Deep Blues
   Human Soundscapes for the Archetypal Journey
                                                            Mark Winborn

Malcom Campbell Review

Exploring the Deep Soul of Man - Deep Blues: Human Soundscapes for the Archetypal Journey

Reviewed by Malcolm R. Campbell (originally published February 28th, 2012 at

"All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumph, when he triumphs, is ours."
-James Baldwin, "Sonny’s Blues"

Trying to define the blues takes you away from the blues. Mark Winborn acknowledges this dilemma in the introduction to Deep Blues: Human Soundscapes for the Archetypal Journey, and then successfully explores the origins, scope, function, themes, performers, healing and imaginal nature of the blues experience. Setting the stage, he quotes from the Reverend Emmett Dickinson’s 1930 recorded sermon Is There Harm in Singing the Blues?

There’s so-called preachers all over this land
Are talking about the man or woman who sings the blues
You don’t know the meaning of the blues
The blues is only an outward voice to that inward feeling

Dickinson imagines the blues began with Adam singing "I didn’t know my burden was so hard." Bluesmen, whom Winborn sees somewhat in the role of shamans, invite the audience to listen, participate, and be potentially changedor even healedby the sounds, symbols and ancient themes that flow out of the words and music of a performance.

The performer’s emotions usually arise out of his burden. When the bluesman’s sorrow and depression rise up from the void and hit the air, Winborn suggests that the singer and the listener shift out of ordinary consciousness into a "perceiving consciousness" of inner knowing outside the everyday realm of logic and the five senses.

In exploring this shift into "blues consciousness," Winborn draws on Erich Neumann’s theory of unitary reality of the knowledge that the ego-complex can process and the felt knowledge of intuition and feelings that it cannot process. We cannot logically and directly categorize, analyze and describe the nature of the information flowing from performer to listener and back again during a performance any more than we can describe the blues itself.

Fortunately, we don’t have to apply ordinary consciousness to the task. The bluesman and his performance serve as an intermediary between the deep source of knowledge about the foundations of life and ourselves. "The themes associated with the blues," writes Winborn, "are the building blocks of human experience: love, sex, work, travel, gambling, abandonment, loss of autonomy, addiction, adultery, relationship, trust, jealousy, joy, betrayal, and death."

Author Ursula Le Guin has said that fantasy and mythic stories speak to us "unconscious to unconscious." In his 1967 inquiry into the nature of man, Man in Search of Himself, physicist Jean E. Charon writes that inasmuch as the material in the unconscious is in archetypal form, works of art communicate it via an innate knowledge shared by artist and viewer in a language which "awakes unconscious resonances in each of us." Winborn’s "Archetypal Manifestations of the Blues" and "Blues Play: Performers and Performance" chapters strike a similar chord.

From Deep Blues, readers new to the blues learn where the blues came from, how and why they became important, and the characteristics of both the poetry and the music. Readers familiar with the blues may feel an on-going déjà vu that takes them back to every B. B. King, Ma Rainey and Muddy Waters song they ever heard. Winborn supplements his insights with a rich selection of blues lyrics from a variety of artists.

"The blues is about maintaining a close relationship to one’s emotional life; becoming more intimately acquainted with one’s emotions and embracing what is painful, but also embracing what is ultimately enriching and meaningful," Winborn writes in the book’s conclusion. His insights come not only from well-focused research and his work as a Jungian psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist, but from a lifetime of listening to the blues. Without taking us away from the blues, Deep Blues illuminates the scope, depth and source of the "outward voice to that inward feeling."

Reviewer Bio: Malcolm R. Campbell is a writer and novelist. His most recent work is the contemporary fantasy Sarabande.

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