Saturday, October 30, 2010

After a break from music, it takes only the briefest of re-initiation ceremonies to bring all the voices flooding back. On the right kind of day, it isn't too much of a hyperbole to say that various combinations of lyric & music* consume most of my waking thoughts. (I can only speculate about dream time, of course.) This has been true ever since I started listening to music seriously. All that has changed over the years is the nature of the songs in my head, on account of my taste slowly improving :-) This state of mind has historically fostered marathon listening & obsessing sessions, and when it's really too much to handle even some form of writing. I don't think I'll ever decipher the mysterious power of song, which bodes well if it continues to elicit such reactions from me.

So complete is this mental take-over that I dwell on old dreams of being involved with this form somehow. But blessed with neither the talent nor emotional resilience** that it requires, I end up in pretty much the same place I've always been. I can, and should, set my sights on much more modest goals, though. Getting around to playing an instrument would be a positive step no matter the final outcome; I can only imagine the pleasure of one's own guitar strum providing the backdrop to a rendition of a John Prine song, say. I'd also like to better focus my writings on music (meta posts like this are exempted from any criticism ;-)). I realize why it's difficult to make much headway on these things, though: it's far easier to listen to music than make something from one's reaction to it! In light of this, I would say that at the very least, a basic hope is to become a "better" listener, which you may interpret however you like. But I don't use the word "obsession" lightly in this context. This music is pretty powerful stuff when it gets into my head. So I have a strong sense that even being the best listener in the world won't be enough for me.

* I put lyric before music on purpose, because that appears to be the ingredient I have the most affinity towards; while classical melodies sometimes run through my head, it's never with the same intensity as any of the songs that make it to this blog's recurring lists.

** I really don't know how one of my favourite songwriters (guess who?) managed to reconcile his hypersensitivity with the harshness of performing music in public. In an interview, he mentioned something similar to what I wrote above, namely that his obsession with music, combined with his realization that he could do something that no one else was doing, got to the point of being "ridiculous". As he put it, it ended up almost as if there was no other way but for him to get up on stage and start performing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Go-Betweens are a canonical example of a band that can (or could) do no wrong, in a certain sense: they're the sort of band I can imagine being boring, but far too intelligent to ever go down a poor artistic path. As romantics in popular song go, they are most likely unsurpassed. But sometimes, the words a bit more than I can handle; they haunt me by virtue of their contrast to my life. On listening to them, at an intuitive level I know the spirit of the song - gentle, loyal, and suggestive of an infinite reservoir of emotion - is what a part of me is made of. If I could put a structure to the feelings I've accumulated over the decades, they would probably sound like what I'm hearing. The melody feels like home, and when I hum along, the song becomes my own. All fantastic, all beautiful, but! There's no one for me to sing it to. While every endeavour of the heart suddenly seems conceivable, all I can do is expectantly sigh.

It's been many years since I've had the words of Morrissey safely stored away in my head, ready to be quoted at any instant. But as with any great songwriter, there are still discoveries to be made when I relisten to his songs. Recently, I figured out another reason that I feel a sense of connection with the lyrics. Sure, there's the unforgettable line in "How Soon Is Now?", which till this day I can't imagine is actually featured in a pop song; and yes, there's the wit mixed with mopiness that very strongly mirrors one facet of me. But my recent observation is that a recurrent theme in his songs is living your life by a code that is supposed to lead you to someplace good, but instead brings only ruin. This is most obviously manifested in songs dealing with matters of the heart (which is most of them ;-)); many of them express dismay that one can be so emotionally open, and yet find oneself, well, alone. It's melodrama to suggest that sums up my life, but it definitely elicits a knowing nod from me. I suspect that what really gets to me is how Morrissey reacts to this fact: passively, helplessly, with almost impossibly muted displays of frustration. You might say this points at the realization that such problems are ultimately immaterial, and not worth anything more than a mention. He said it himself with his recent "That's How People Grow Up", not coincidentally a strong favourite of mine. And of course it's true, and of course in the scheme of things, this is no crucifix that we are bound to. Yet, one can only argue this up to a point, because it glosses over a certain spiritual timidity that the Moz and I share. Such is life. But, as with Morrissey, but my plea is unchanged; I stand by my claim of a few years ago. Don't know what it is I'm living for, but if the occasional flash of beauty is all that the Path brings, so be it.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Merciless memory though I may possess, even that has its limits. When I look back on some of my past writings, I must confess being shocked that I can't remember those thoughts running through my head. I don't imagine this is because I didn't ponder long and hard about the surrounding events; quite the opposite, as the early days of this blog will attest to. This is troubling when the writing was about my then grave uncertainty about the path I was going down, which turns out to be path I am on now, funnily enough. On reflection, it seems that a single fork most momentous and harrowing took its hold on my world, shook hard, and caused a swirl for about half a year...before it became my new state of being. Comfortingly or depressingly, one gets used to anything, and forgets that there was once the option of it all ending up differently. Does my forgetting mean that deep down, I've resolved all that past uncertainty, and that this is the road I was meant to take after all? Yeah, that must be it.