Thanks for Sharing, Mr. Copeland


Video from Stewart Copeland’s YouTube channel/stewartcopeland.net, courtesy of Mr. Copeland

Just about two years ago, on a trip to Dublin and London, I brought with me a copy of Stewart Copeland’s autobiography, Strange Things Happen: A Life with The Police, Polo and Pygmies (HarperCollins Publishers, 2009). I’d always been among the countless percussionists who luxuriated in Copeland’s inimitably exuberant drumming and the nonconformist rhythms he brought to The Police’s music. And while I’m not generally one who reads rock-and-roll autobiographies — if that’s what Strange Things Happen is — there was something about Copeland’s attitude that invited exploration. For me, the book served as a delivery system for Copeland’s infectious enthusiasm for making and playing music.

Born in Virginia, Copeland spent his early years in Beirut, Lebanon, where his father — a trumpet player-turned intelligence officer — was working for the Central Intelligence Agency. After moving to London, Copeland met Sting and soon thereafter Andy Summers, and formed The Police, a spirited rock trio that enjoyed about as much popularity as a band can until it imploded.

In Strange Things Happen, Copeland describes turning his attention at that point to composing film and television scores, performing with various musically diverse ensembles, and having his documentary film Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out (which is largely made up of video Copeland shot with a Super-8 video camera while on tour with The Police) premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival — which in turn led to a massively successful one-off Police reunion tour.

What one learns about Copeland by reading Strange Things Happen is just how musically adventurous and eager to share he is. In addition to the above-mentioned film and television scores, Copeland has composed for such disparate mediums as the ballet and the BlackBerry Bold. Next month, the Long Beach Opera will stage his Edgar Allan Poe-inspired chamber opera The Tell-Tale Heart.

Between commissions and performances, Copeland creates music for the sake of doing so — and for whoever might enjoy it. He recently launched a YouTube channel to which he regularly uploads videos of jam sessions he hosts at the “Sacred Grove,” his home studio. Watching the yield of these spontaneous music-making get-togethers, one who’s read Strange Things Happen realizes that Copeland’s YouTube channel and his recently launched Facebook and Twitter accounts are simply the latest tools he’s using to share his unreserved enthusiasm for making and playing music.

David Brensilver

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