Loreena McKennitt on Progress Traps and Her New Album

Loreena-McKennittI fell in love with the music of Loreena McKennitt many years ago, when I first heard the haunting sounds of  The Dark Night of the Soul and her renditions of  The Highwayman and The Lady of Shalott. Ghosts give hope to dead lovers in these poems, and her singing made me feel as if I inhabited some ghostly terrain myself, as if I had always known that those poems would find this music someday.

I kept looking for new work by her–and there hasn’t been any for years! It’s given me hope, in an odd way, because I’m unable to crank out a book a year the way so many talented writers do. The work always seems to take its own time, or else I run the risk of breaking it. Loreena seemed to be telling me it was okay to do things my way, to serve my craft, with ends more complicated and interior than any business model could encompass.

She has much to say in this interview with CBC Radio, about the new album that is really a reflection on the last decade, about her decision to quit Facebook, and about the progress traps referred to by novelist and historian Ronald Wright in his book, A Short History of Progress. It’s the idea that humans have this ability to evolve ourselves into disaster, to take an intriguing idea or a creative process to ends that may be logical but turn out to be terribly destructive. You know, denuding forests, damming rivers, creating the atom bomb. It’s quite a list.

Snippet from an interview with Ronald Wright:

Refugees from earlier failed civilizations could move on to other places and try again. Today, however, civilization is global. This time we cannot flee. As a sign at the Copenhagen summit noted, “There is no Planet B.”

Loreena’s conversation with the CBC host of Q is enriched as well by her eloquent music. For myself, I was most intrigued about an aside she tossed in–about a project under way in India, something to do with the history of cows.

But I can wait. I’m sure it will be something rich and strange and thought-provoking.

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