It has been said that music is the universal language, and with this idea in mind we are delighted to introduce you to a most talented musician and a gifted communicator. Paul Winter is considered a pioneer in the world of music and has collected no less than seven Grammy Awards for his unique compositions and arrangements. His work features a recurring theme of connection between the sounds of nature and instrumental melodies from classical, jazz and various ethnic traditions. If you are familiar with his work, you will undoubtedly appreciate his profound respect for the environment, for the concept of a global community and for the role that music can play in elevating the human spirit. If you have yet to discover his work, then prepare to be amazed by his creativity and his joyful energy! For decades, Paul Winter has been introducing people to the variety of species and ecosystems on Earth through the beauty of sound. He has performed hundreds of benefit concerts and used his compositions to serve environmental causes in a range of countries, including Russia, Brazil, Israel, Japan, and Spain.
So, how did Paul’s childhood experiences shape his interest in the natural world? We have been curious about this and were interested to learn a little more about him in a recent correspondence.
Paul, where in the world did you grow up?
I grew up in a railroad town in central Pennsylvania called Altoona. There was a whole gamut of music in the town (this is the '40s and '50s): bands of all kinds, symphony, choruses, dance bands.
What are some of your favorite memories from childhood?
One favorite memory was going with my parents, when I was 5, to a Shriner's dance. They parked me on a chair behind the drummer, and I was amazed by all the things he was doing at the same time - with both hands and both feet. I remember how congenial and happy the people seemed to be, dancing to this melodic music of the '40s. I think that planted a seed in me, that has led to my life work: aspiring to make music that makes people feel this way.
Do you remember one special place with particular fondness?
One special place was the Boy Scout Camp, on a mountain called Blue Knob. I went there several summers - from age 9 or 10 to 13. We ran up and down the mountain all day, played all sorts of games in the woods, swam in icy cold water. I think this is the environment where kids thrive the most: playing in nature.
How has nature inspired you to live the life you are currently living?
My love for nature was instilled early on. But my involvement deepened greatly when I first heard the recordings of the songs of the Humpback Whales, in 1968 (when I was 28). They opened the door for me to the greater symphony of the Earth.
Can you recommend a special book, or books, from your childhood?
I remember fondly the books by Albert Payson Terhune about dogs.
[Phonetic Planet did a little research on this and discovered that Albert Payson Terhune first published short stories about his collie Lad, titled Lad Stories, in various magazines, including the Saturday Evening Post, the Ladies’ Home Journal and the Atlantic Monthly. The first of his novels about his dogs (titled “Lad: a dog”) collected a dozen stories of his collie Lad in novel form. This book was followed by more than 30 additional novels about dogs, including two more books about his beloved collie. Published in 1919, the novel was a best seller in both the adult and young adult markets and has been reprinted over 80 times.]
Paul, there is surely a story behind this iconic photo of you, which features prominently on your website! Can you please tell us a little more about it?
This was a captive wolf, with whom I had played a duet that is on my albumCommon Ground. She responded to each phrase I played. (Incidentally, the way you get a wolf to kiss you is to chew chewing gum….This one got to smell the gum and then wanted to have it).
Naturally, we don’t recommend that you try that trick, friends, but you should definitely check out the recording!
You can learn more about Paul Winter at his website www.paulwinter.com and, for those of you in the New England area of the United States, we can recommend a thoroughly memorable experience at the Cathedral of St .John the Divine in New York City whenever Paul presents one of his magnificent performances. Let us know if you were lucky enough to attend his recent Summer Solstice concert on Saturday June 16! Paul’s next big event in NYC is the Earth Mass on October 7, complete with a silent procession of living creatures great and small down the nave of the cathedral.
Our thanks to Paul for taking time out of his busy schedule to chat with us, and we wish him continued success in his inspirational journey!
(photo credit on discover page: Jeff Day from www.paulwinter.com)