I sit here listening to a song that was released 12 years ago. It feels like yesterday. It can still feel the emotions it originally evoked in me. I smile as I wryly observe to myself that it reminds me of the dingy youth-charming jail-bait frequenting Bank Chambers – despite it never being played there. It reminds me of that time.
Another song: I am out with my two of my friends, one of which I don’t know anymore – the other one I suspect will be my friend ‘til our death(s) – whichever comes first (his, since I still only look 23; check our www.sellyoursoultosatan.com for great deals, act fast!). We are always the first ones on the dance floor, and we are surrounded by people we know who flock to us. This song is playing, and it’s flippant, carefree pop. It captures the isolated joy of the moment – nothing else matters. Our improvised quasi-jokish dance routine catches on with the rest of the dance floor in no time!
I change to another song. I am walking to the Castle. It’s summer – I am with my friends. We are sat in the pub (don’t worry, not all my music memories are alcohol-related). It’s a weeknight, but that doesn’t stop us having too many pints of Stella (no, seriously!) and listening to this song and its album on the jukebox. We’re all wearing our England football shirts; it isn’t long since the 5-1 thrashing of Germany.
If there is a song that lifts the spirit and contrasts the melancholy with the capricious, it is this. I often kidded myself that this was a song about someone – or something. But perhaps it’s not really about anything. The beauty of this song is that it seems to fire the imagination – but the direction the mind takes is your choice. There is a sense of finality and conclusion that I’ve never encountered in any other song. It is like, if this song were played at the end of your life – nothing could follow it up. It’s like “ok, that’s the end of the show folks – thanks for coming.” This song doesn’t remind me of any particular time, but I first heard it during one of the most important phases of my life; when I was exploring the world and expanding my mind to unprecedented levels. This year was the year after I moved house and the year I deconverted from strong Christian to atheist.
If I am moving chronologically, I’d have to pick a song for 2004. But as hard as I try, I can’t. This was a tough year. It was the hardest of my life, up until then. I came close to wanting to end it all this year. The reasons are too deep to explain, and as anyone who’s felt this way can testify, it’s not so much about how things are, but the total inability to envisage a resolution or, in Tolkien’s words, a eucatastrophe. Those things belong to movies. In real life, most of the time – when Hope Fails, it’s a long boring struggle to stand up again. But it can happen. It doesn’t always, and there’s no rule why it should. But it can. It did.
I listen to this song, and although it originally belongs to my teenage years, Windows ‘95 – summer holidays, high school and all – it now reminds me of the Spring of 2005. I am at home, sat at my computer. I stand up and look out the window. I just got home. I previously spent a few hours after work with a girl; it was our last real time together, and the last time we kissed. It was cloudy, with sunny intervals (and a 30% chance of precipitation, Michael Fish eat your heart out!). I listened to this song, and whether I confabulated to make the mood fit the song or whether this song captured the atmosphere, who can say. But it’s there, the waxing summer, the smell of heat noticeable in the air – and a sinking feeling in my heart. But this was the year that would bring many great memories, once in a lifetime events, and, quite literally, after the horrid years past, a new dawn.
I am walking down a path. It’s warm, even though I’ve only been walking for five minutes. My sister has dropped me off on the road and I put my iPod on. This song is playing. Cars whizz by, in a hurry. I’m in no hurry. It’s still early and work doesn’t start for a while, so I stroll as the morning summer sun warms me. I despise the sun – it makes me feel uncomfortable and fucks up my skin. But I feel good. I am over my past crush and nothing weighs me down. I feel young and timeless. I will get to know someone special this year, who will confound and stun me. I time my pace to fit in the songs I’m listening to.
Such a wonderful fun song. It reminds me of being in my room, with my older sister, and my auntie singing along to this. She isn’t here anymore – but such a cheerful and enthusiastic soul. I should feel so sad that she is not here, but I remember she liked his – and somehow the silly joviality is suiting for her. It’s a classic frivolous weekend song.
