You Never Step in the Same River Twice: a Conversation About the Power of Music, Cultural Exceptionalism and Identity With Songwriter Kris Drever

by Les Back

26 February 2021
Originally published in our Old Blog.

In the last edition of Streetsigns podcast we heard about the Vox Liminis project based in Glasgow that uses creative practices and song writing to help prisoners make sense of leaving prison and coming home. In this edition we meet the award-winning Orcadian songwriter Kris Drever who is part of the Vox Liminis project and hear about what it was like to be involved in this project from the point of view of a musician.

I met Kris in London prior to lockdown before his gig at King’s Place with his trio LAU. His song writing has an astonishing capacity to enchant what might otherwise seem mundane from a punctured ball on a deserted street to a car park on the edge town.  As he says, ‘I do like ordinary things and I like specific details, small details grow bigger stories in a way.’

In the foyer before his sound check we talked about a wide variety of themes from writing the song I am Not the Man I Used to Be with Stephen Robinson, to cultural exceptionalism and the relationship between culture and place and how we are more than the flag we happened to be born under.  As her puts it:  ‘Your intentions are who you want to be and what you do is who you are.’  What a brilliant way of understanding who we are – the sum of our intentions and what we actually do everyday.

It is reminiscent of Raymond Williams’s celebrated idea that culture is always made from the residue of the past and what is emerging in the present.  We can never fully return to a past home or the culture we are formed by.  Stuart Hall knew this as a West Indian scholarship boy who made his life in England in which he was both at home and not at home. Here culture as ordinary and unfolding life is like flowing waters, we never step into the same river twice. 

Les Back is Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Director of CUCR.

︎ Producer: Freya Hellier.

︎ Song credits: I am not the man I used to be by Stephen Robinson & Kris Drever; Longest day by Kris Drever.