Monday, November 2, 2009

one part words, two parts music, and equal parts /to create/

I'm listening to the soundtrack from Blood Diamond again. I've been listening to it for days, and probably I'll go on listening to it for another week or two. I always do this--if I find something I'm interested in, it's nearly all you'll hear from me until there's something else, and it could be a few days or a year, depending on the nature of the thing that's gotten my interest. Of course, for anyone who knows me or has been reading this for a while, I suppose it's obvious enough. I just go through phases, and you can see how what I'm thinking about fluxes and changes and grows. What does that mean? Who knows, although I'm sure it could mean a hundred different things. What do I mean? Thanks for listening, for bearing with me, for caring.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that I was having a conversation last night with one of my friends and he was telling me about a person he knows who refuses to depend on anyone, not physically or emotionally. And I can't understand that at all. I mean, I can, I can understand why it happens and what makes people that way, and to be perfectly honest, with everything that happened with my family, I might have gone that route as surely as I've gone another. So while I'm trying to suspend judgement (is that the right phrase?) and be understanding, there's also this: we were created to be in relationships. To be in relationship with the Father and with one another.

I know this is a blog and it's the internet and often it's as weird as it is good, and I know most people would say that it doesn't count on here. And I do prefer a lot of the time to sit with people and talk about life with them. To lie on my living room floor or sit on the swing by the turtle pond on campus and just talk and talk. And while I do process verbally, work things out in conversation and come to understand things by talking them out, I'm way more coherent when I write. It takes a lot of time spent with me to figure out what I mean when I talk, I think, but in writing it's just much easier to articulate things. Perfect world? I would have those amazing conversations with people who also care enough that they read my blog, and I could reciprocate that too, listen to the other ways they communicate as well.

So that said, I'm so thankful for this sort of thing, blogging and all that and everyone who takes the time to read. I was talking to one of my roommates earlier (the Colombian one) and I realized how much it really does mean to me when I find out people have been reading things I write--just another way of caring for me. And as far as being relational? Well, of course I don't only relate this way, and I wouldn't want to. I could never not depend on anyone, not share life and thoughts and conversation and hopes and all of that stuff with the people I care about, and this is one of those ways of sharing. And it's pretty neat what it can turn into, what can come out of it (hello Jenny!), so you never really know, I guess.

So, if you haven't listened to the soundtrack from Blood Diamond and you like soundtracks, you should think about picking it up. It's incredible. I've sort of gotten on an African music kick, lately. There are songs on the Tsotsi soundtrack I've been doing this with too. I still don't know how to embed just music, so I've found some youtube videos. This one's probably my favorite from Blood Diamond, and once I figure out how to embed music I've got on my computer, I'll put a couple up from Tsotsi.

Cool thing for me about soundtracks and scores in general: I don't generally need words. I mean, words are great, I love words! They're my favorite thing! But in music, it feels to me like something more true. That's not what I mean, how do I say what I mean? People who love music way more than I do have said this way better than I have, but I mean something like it's more purely emotion. And particularly for me when it's in a soundtrack, because it's already telling a story. A funny twist on that is music in other languages, like this stuff from Blood Diamond. It'd be different if it were a language I could pick words out of, but the language they sing in (Krio, I'm guessing, only because that's the one they speak in Sierre Leone, although English is the official one) is something so unfamiliar to me that it could just be sounds.

There's a band my friend Matt loves called Sigur Ros and they're from Iceland and they have this whole album where they sing in a completely invented language called Hopelandic. It's not translatable, exactly. It's just emotic syllables. I'm digressing a ton, but what I'm talking about is the knack music has for expressing things I can't get at any other way, and if the sounds of Krio are to me that--sounds that don't mean to me what they're meant to represent--then, when put to music, I begin to understand something.

"Words seem so indefinable, so inexact, so easy to misunderstand compared with real music, which fills the soul with a thousand better feelings. What is expressed to me by music that I love is not too vague to be put into words, on the contrary, too precise."
--Felix Mendelssohn

Why do I write then? Well I don't think it's useless, by any means, and they certainly have no monopoly on expression. It's a compulsion, probably. Most times I can't not write, and when I can't, I don't. I love to write, and there are things that words can do as well as music, and vice versa, and there are also things that words do better. Actually, here I am typing this and I haven't even really thought it out, I'm just kind of thinking as I go. I think the real answer has less to do with what mode of expression better express and more to do with:

"The human impulse to create reflects our being created in the image of a creator God."
--from the back cover of Art and the Bible


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  2. I've done a lot of thinking along these same lines. I'm sure I've told you about Isis and Pelican before. Pelican is all instrumental, and Isis might as well be for all you can understand. His voice is basically another instrument and every album has a concept. I love this music because of the complexity of emotion that can be conveyed by the patterns of sounds and silence that blur the line between feeling and labeling (a lot of Opeth is like this too, but the lyrics are more audible). Words have similar powers but their distinction lines in the ability powerfully affect readers in a simple line, but more so in their ability to further ascribe this emotion to a specific cause or purpose. For music this emotion must be applied by the listener, and often times remains abstract. This is neither a good nor bad thing, but herein lies the difference.

  3. :)
    Something semi-related: Since I've been reading Exodus where God says "I AM THAT I AM", I've been thinking about how a name tries to pin down the person it represents--it's a symbol, so it's a claim to know which aspects of a person are the important ones to keep track of in an abstracted representation. Really, every word is a symbol, and every symbol is, in some sense, a limit. And to draw the connection to what you were writing about: I think that's why words don't always work out. You don't always know which aspects of a thing are really the important ones to represent, so you need the thing itself, not your symbolic representation of it. But that's also why words are so great, because once you do know which pieces matter, you can distill into a tiny sentence or poem or essay some entire huge thing.

    Also, my friend sent me a Sigur Ros song months ago, but I'd never encountered them anywhere else! Yay random connections!