Headzic – the ‘accidental musician’

Headzic ambient music

John Shapter, performing as Headzic is the ‘accidental musician’, developing his ambient music style through clinical practice and mindful therapies.

Isolation creates it’s own kind of ‘slow’. Without many people to interact with, a stronger relationship builds up with the environment and with the more subtle things that our senses miss when socialisation is the primary part of existence.

This was my childhood. I grew up in a remote and rural part of the UK, in the heart of the county of Shropshire. Younger people find it hard to imagine life without friends to see every day, without the noise of people and commerce permeating every part of the environment, without electricity even!

My childhood memories contain large sections of just sitting in the centre of a bubble around which the season revolved year after year. I remember the sound of birds and the stream from which we drew water. I remember the feel of the grass under my hand and how that feeling changed from Spring through to Autumn.  How does this connect to my music now?

Headzic ambient music performance

So, jump forward forty years and I had left home, living a different life in a high-pressure profession. Originally training as a dentist, then specialising clinically and eventually finding a place in Clinical Governance. My last clinical work was as an Expert Witness in medical negligence, working for the courts in the UK. Even as a clinician I found solace in slowness. I practiced meditation and mindfulness to help slow the world down around me. For a while I lived and worked on a remote island off the coast of Scotland, as part of a healthcare team for the residents. This was a place where I felt most at home. However, life intervenes and it was back to cities and urban existence again.

By coincidence, through sound-art, I found an interest in the use of sound as both a ritualistic spiritual tool and in promoting health and wellbeing. Together with my wife we developed a practice using esoteric instruments such as gongs and Himalayan singing bowls to help people find an inner peace and improved life experience.  One aspect of this practice is the slowing down of the body using the process of entrainment. Any rhythm of 70bpm or less will help slow the heartbeat. A trick or a clinical fact? Well, all we know is that it works and there are real benefits. Given something to focus on, the mind quietens and the ego (with all it’s script of gloom and doom) is quietened. For instance if you strike a bronze bowl and listen to the subsequent note as it gradually diminishes, focussing on it until you cannot be sure it actually exists any more, time really does cease to exist for a minute or so.

Another coincidence was my practise of sound-art and experimental electronic soundscapes. By bringing all parts of my creative life together I had a sudden realisation that what I was creating was actually music by definition. To this day I still think of myself as an ‘accidental musician’!

Finally, my journey brings me to a carpark on a dull evening in October 2020

My motivation is strongly seated in communication and in creating experiences that some benefit beyond just being entertainment. I still compose around a hidden framework of ambient drones and slow beats. However, they are dressed in a way that many people find to be a listening, musical, experience.

Finally, my journey brings me to a carpark on a dull evening in October 2020. I am playing a Drive-In Concert as a way of taking my music out to an audience in these strange times. People are listening on headphones in the comfort and safety of their cars. The piece featured here is a real illustration of influences in life. A slow beat to encourage calmness, shamanic sounds that remind me of wind in the trees from my childhood and a slow breath-wave to help slow the moment down. Over the electronic soundscape I am playing an ancient Whistle Vessel, although more associated with Peru, this one comes from Ecuador and brings a slow evocative voice to the piece.  

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