Sunday, February 24, 2013

on love: definitions

Shan and I asked our dancers to bring in pieces of text that, to them, spoke about love. It's an easy thing to ask and a difficult thing to do, and I wasn't sure what the purpose of these texts would be, except that we felt the act of choosing them and sharing them might be important for the project in general, if not for the movement in particular.

I have a hazy idea that the pieces we chose are artifacts from the edifice we've each constructed to put under the word "love." There are some enormous things, a few great engines that drive our lives, that we can vaguely define in a universal way, but can only understand within the narratives we build for ourselves. And it's really weird to poke at the tangle of what I mean when I say "love," and to wonder what it is that causes me to adopt it, to come to it as a conclusion, to add up a certain assortment of reactions and desires and convictions and find the sum to be "love."

I half-remember reading something as a kid that said there was no way to know whether you and anyone else in the world really meant the same thing when you said the word "red." 
And now we can really understand what the meaning of music is. It's the way it makes you feel when you hear it. Finally, we've taken the last giant step, and we're there; we know what music means now. We don't have to know everything about sharps and flats and chords to understand music. If it tells us something--not a story or a picture, but a feeling--if it makes us change inside, then we are understanding it. That's all there is to it. Because those feelings belong to the music. They're not extra, like the stories and pictures we talked about before; they're not outside the music. They're what music is about.
And the most wonderful thing of all is that there's no limit to the different kinds of feelings music can make you have. Some of those feelings are so special they can't even be described in words. Sometimes we can name the things we feel, like joy or sadness or love or hate or peacefulness. But there are other feelings so deep and special that we have no words for them, and that's where music is especially marvelous. It names the feelings for us, only in notes instead of words.
It's all in the way music moves. We must never forget that music is movement, always going somewhere, shifting and changing and flowing from one note to another. That movement can tell us more about the way we feel than a million words can. 
That's from Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts.
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. 
Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message "He is dead."
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. 
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. 
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
It's really only the first two lines of the third stanza for me. It's "Funeral Blues" by W. H. Auden, but I always knew it as a moment from a movie that flew off the screen and hit me in the face. I can't remember anything else about Four Weddings and a Funeral.
I am a draper mad with love. I love you more than all the flannelette and calico, candlewick, dimity, crash and merino, tussore, crepon, muslin, poplin, ticking and twill in the whole Cloth Hall of the world. I have come to take you away to my Emporium on the hill, where the change hums on wires. Throw away your little bed socks and your Welsh wool knitted jacket, I will warm the sheets like an electric toaster, I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast.
That's from Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. I don't know Under Milk Wood at all. I've barely read anything by Dylan Thomas, except for a few poems slogged through when I was fourteen and impressionable and a friend gave me a book of Thomas and a book of Whitman because they were "the best poets in ever."

I'm not sure what these are in terms of my own bricks and mortar, but they do say "love" to me, beyond just the word.

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