In “Ever New,” Beverly electronist Glen Copeland welcomes the arrival of new life through lush ambient sound landscapes. The first track to his 1986 album Keyboard fantasies conducts a parallel change of seasons with birth and death, causing renewal cycles that define the natural world:
Welcome the spring, the summer rain, Softly turned to sing again. Welcome the bud, the summer blooming flower. Welcome the child whose hand I hold. Welcome to you both, young and old. We are ever new.
In the 36 years since this recording was recorded, Glen Copeland (as he is known today) has risen from an elusive singer and songwriter to a global phenomenon. So the meaning of his words has changed over time as he greets a young audience from the other side of life.
Now the 78-year-old Copeland is experiencing a career revival that was only possible in the age of the Internet. A recent documentary by Pose Dixon with a simple title Keyboard fantasies, details the rise of the Black trans musician’s fame over the past few years. Copeland’s swiftness and humility are deeply contagious on screen, and the film serves as an uplifting antidote to a period of deep loss and isolation.
At the beginning of the scene Copeland is in a small garage with her two cats browsing an email inbox to find a message from Japanese record store owner Ryota Masuko. In 2015, Masuko turned to Copeland, nicknamed Phynix, to express his enthusiasm Keyboard fantasies, asking if he has additional copies. Copeland happily pledged, and the tapes sold out in a matter of days. Within weeks, record labels reached out to make deals, and people around the world connected.
Copeland’s music has always been ethereal and contemplative, but a soft atmosphere Keyboard fantasies grew from the beginning of the home computer. All six tracks were entirely written using a Yamaha DX7 synthesizer and a Roland TR-707 drum machine on an Atari PC, and they range from electronic soul to new age folk, and the singing baritone performer conveys thoughtful and soothing aphorisms. Copeland details the album cover for the camera, highlighting a piece of stained glass by Evelyn Wolf. The breaking glass continues to inform about the art and general vision of Copeland, which is kaleidoscopic and rooted in spirituality.
Copeland, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, describes his first memories of how his mother and father played the piano of Bach, Chopin and Brahms. He expresses an awareness of the injustices surrounding civil rights as well as his exit from slavery, but argues that his childhood was nonetheless filled with good luck. As one of the first black students at McGill University in Montreal, he coped with isolation by delving into world music. This early independence allowed him to avoid the severe restrictions of the traditional family, and after graduating from school he moved to Ontario.
Copeland describes itself as “radio tuned to certain frequencies” in which inspiration beats randomly. His early forays into songwriting led to two self-titled albums in the early ’70s that combined guitar folk with progressive jazz. “Good Mornin” Blues “solemnly reflects on the themes of love and death, and” Color of Anyhow “recognizes the need for self-preservation. Copeland claims that his music initially “didn’t fit any model,” but that changed when the music became digital.
Dixon’s interviews with the artist show him sitting alone in the spacious rooms of his home, filling the empty space with unbridled joy. His confident smile when he describes the creation Keyboard fantasies expresses his double love of nostalgia and presence. Living in a remote town north of Toronto, Copeland slept only four hours a day and engaged in shoveling snow, feeding the family and recording in quiet seclusion. The scene intertwines Ontario countryside footage in sepia tones with the buzz of synthesizers and interviews with family, colleagues and radio DJs welcoming his music.
Copeland embarked on his first tour at the age of 74 with his live band Indigo Rising, consisting of Millennials that match the artist’s energy. One of the band members, Nick Durada, appeals to make difficult financial decisions and the potential risk of “Glenn’s retirement”. This, rather than accusing the artist, reflects the state of the music industry today. Despite all the difficulties, Durada admires the fact that Copeland can balance, being “always not in time and place.” For Copeland, however, time has always been “just right”.
In this way, the film perfectly resolves the conflict. According to Copeland NTS radio host Charlie Bones, “There was no New Age scene.” True, this genre has long been the subject of contempt in fashion music magazines, but Copeland’s ability to get out of trouble shines through. Because the documentary is about an album that has brought him international fame, other aspects of his life remain out of focus – such as his Buddhism, which he has practiced since the 1970s, and his work as a writer in children’s shows such as Sesame Street and Shining station of time. This oversight makes it somewhat difficult to imagine how the artist earned his living before his recent discovery.
Copeland began moving in 1993, but only came out in 2003. While the family suffered him in his youth, he claims they lacked the resources to understand. However, his mother lived with him until his last breath and eventually embraced his gender identity. In one interview, he describes the sexual dynamics with queer and heterosexual women first as lesbians and then as a trans man living in gender binary. He claims that it was only after meeting his wife Elizabeth that he gained the confidence to feel comfortable in his body.
Copeland says his own generation lacked the language to discuss non-binary and trans-identity, but younger generations gave him the courage to speak openly. Dixon compares this detail to recent footage from an LGBT support group, in which someone pays homage to him as an “amazing elder.”
“We have to live in a multi-generational community,” Copeland told the group. “That’s how we survived as humans, right? And the way we live lately is not good for us. “
At this point in the film Copeland comes to a grand conclusion about his work. He recounts how a young fan once told him, “We’ve only heard that we’re selfish,” and that his music assures Millennials and Gen Z that they’re beautiful. With tears in his eyes, Copeland claims that this small gesture made him realize the purpose of his life – to encourage young people to see their value in the world.
This sensitive sincerity gives Keyboard fantasies his charm as he represents an artist whose legacy is already beginning to outpace him. This is evident on the stage from the 2018 performance in London. The camera tracks Copeland as he walks into a dimly lit cafe to enter the stage. Every person he passes by recognizes him and smiles at him, expressing words of praise. The fact that his simple presence can illuminate a room in this way before he even utters a word speaks volumes about the energy he radiates into the world. It is now our duty to preserve this light for future generations.
Keyboard fantasies available for broadcast.