On the Banks of Loch Lomond: Interview with Bryant Bell
Today, I have the pleasure of posting an interview with my brother, Bryant Bell. Bryant attended Utah State University, where he earned a Master’s of Science degree in Instructional Technology. For the past nineteen years, Bryant has worked for Hewlett Packard (and now for the new spin-off company: Hewlett Packard Enterprise). He currently manages sales training for North America. Nineteen years at a computer company is a remarkable achievement—few people last that long: that Bryant has speaks to the quality of his work
Bryant has traveled to 23 countries and 45 states in the United States. He worked for several years as a travel agent (before Hewlett Packard). He started bringing home music from the countries he visited. Some twenty-five years ago, Bryant traveled to Yugoslavia, before the fall of communism and the break-up of that country. He brought back some of the most interesting and beautiful music on cassette tapes. We made copies, then copies of copies, and we lamented the day when the tapes broke, or they didn't work anymore (I'd like to find that music again, if it has been brought forward).
When Bryant visited the Holy Land, he made friends with young Palestinians. He took the enormous risk of traveling with them into the occupied territories, and there met their families and ate dinner with them. They drove him safely back. With remarkable experiences like that, he should, I think, consider travel writing after he retires from HP.
Bryant loves to read, and he tells me that Daniel Silva is one of his favorite authors. He also loves Science Fiction, Fantasy, and history books. One of his goals is to visit the top 10 fine art museums in the world (he has currently visited six of them). He also loves the theater, and he has seen over 60 Broadway or traveling Broadway plays. He volunteers with the Art’s Alive program in Sacramento, which helps disadvantaged people attend the theater. He especially enjoys working with the blind: helping them to have a positive experience at the theater is, he tells me, very rewarding.
Bryant would like to retire to a small town in Italy. "Life," he writes, "seems simpler and more relaxed there." I hope that he can—and that the rest of us can visit him often when he does.
The interview follows:
Y4M: What is your earliest memory of music?
Bryant Bell: My earliest memory may be listening to Burl Ives sing "Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer" on Television. I loved his voice, but I also loved the TV show. Other early memories were playing many of the vinyl records that my parents owned in the 45 format. I remember listening to Doris Day, Elvis Presley, the Four Seasons, Frankie Valle, Lyn Anderson, and many others. I could sit for hours playing song after song. I think I was amazed that such beautiful voices could come off these round discs. As a young boy, when I started collecting my own music, my first albums were the Carpenters, John Denver, and Jim Croce. My music library has grown and evolved over the years to include nearly every genre of music. Needless to say, I love music.
Y4M: How much time do you spend with music each day?
Bryant Bell: I have music on throughout the day. Whether I’m working at my desk, cooking a meal, reading a book, or driving. Music is an important part of my life. I probably own well over a 1,000 CDs, LPs, and cassette tapes.
Y4M: Do you have one piece of music that you turn to again and again? Why?
Bryant Bell: I go to the song "Danny Boy," sung by Damien Leith. He recorded it for his album Where We Land. "Danny Boy" is a song my mother loved and would often to sing to me. As I listen to this song, I can feel her presence with me and her voice singing to me in the distance. It always brings tears to my eyes, not always in sadness but with gratitude, for she was such an inspiration. She helped instill in me a love for music.
Y4M: What, in music, currently excites you the most?
Bryant Bell: I listen to many different songs, so choosing one probably won’t happen since the song that I go to depends on what has been happening. I listen to "Pater Noster," by Friar Allesandro, when I am feeling the beauty around me, or "Sail," by Scott Allan and sung by Hadley Frazier. I listen to this with dreams of sailing away to a new land and new adventures. I also love the songs that Asgeir has recorded, such as “In the Silence.” His music touches my soul and transports me to a peaceful place.
Guitar music has always been a favorite of mine. Milos Karadaglic’s recording of "Lagrima" is moving and beautiful. I dream one day of being able to play that piece on my own guitar. I also spend hours each week listening to a group called “2Cellos." If you have never listened to them you should. You will then understand why I do. Listen to one entitled “Benedictus.” I love it.
A new artist that I am listening to is Passenger. He is from England with a heavy English accent, which I love. He is also a master guitar player. One of his songs that I love is titled “Staring at the Sky.” He filmed a music video of it on the banks of Loch Lomond; here is a link to this video, posted on Passenger's official YouTube site:
Y4M: Have you ever come to love a genre of music you did not before?
Bryant Bell: Love, probably not, but I do have an appreciation for Heavy Metal music. Iron Maiden has some stunning music. The melodies and the words to some of their songs are haunting. I will say I love Disturbed’s version of “The Sound of Silence," from the album Immortalized:
Y4M: If a time traveler came to you and said that he would take you into the past to hear one musical event or moment—what would you pick to hear, and why?
Bryant Bell: There are so many music experiences that I would love to have witnessed. Which one I would I want to hear? This has been difficult for me, as there are so many. So I thought of musical experiences that I have had in my own life. One that would be fun to return to was the Carpenters concert I attended with two cousins at Ricks College [now BYU Idaho] when I was 14 years old. One of those cousins passed away twenty years ago, and it would be fun to relive that night: we had an amazing experience together.
Y4M: If you could change one thing about how you currently interact with music, what would that be?
Bryant Bell: That I had the ability to play the guitar as well as the masters. I have always loved that instrument but have never been able to master it. I think that is why I am drawn to masters like Milos Karadaglic, Christopher Parkening, Pavlo, Remigio, and many others. I can sit for hours listening to them play.
Y4M: What piece of music have you picked for us to hear today, and why did you pick it?
Bryant Bell: I have decided to pick the song I talked about in the third question—"Danny Boy," sung by Damien Leith. It is so beautiful. I would recommend that you sit still and listen to it with your eyes closed and with no distractions around you. It will bring back memories of a better time.
Here is a link to "Danny Boy," as sung by Damien Leith (from his album Where We Land):
How Hearing This Music Affected Me
I did not know that my brother shared with me an interest in the music of Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger. To me, Passenger's folk-style songs are thoughtful, and real. I first became aware of Passenger when his song "Let Her Go" was used in Budweiser's 2014 Super Bowl ad "Puppy Love," in which the famous clydesdales refuse to let their caretaker give away a little puppy—they run after the car driving her away: but soon they are guiding the little dog home again. Here is a link to an interesting article about the making of this ad, and Passenger's song in it, from ABC News Radio (you can also watch a video of the ad there, though you have to create an account and sign in): "How Passenger's 'Let Her Go' Became the Soundtrack to That Budweiser Super Bowl Ad."
One of Passenger's most lovely songs, one of the most beautiful songs that I know period, is "Feather on the Clyde." I will feature that song in tomorrow's post.
I would love to hear Passenger in live concert. I am glad that my brother and I both found his music.
I was interested to discover another remake of "The Sound of Silence," from the unexpected Heavy Metal band Disturbed. I have a small collection of remakes, and I will feature some of them in future posts, including a version of "The Sound of Silence" by the New Zealand artist Brooke Fraser.
I want to thank my brother for this interview, and for the music he has brought to my life, not just now, but from his travels and for many years. I am richer for it.
I created "One in the Meadhall," the image above, in 2006. It is based on Mandelbrot fractals. The title is from the tenth-century Old English poem "The Wanderer":
Sad at the lack of a hall,
a giver of treasure,
where I, far or near,
one in the meadhall who
knew my people.