Years pass. I am lying on a bed in a hotel room. It’s thousands of miles from home. I am listening to this. I see an orchestra playing grand themes in a huge stadium – the violins sing and cry in my ears; I hear an audience lapping it up as spotlights illuminate the corresponding instrumentalists. I am on a boat in the middle of the Med, sailing by islands and small pockets of civilisation. The sun hates me. But then it’s cloudy. I’m indiscernibly hit by sea air, and these rather cool-looking shades I bought at Luton airport will end up making me look like a panda – ironically a creature that everyone wants to get laid though it chooses not to…
But I can enjoy the music. I can enjoy the moments. I am going through the motions, though I don’t really know where I am going, or if I’m on the right track; I suspect not. I can kid myself that I can enjoy it all, or forget everything – because ignorance is bliss. No it’s not. Yes, it is.
The sun is sleeping quietly. I know this song – but only after this night does it carry its weight. If I’ve never known what it means to want a night-time to last a lifetime, I do now. I look at her. We laugh – we always laugh. She always makes me laugh. I always make her laugh. Can she surely feel the same way? It’s bitterly cold. We sit and talk for hours, and hours. The music is deafening but all I hear is her. We admit there’s something there. In the taxi home, I tell her about this song – and how it is this night.
And it’s many other nights. It’s a cold night with stars; it’s a warm summer night on the grass. If ignorance is bliss then I’ll live in agony, because this is exactly how it should be. I love the sun. The sun loves me. What do I have to care about or be insecure about? If love is the reflection of your values and ideals then I must be beautiful and wonderful. I am young and timeless.
Music fills my soul like breath fills the lungs, and it’s carried with each movement. It all comes together, and the discordant lines of the past seem to plot a path on the map, and the destination happens to be you! What are the odds?! And it makes sense. I understand now. Each step is a skip, every run is a flight. Every moment is anticipation, and the world revolves around us.
But perhaps it was spinning too fast. You can’t beat reality. Every day overtaking the world was another day it was catching up. And it can run faster – and it doesn’t get tired. And each day it spins it took you away, like the outgoing tide. Each rise and fall you can barely detect, but eventually… That moon that lit up our sky took the tide away. Hey, if salt water is all it takes I’ll have you beat.
Hope Fails. Where is my eucatastrophe? The music that is the Flying DeLorean in my mind is symphonic anguish and belittling torture. Do you know what you’re doing to me? I used to like to listen to you. You told my favourite stories, and here you are dragging me back? Who do you think you are? I am old and dying.
It’s a long boring struggle to stand up again. It can happen. It doesn’t always, and there’s no rule why it should.
Would it be bliss to die with you? To die by your side wouldn’t be the worst way to go. In fact, if I were to die with you, I can handle that – who else would need to affirm my life? Who else could? Maybe you’re the only one who can.
Music is the food of the soul; the emotion it inspires is the response to your values in the context of your life and its circumstances. As concepts are mental integrations of identified existents, so musical meaning is a personal concept created in your mind by music tied to an event; ties like space-time geodesics that curve into the past, and all you have to do is flick a switch. What kind of being deserves such majesty and encumbrance?
But the beauty of music, as all art – is not only that every song is a memory, but a glimpse of a possible future. Not always a description, but a prescription. Not always a glass for looking, but for scrying. Not how things are or were, but what might be.
I don’t know what that will be. Music will always be there, like time; something that goes with us along the way. The threads it creates are those your mind confects to the past and a possible future. But the music accompanies the events, not predicts them. So, as with everything else – our future is up to us, inasmuch as we can make a difference. We can only hope that music is our friend for the ride.
(Here are the songs I referenced: Savage Garden – You can Still be Free, Five – Keep on Moving, U2 – Walk On, Tsar – The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die, Howard Shore – Hope Fails (LOTR OST), Mike Oldfield – The Sentinel, Cheap Trick – Surrender, The Cure – Friday I’m in Love, Coldplay – Viva La Vida, The Smiths – There is a Light That Never Goes Out, Amy MacDonald – My Only One.)