Music in the Darkness

A living room performance of “We Can Do Better Than This”

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Video of “To Get Away From it All”

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Children’s Songs About Nature

The other day I wrote three songs when visiting a school.

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New album: Interesting Times

It’s a short album, consisting of all-new songs (all from this year). There’s some satirical tunes, a dreamy atmospheric instrumental, and a PSA against bullying by children and adults alike. Check it out!

  1. Snowflakes 02:57
  2. To Get Away From It All 04:29
  3. (I Wanna Be A) Paid Protester 02:59
  4. Interesting Times 03:09
  5. Together Against Bullying 02:45

released May 17, 2017

Performed and produced by A Montreal Paul

Recorded between January and May 2017

All songs by Paul Beaulieu

Songs registered with SOCAN

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I’d Like to Believe We Can Do Better

A couple of new songs in demo form:

They say better ways don’t exist

But surely we can do better than this

And that’s pretty much it.

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A Christmas Album by Voices Arising

Well, me, really, but Voices Arising are a side project through which I can record and release more choral-type music, rather than the folky-alternative-rock stuff I do as A Montreal Paul. Here is is, then…six tracks, including two originals.

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Time for Some Wintry Holiday Tunes!

Sleigh Ride“, music by Leroy Anderson, words by Mitchell Parrish.

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The song that gets someone through a dark hour

Leonard Cohen in a 1988 interview:

If you don’t like something and think it’s cheap, unless you really have a great sense of responsibility for your culture, I think it’s best to keep it to yourself. That might be the song that gets someone through a dark hour […] All this plumbing the culture-mongers do is quite irrelevant. If someone has the grace to write a song that touches the hearts of thousands, I think it’s a matter for applause. Or of silence, if you think the air has been polluted by a song.

According to the Guardian, where the interview appeared, Cohen was responding to Martin Amis’s critiques of Simon and Garfunkel’s music “ being not so much art as therapy and of Suzanne Vega producing a style of music that is both symptomatic of, and reinforcing, a climate of passivity and retreat.” (please note that I cannot find the original 1988 interview or any text of Amis’s critique).

What I love about this quote is not so much the dismissal of these sorts of critiques of songs, as the idea that a song can “get someone through a dark hour”, can touch people’s hearts, and that this is the most important thing when it comes to considering their significance. My songs have certainly reached nowhere near as many people as those of Cohen, Paul Simon or Suzanne Vega, but the nicest thing anyone ever said about my songs is that some of them helped her through a rough time. I hope my songs and words will reach more people and help them with whatever inspiration, healing, or venting they need at a given time.

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RIP Leonard Cohen

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How Do We Break the Treadmill?

And now, a bit of political economy with Richard Thompson:

I think it’s safe to say that, despite the ethos of “do what you love” (nice work if you can get it) most people in this world don’t work for fun. They work to pay the bills. Unfortunately, well-paid, secure work is not easy to come by and so many work hard and still struggle:

The money goes out, the bills come in
Round and round we go again
I come close but I never win
Stuck On The Treadmill

The narrator of this song is a steel worker. As Karl Marx would put it, he is “alienated” from his work, yet he knows of no other way to make a living:

Another day of punching steel
Till my arm’s too numb to feel
Like a hamster on a wheel
Stuck On The Treadmill

Is this living?

Wish I knew a better way
To keep myself alive
Shaking sheets of metal
Every day from 9 to 5
Others may be living
But me, I just survive

Automation is changing the face of industry. Robots are taking on the most dangerous and tedious jobs. In a decent society this would be cause for celebration. Instead, it is cause for fear:

Me and the robot working away
He looks at me, as if to say
“I’ll be doing your job some day”
Stuck On The Treadmill

Thompson’s steel worker goes on to describe how workers are unceremoniously laid off en masse (“twenty years and they show you the door”) and strikes and conflict ensue while the town suffers:

Strike’s coming, trouble’s brewing
Whole town going to rack and ruin
Next year, what’ll I be doing?
Stuck On The Treadmill

What’s the alternative to the treadmill? To too many, it is an abyss, nothing more. What else can I do?

People often resent those they think are “benefiting from the system” more than them, collecting welfare, receiving services as refugees newly admitted to a country where they have no right to work and often don’t even speak the language well, and so on. But I think the source of the problem is people feeling trapped on the treadmill yet fearing being thrown off it. They say “I’m working a job I hate and am barely getting by, so why are these people getting something for not working?” For them, the fact that they still have a job makes them a productive member of society and a source of pride even though they hate their work, so that at least makes them better than those who don’t work, who are either “taking advantage of the system” or left on the scrapheap.

How can we change work, and our attitudes about it? Not an easy question to answer, I know.





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