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Musician Creates Music to Navigate Grief

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London-based musician and composer is using the power of music to process grief with a musical project entitled Songs of Loss and Healing.

Douglas MacGregor, award-winning composer and guitarist, was 7 years old when he lost his mother to cancer.

Twenty-five years later, having been anchored only by music throughout his teens and twenties, MacGregor finally succumbed to grief; the result of which is Songs of Loss and Healing, a seven-part instrumental series, with accompanying music videos, which takes the listener on MacGregor’s personal journey of delayed grief.

‘A quarter of a century after my mum died, I finally grieved properly, and all the buried hurt came flooding out,’ says MacGregor. ‘I turned to music as a coping mechanism, and consciously explored the grieving process to its depths with music. In doing so, I have written and recorded seven pieces of guitar music which not only explore my journey through grief but are designed for others to use in navigating their own grieving process.’

Around 45,000 children are bereaved every single year in the UK, and it is not uncommon for adults bereaved as children to experience delayed grief, as was the case with Douglas MacGregor.

‘To know a lost love and to rekindle a forgotten world through music is one of the ways I continue to process my grief,’ said MacGregor speaking from his home in London. ‘The music I create explores, expresses and celebrates the intangible sense of someone lost who can nevertheless live on in some form through music.’

Having studied for a master’s degree in ethnomusicology at SOAS University of London, MacGregor focused his attention on the cross-cultural role of music in grief rituals. He experienced different and unique ways of processing grief through music by connecting with communities around the world.

In 2019, he launched the Songs of Loss and Healing project, an online resource for anyone experiencing loss to explore the connection between music and grief though podcasts, videos, articles and interviews, as well as a series of compositions exploring his own personal meditations on grief.

MacGregor invites audiences to use his compositions to remember a person, place or time they have lost. ‘I have so little direct memories of my mum,’ MacGregor explains, ‘but she was always ever present. Sometimes I would think, if I were to lay down in the field behind our childhood home, and let the land speak, that perhaps the memory of her warmth and love could be blown in on a breath of wind.’

The latest release in the seven-part musical series is entitled Grasping the Wind, and was recorded around Grafham and Ellington Thorpe, in Cambridgeshire where MacGregor grew up and where the memories of his mother are strongest.

Grasping the Wind is part improvisation, part composition and brings elements of folk, classical and experimental guitar music together in what has become known as MacGregor’s signature style.

Each instrumental takes a different perspective in time, articulating a specific mood, which MacGregor hopes others who have experienced loss can identify with and use to guide them through their own grieving process.

Watch and listen to Grasping the Wind on YouTube.

Previous releases in the seven-part musical series include:

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