Those of us older than the internet, the top end of what would eventually be labelled millennials, have (for the most part) struggled with our identity, taking careful steps towards knowing ourselves utterly, completely, truly. Yet, advance the date of birth by a few years – listen to those born post-internet access – and these kids know exactly who they are, what they want – and how they’re going to get it. This, as far as we’re concerned, is actual magic. Live your childhood without identity complexity, and it frees your mind up to do wonderful things. Thus, we have our Greta Thunbergs, we have our Malala Yousafzais, we have our Harnaam Kaurs – individuals who will and have changed the world.
So as with everything, we have to thank those who paved the way before us. Without the millennials raising kids to be tolerant, there’d be no multifaceted society. Without Marsha P Johnson, there’d be no queer rights at all. It is so important to remember our elders, and honour their work, with thanks, respect, and continuance of the human rights they fought so hard to protect.
It makes sense then, taken the above, that as our world becomes increasingly and beautifully diverse, artists who missed their audience first time round get another shot. For Beverly Glenn-Copeland, this is inherently true. Love for his music, recordings of which prior to this retrospective were sparse, was re-awoken when a Japanese record collector found one of his recordings in a second-hand record shop and set off on a mission to find Glenn-Copeland’s back catalogue. This gave him a name amongst fellow audiophiles, and pulled the unknown artist out of obscurity, catapulting him into the modern-day spotlight.
After multiple much-desired live performances from Glenn-Copeland, then, comes Transmissions, a collection of recordings spanning more than a 50-year time-period, perfect for a rainy Sunday afternoon. And as with identity expression, the record is fluid, diving between operatic, ethereal vocals, sci-fi tinged electro-ditties, Bob Dylan style, motionless guitar moments and earthly, tribal war-cry screams. One size, as we know, does not fit all – and that’s an attitude firmly underlined in Glenn-Copeland’s career, activism, and makes Transmissions truly a record of the modern day.
Listen, and wrap yourself in the arms of the lullaby soft Ever New with lyrics such as “Welcome the spring the summer rain/softly turn to sing again,” a worship of the nature that sustains us, or Don’t Despair: “Don’t despair, tomorrow may bring roses/ Don’t despair, tomorrow may bring love,” an acceptance allegory wrapped up in haunting vocals. Transmissions lulls you into a state of emotional healing, of wild and unbridled joy and celebration of the marvel that is you, being yourself. If this is not perfect enough, the record picks up pace towards its conclusion, and we close out with Montreal Main (The Buddha In The Palm) and Erzilli, two jazz funk anthems raising in us the strength to fight and not fear for another day, to continue those messages and the work of those trailblazers that came before us.
All in all, Transmissions reminds us the struggle and the journey are as important as our destinations, and that who we are at our core is beautiful. A wise message to heed in a pandemic, when who we are has been reduced to Zoom calls, Netflix, baking bread and the time it takes to make a cup of tea. Furthermore, Transmissions is a stunning retrospective from an even greater artist, exploring in-depth the friction and fire that it takes to really explore the self through a variety of frames. As Glenn-Copeland says: “There is this incredible underlying thing, that joy and suffering is a part of life. Life is good and bad. There is something profound to being alive. The great joy is to be alive. That is wondrous. Being alive means, you’re going to go through some hell, some wonderful stuff and a lot of stuff that is neither here nor there.” And oh, does Glenn-Copeland deserve his wondrous day.