Music, like drawing, has always been with me, is my creative passion and companion for life. It is a thirst in me, impossible to slake. I don’t use an iPod – whenever there is a gap in my thinking, melody & rhythm immediately pour into it unbidden. It’s no hyperbole to say music has saved my life – the regular practice of playing & composing music, in focused solitude, has helped me harness & reorganise my own brain chemistry when I was recovering from nervous breakdowns & clinical depression. It enabled me to piece together my fragmented psyche after suicidal spirals. With music, I articulate the wordless to myself. I think of my instrument as a brain machine, a sophisticated neural biofeedback unit. In the 90s, I used my visual art in a similar way, as a consciously transformative biofeedback tool.
Redemption (Bradfield Dumpleton 2007) – BD – octave mandola, from the album Marzipan.
In 2012 I had a revelation about why I play music. I asked other musicians, “if there was no such thing as ‘audience’, would you still create music?”. No-one seemed sure how to answer. They seemed bound by the identity of “musician”. My son, an electronic sound artist, insisted that all artists create in order to make some kind of statement, and therefore need an audience. I don’t have a message to deliver, stories to tell, perceptions to challenge, I don’t need validation, a sense of communion with an audience, I don’t need to be liked or understood through my music, and I certainly have no delusions about making an income from it. I make music for myself, simply because it intrigues me & is fantastic for my brain health.
I play ukulele, guitar, mandolin, balalaika, and occasionally my daughter’s cello for bass, as well as various percussion instruments. These include djembes, dunduns, kpanlogo, balafon, talking drum & cajon. I am entirely self-taught and play by sound & feel. I’m particularly drawn to interesting rhythms & melodies, and prefer to play my own compositions. Mostly I just make music to satisfy my own creative curiosity. I’ve been home-recording for years & like getting sounds out of unusual places, taking an instrument I know nothing about & using it outside of its stereotype, or creating primitive instruments. For instance, here’s a recent recording that uses a friend’s Turkish saz, cello for bass, gourd shaker, cajon, and for the electric slide parts, an instrument my daughter made one afternoon using a piece of plank, 3 machine heads and old guitar strings, which I ran through an old amp:
Transmogrification Blues – Bradfield Dumpleton 2015 (saz, cello, shaker, dundun, cajon, electric plank)
Considering that I never have time to work as a “career musician” (ie doing regular gigs, selling CDs, networking etc), I’m pretty amazed at how much music I’ve generated in amongst the other demands of my life. This is no hobby, nor am I trying to “express myself”….it is a compulsion, a necessity, it is my pulse. It’s just that I’m also passionately devoted to a few other things in my life (teaching kids, illustrating, being a good dad, being an authentic person), so music rides shotgun & steps up when it gets a chance.
In this series of blogs I’ll scratch the surface of my invisible music “career” of the last decade, though it actually spans three. The blogs won’t be in chronological order, instead they’ll focus on particular bodies of work from chapters in my musical evolution. These will include: SOLO UKULELE, with ROSS SERMONS, the SPONDOOLI BROTHERS, OTHER PROJECTS (solo recordings & collaborations Porchmonkeez and Stromatilites), and DRUMMING. If you take the time to explore these pages thoroughly, I think you’ll see that as a musician, I have in fact been working as hard as any artist dedicated to their craft. An important part of any artist’s process is documenting & reflecting on ones work, acknowledging it in order to let it go, and at 50 I’m happy with what I’ve achieved, albeit below the radar. I’ve shed all aspirations of living the “musician” identity, which has freed me to create the music for its own sake, and for me.
Brain On Fire – Bradfield Dumpleton 2014 (baritone banjo ukulele)