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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Neil Peart article in the Jan/Feb 2006 Canadian Geographic

Neil Peart has a short article in the January/February 2006 "Canadian Geographic" magazine. The theme of this issue is music.

My Laurentian Soulscape

by Neil Peart

Canadian Geographic, January/February 2006


Canadian Geographic Jan-Feb 2006

I grew up in the farmlands of southern Ontario, but I discovered my
ultimate landscape, dreamscape and soulscape in Quebec's Laurentian
Mountains. Bounded by the St. Lawrence, Ottawa and Saguenay rivers,
this broad range of low hills, forested valleys, sparkling lakes and
winding roads is part of the Canadian Shield, the glacier scrubbed
remnants of the world's oldest mountains.

Over the past 25 years, the Laurentians have been a sanctuary and an
inspiration to me, a place to create and to re-create, to reconnect
with nature and with myself. I first travelled there in the autumn of
1979, when Rush recorded Permanent Waves at Le Studio near the village

of Morin-Heights, Que. Set on 100 hectares of wooded hills, the studio
was at one end of a private lake, the guest house at the other, and
we were delighted to commute between them by canoe, pedal boat,
rowboat or foot.

During our second visit, to record Moving Pictures in late 1980, I
really fell in love with the area. The studio's assistant engineer,
Robbie Whelan, introduced me to cross-country skiing, and I got
seriously hooked. I found myself studying each day's weather forecast
with a new urgency, judging the day by the colour of ski wax I would
use, happily remarking to my puzzled bandmates, "Looks like a blue-wax day!"

Robbie had recommended the evening forecast with meteorologist Stuart
Hall of Burlington, Vermont's Channel 3, and I started watching it
religiously each evening. The language of meteorology in Hall's
reports influenced me, and I even incorporated his words into our

Just before each day's satellite video, Hall would say, "Let's set
the clouds in motion." This phrase became a metaphor in the song
"Prime Mover": I Set the clouds in motion / Turn up light and sound /
Activate the window / And watch the world go 'round. "Looking at the
long range forecast" was Hall's nightly segue to the next day's
outlook, and I worked that into "Turn the Page": Looking at the long-range forecast /
Catching all the names in the news / Checking out the state of the nation / Learning the
environmental blues.

Ernest Hemingway once advised fellow author John Dos Passos: "Remember
to get the weather in your god damned book--weather is very important."
As a lyricist, I thought that was good advice. After a few more
experiments and a few years of owning my own log cabin in the
Laurentians, that desire really blossomed in 1989 on our Presto album,
when I managed to get a reference to weather into nearly every song.
In "Scars," I squeezed in a line about my beloved Laurentian winter:
Snow falls deep around my house / And holds the winter light. And in
the song "Presto," I called up the stark beauty of a winter night with
an imaginary character's personal reflection: I had a dream of a
winter garden / A midnight rendezvous / Silver, blue and frozen
silence / What a fool I was for you. And in "Chain Lightning," I
celebrated the dazzling phenomenon of sun dogs in the winter sky and
the Perseid meteor showers of August, then connected them to the light
in my daughter's eyes when we shared those sights: Sun dogs fire on
the horizon / meteor rain stars across the night / This moment may be
brief / But it can be so bright / Reflected in another source of

During one lyric-writing session on a rainy, bone-chilling afternoon
in the late summer of 1990, I built a fire and hunkered down with my
papers and rhyming dictionary. I thought how nice it was to work like
this. I'd been tinkering and fussing over the same few stanzas for
three days, but now it was getting better.

No matter the weather or the difficulty of the work. I love my
Laurentian soulscape. Sure, there may be mosquitoes, blackflies,
horseflies, deerflies, ice storms, power curs and gloomy November
days, but nobody's soulscape is perfect.

Neil Peart

posted by AndyO @ 10:24 PM   0 comments