Monday, December 10, 2012

tunes recently enjoyed no. 3

Arpeggione Sonata in A Minor by Franz Schubert - Mstislav Rostropovich and Benjamin Britten

Lorin Benedict, who is a very fine singer of weird and wonderful songs, recommended this particular recording to me. It's intoxicating. There's such enormous sensitivity in it, like a conversation between two creatures in the dark whose skins are entirely covered with antennae tuned precisely to each other's frequency. I don't know enough about music to talk about it with any real intelligence. I'm trapped in the world of metaphors, in saying what things are sort of like, sort of remind me of, sort of, kind of, and not what they actually are. This is just... beautiful. Pleasant and interesting on my ear. Sounds, alternating anchors and wild kites, that pull me right up to them.

Symphony No. 3 by Charles Ives

I started listening to Charles Ives because of Leonard Bernstein, who I am completely obsessed with right now. (The Norton lectures that he gave at Harvard in 1973 are my current companions in the land of sleeplessness.) Ives's music makes me feel like I'm at the center of a collision between epic loveliness, creepy jocularity, and patiently endured, long suffered melancholy. He goes from something that makes me think of cathedrals and underground lakes to a maddening march with no remorse. It's interesting. And I can't get enough of interesting music right now. What does that limp word even mean? I don't know. I want music that makes me desire nothing so much as listening through to the end, that my ears want to puzzle over and my brain wants to think about. Not opaque stuff that abrades, but stuff with corners to peer around, sharp objects that stab you, layers to shuffle through.

This recording is, unsurprisingly, the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

Vanishing Lady - Rickard Brothers

I'm a sucker for anything that references magic shows. This song is ridiculous, swooping, and full of these amazingly maddening repeats. It spends almost three and a half minutes telling you to watch closely for this moment of vanishing, cranking you up and up for some sort of happening that never actually happens. And then it completely betrays you with a fade out. But, I like it.

I've Just Seen a Face - The Beatles

I love these lyrics. You know that absurd joy of recognition? Oh, yes! That is exactly how I feel and how I've felt. I know this. I know this! It's silly; why is it so satisfying to spot fragments of your own life in someone else's infinitely more clever, more well-turned, more piercing song?

Aside from the lyrics, this song makes me feel like running. It keeps going and going and those beautiful guitar bits come in with all these short, clipped words flying at you, and it makes me wish I could be a person with crazy parkour skills so I could leap off buildings and skitter off walls.

Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl - The Kinks

This song is so pent-up and anxious and full of absurd angst. I imagine someone locking themselves in a closet and singing this. I like how the twangy, strong sounds pound away in the basement while the voice floats above it, high and fretting. I'm not sure why that makes me like it, but the space in between those two things feels somehow both silly and perfect.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

forcing the end

A few years ago, a friend of mine killed herself. She had moved away several years before that, so we weren't close at the time. And before that, we had been friends, but never the kind of friends that strip their conversations down to brass tacks. When I thought of her, I thought of a glorious girl, wild on one edge and sad on the other, but never so wild or so sad that I could suspect the depth of either. I guess I didn't know her well at all.

I was sad when I found out, very sad, but it faded because I didn't like to think about it and, as I've said, I discovered that I didn't know her well. I was unfamiliar with a world in which this could happen, and unfamiliar with the person who could make it so. The unfamiliarity and incomprehension didn't lessen the sadness, but they made me want to turn away from it as quickly as possible, to put it away in a box, to not examine or look at it because the alternative--the realization that the stock of memories that I already had of her was it, finite, closed off from any possibility of change or addition--was a horror that I wanted to refuse.

It's entirely possible that even if she were still alive I would never have seen her again, that I would have only run across postings on Facebook or vague mentions from mutual friends or old photographs of parties that would make me smile and then forget and go about my day.

But, I will definitely never see her again and she does not go about doing things, living things that I will never hear about. The thought has emerged, unexpectedly, several times this year. It bobs to the surface from whatever depth it normally lurks at. It feels like something seizing the inside of my skin.

A few days ago, someone I know was skittering around the subject of forcing the end. "If this happens," they said, "I will have no life. And if I have no life, I won't want it anyway." I don't think they were serious, even though their situation is honestly a long, almost inevitable corridor of hardship and unhappiness. I tried to say something to soothe and calm, but I could barely look them in the eye. I am a coward who shrivels before bleakness and desperation. The thought of coming across the end of hope is more than I can understand or even admit to the possibility of. It makes me incredibly sad.