Music can exercise powerful influence on listeners. John Dryden, the 17th century English poet wrote an ode entitled ‘Alexander's Feast, or the Power of Music’ (1697). The poem is about the effects of music on Alexander the Great. The setting of the poem is the conquered capital of Persia, Persepolis. Timotheus, Alexander’s bard, sings about different things and Alexander’s emotions fluctuate under the influence of songs. His songs fill Alexander’s heart with the feelings of love, revenge and pity. I had studied this poem during my graduation. A few days back this poem came to my mind when I was working on an interview with an Italian IT security consultant, Francesco (who goes by the name Moyan Brenn) . He seems to possess what we call 'wanderlust' and runs a blog (entitled 'Earth in Colour') about the places he has visited.
I asked Moyan about his visit to Scotland. I began the interview by asking him how it occurred to him that he should visit Scotland. He told me that it was actually the influence of Celtic music that took him to Scotland. No doubt, Scotland has its own attractive music. For instance, the Great Highland Bagpipe and its melodies have achieved world-wide fame. Civil and military pipe bands use this music throughout the world.
In addition, there are Scottish and Irish singers which are very popular. Moya Brennan is one of them. The songs of such singers attract people to the Celtic culture.
Moyan said, ‘One day I listened to the song of Gladiator. The main song was actually sung by one of those typical Celtic voices which can easily fill my heart with joy (the voice of this song is often confused with that of Enya, but it’s the voice Lisa Gerard). Anyway, after listening to that song I began to take an interest in Celtic music. I began to search on the Web for famous Celtic singers. After much searching, at last, I found a special woman called Moya Brennan. Her voice impressed me so much, and her words seemed to me almost like a spiritual recall. It seemed that there was a hidden message inside her songs. The message seemed to say something like “come here, my lands have something special to show you’ and I accepted that invitation without any hesitation. As you know the Celtic world is comprised more or less by Ireland and Scotland. I just needed to decide which of the two places I wanted to visit. In the end, attracted by the Isle of Skye, I went to Scotland’.
Scotland, as we know, is part of the United Kingdom. It is located to the north of England. It is known for its fabulously beautiful landscape which is punctuated with green hills, majestic mountains, stunning glens, lovely lochs (lakes), historic castles and remote country houses, rich museums and highland games and wildlife parks. It is a paradise of hill walkers. The magic of the beautiful and tranquil landscape is really powerful.
In addition to the magical places of breathtaking beauty and natural resources, the country does not lack in industrial progress. Edinburgh, the country's capital, is one of Europe's largest financial centers. Glasgow, the largest city of Scotland, is one of the leading industrial cities of the world. The sea waters of Scotland are rich in oil reserves. Aberdeen is regarded as Europe’s oil capital.
So, in September 2009, Moyan went to visit this land of unspoiled natural beauty and mysterious wilderness. He stayed there for 9 days. On this trip, he visited Edinburgh, Glasgow, the main castles, such as Dunnotar, Inveraray, Eilean Donanm, Isle of Skye and many other far flung places.
He ascertains that Scotland differs from other parts of Europe in being ‘impressively green, desolated, and full of beautiful medieval castles, surrounded by the spirit of the Celtic people’. Comparing Edinburgh and Glasgow with London, he says, ‘Edinburgh is small and ancient. You feel to be in the past when you visit it. London is a modern city. Glasgow is a provincial version of London. There are not as many tourists in Glasgow as in Edinburg. I didn’t like it in the end. Edinburgh was my favourite place without any doubt’.
I asked him to tell me more about the places he liked there. He named ‘the castles and the special emerald green color of grasslands’. These medieval castles wore an extraordinary appearance at sunrise and sunset. One of the photographs shows a medieveal castle near the Isle of Skye called Eilean Donan. Moyan records, 'it was a very cloudy sunset and the atmosphere had such intensity....we were alone, one of the most magic moment of my scottish trip.....this scotland castle has become quite famous thanks to the movie Highlander'.
In addition, our traveller also enjoyed being at the Storr, a rocky hill on the Isle of Skye. The Storr has weirdly shaped rock pinnacles. One of these pinnacles is called The Old Man of Storr. Moyan thinks that it seems to have some spiritual power because ‘from this pencil-shaped rock you can see an impressive panorama of the Isle of Skye, full of lakes, sea, emerald green grasslands and even a little wood’, as depicted in another of Moyan's photographs.
His photography says a lot about the beauty of the landscape in Scotland. They show silver streams, harbours, ancient abbeys and grazing sheep in the green meadows.
In addition to what his captured images say about the beauty of the landscape, he adds, ‘If you find it hard to feel God inside a church, try to get on top of the Isle of Skye when it’s sunny. Maybe you will have a second chance’.
Certainly, the pristine beauty of these mountains, rivers and valleys overwhelms us. It leaves us spellbound and lost for words. Such extent of splendor leaves one astonished. Our hearts become filled with admiration and no matter our personal beliefs, we cannot but begin to silently venerate the forces at play which have brought forth such sheer beauty, whether we individually choose to call such agency the Creator or otherwise.