The Ghosteen Cathedral

When I need to enter deep into myself. When I question if I even have that ‘self’ – that part of me I hope is sacred and burning – alive within me anymore. When I’m heavy or troubled and my spirit feels lost, I find it again in music. Every time. And every time this happens, I discover I am something else, more and different, to what I thought I was and could be.

Often it’s entirely random, a stumbling forward into a musical atmosphere. Tonight, it’s Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ Ghosteen. I have not played the recording since it came out. Some notion of it asking too much always makes me hesitate. But it is, in fact, a very open music, full of light as well as shadow. I hear it and I travel a landscape that takes me between this world and the next.

The album is a poetry-driven mass for the death of Nick Cave’s 15 year old son Arthur. It’s also a resonator for the father’s wild and futile hurts, and a glowing tribute to the grief of his wife, Susie, and the fine threads of love Cave finds in her and Arthur’s surviving twin brother, Earl. A love is so palpable it trembles through every sound and word.

I listen to Ghosteen and it transcends its profoundly personal substance. A world is planted inside me that shines its way back out. It makes me feel tender and frightened and desirous of doing great things for myself and those I love. I hear in its great spaces a cathedral within me. I see light through stained glass windows, a strange forest, secret childhood places, holy things. What magic is that? I do not know. But I make the journey there and come back changed.

Note: Main image is not a church, but Air Lyndhurst Hall Studios in Hampstead, London, where the orchestrations for Ghosteen were recorded.