original purpose, when I first listened to the songs, I closed my eyes and was propelled to another place and time. An image of the sun appeared. Solar flares floated across the blackness of space. The extreme temperatures were gloriously beautiful, yet consuming and destructive in its intensity.
I realize that instrumental music that forgoes any drumbeat, will not be for everyone. Great art is rarely popular. If done well enough like this EP, sooner or later there will be an adoring audience and cult like following.
After falling deeply in love with these songs, I began investigating the artist and the story behind the music. The six tracks that make up “The Reckoning” are from the original score Melody created for the Article 11 production about residential schools, Reckoning. I can only imagine what visuals would have accompanied this music. Since this is instrumental, there are no lyrics for me to quote so, instead here is some literation that come to my mind as I listen:
Soaring. Somber. Shivers.