Sunday, November 25, 2012

I suppose it isn't surprising, but I realized the other day that the internet doesn't have enough serious emotional reaction to music. You can find pithy platitudes in droves, and serious reviews too, but not much in terms of actual discussion of how something affects someone deeply. I suppose for one thing, these reactions are genuinely personal and likely private. For another, they're likely hard to translate into words. And probably no one else would find them interesting, except me. But I do wish sometimes, when I feel a rush on listening to a favourite song or artist, that there were voices out there that expressed their thrill about the same.

St. John The Gambler

Back when I swore by every word of Nick Cave's, I remember being touched by his recollection of listening to Cohen's "Avalanche" for the first time, and how that swept away everything that made him feel chained in his youth. I think I'd heard the song at that stage, but hadn't paid it as much attention as I clearly ought. With subsequent listens, it occupies a special place in my mental landscape. I think you'd call it songs bereft of hope, in a way simultaneously poetic - in the sense of not being a retelling of some personal tragedy, but aiming higher - and yet not - in the sense of conveying a genuine emptiness that can be frightening in a way that the arts scarcely are.

There aren't many other songs I'd put in this category. For example, over time, I've found that as dark as Cave's music can be, it occupies only the former and not the latter for me. (Which is not to say it's inferior. It's just different.) But I'm starting to feel that Townes Van Zandt sits next to Cohen in the two towers of song. There is something very affecting in hearing a young man admit that his sins are the only alternative he sees to picking up the razors, or just waiting for the end. I also find it interesting that, rather than embrace the cliche of living free on the road, he chose at least a couple of times to basically reveal it as a failed attempt to escape it all, most famously in "Pancho & Lefty"'s opening lines. Like most good songwriters, his work stands on its own, but when you learn about his life, it inescapably adds an extra level of seriousness. Relistening to some of his more pessimistic moments, it's as if one is watching the chronicling of a futility as it unfolds. Which makes it music not appropriate most of the time, but essential when it is.

Friday, November 02, 2012

When he admitted that he didn't know the first thing about me, I suppose it was reassuring, because I'd told him this adamantly several times now. But when I stopped to think about it, I wondered whether I shouldn't take it as cause for concern. Does it give me actual pride when people say I'm a mystery to them? I'm not sure if it's as extreme as pride, but certainly I'll admit to feeling some validation of the part of me that always keep watch on the world around, always disappointed at the apparent scarcity of people with similar mixtures of idiosyncrasies. Be that as it may, two thoughts come to mind. For one, me being a mystery is not to be confused with me being interesting to other people, and in fact, the opposite is likely closer to the truth. For another, and this deflates the bubble, I have to say that most of the time the mystery arises due to willing obfuscation on my part. I have a litany of excuses for why this has been the case of late, but one that I must reluctantly allow for is that I'm worried that if I open up, I'll find that I'm less interesting than I thought. So, locked away with the conviction that I'm some lost treasure, or embracing the possibility that I'm really no-one; didn't I solve this dilemma already?