Monday, September 29, 2014

Seeing Spooks: A Moving Sound and "Ghost Lake"



Try as I might, I have not been able to see a ghost. And I have tried. When I lived in Milwaukee, a friend and I went and sat outside a haunted school in Elgin, Illinois that I had read about in a book. The story was that the school was built over a graveyard and since then there were strange happenings at the school, including lights that turned on and off and screams. We hung outside for a while, but nothing happened. I have also driven down lonely, supposedly haunted roads hoping that La Llorona would flag me for a ride. Nothing. I took Megan up to Cimarron, New Mexico on one of our anniversaries to stay in a haunted hotel, the St. James. It may be the closest experience I've had. While a room has been sealed up because too many things were supposedly happening to guests that stayed there, and we investigated and didn't hear or see anything amiss, that night I woke up smelling smoke and thought that was strange but since I didn't hear any commotion to indicate that the old place was on fire, I went back to sleep. When I mentioned it the next day at checkout time, the concierge gave a knowing smile and said "Well, your room is right around the corner from what used to be the poker room." Hmmm...

Despite my failures and near misses, a bunch of people I know have told me their ghost experiences. Megan grew up with a ghost in her house that moved boxes around in the attic and occasionally scared the hell out of them at night by venturing downstairs - apparently only seen by their dog who would stare at nothing with his hair raised. Other friends told of ghosts in their basement or somewhere in their houses. My sister considers herself somewhat clairvoyant, and has told me she has seen ghosts on our property in my hometown and on other property that we own in Northern California. Yet I have seen nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing. Ironically, neither has my friend who spent that evening with me outside that school, even though he signed on to help film a local ghost-chasing show in Arizona and went to all kinds of supposedly haunted places.

I want to believe in ghosts. I love the idea that ghosts can exist, as I have explained in a post about Day of the Dead. I don't like that our experience of ghosts tends to have the implication that these spirits are somehow chained to this world because of regret or that they have become trapped here rather than moving on to something else. But I like the idea that veils can be cast aside between our reality and other realities. But I have yet to experience it myself, at least in the form of ghosts. And if there is anyone who should be haunted by ghosts, given my history, it is me.

All this has nothing to do with A Moving Sound's Ghost Lake, or does it? The song is about a young tribal girl in Taiwan who falls in love with a lake spirit, ignores her fellow villagers shouts and walks into the lake never to be seen again. It is framed as a story of true love - in this case the spirit is not unfriendly. There is a veil between the worlds, and just as spirits can come through to ours, we can walk through to theirs as well. Again, I find that fascinating, and a hopeful view of ghosts and spirits.

A Moving Sound consists of Mia Hsieh (vocalist and dancer), Scott Prairie (vocalist, zhong ruan and bass), I-Fang Chen (erhu) and I-Tung Pan (zhong ruan). The group was started in 2000 when Mia Hsieh met Scott Prairie in New York City with the goal of infusing Taiwanese traditional music with other Taiwanese and Asian styles and incorporating their unique creative vision. Their pan-Asian approach has garnered international attention, as has their use of traditional instruments to create contemporary sounds. They have released four CDs. Ghost Lake appears on their 2007 CD Songs Beyond Words and the compilation CD A Moving Sound (2011).