Monday, July 12, 2010

Usually I can tell it's Xenakis because it sounds awful

Two voices are in a bed. It's very warm and humid. Friend Computer is shuffling through a gigantic music folder, providing diversion. A lapse in the conversation lasts long enough for the song that has just come on to grab their attention.

The first voice is excited, the music on the computer belongs to him and he knows it well. He's eager to translate the lyrics to the second.

One day I saw a man
Dressed in rags, with a staff in his hand
Begging for a penny to survive

How poor a man can be
I gave him hospitality
A room, a bed and lots of food to eat

Still I hear his last few words
"I can never return what you've done
But heaven will remember and repay"

Fifty years had gone since I saw him
I was dying and I'd soon be dead
Three angels stood beside my bed

The first one she said to me, "don't be afraid
I will give you immortality, and grace for your soul"
The second had eyes of gold, she gave me my wings
The third gave all wisdom an angel could give to me

I joined with my destiny, eternally
I knew I was born again, an angel to be
A vision beyond my dreams, called me by name
So in devotion I spread my wings, to heaven I had came to stay

The two voices now are joined in limber conversation, the song's meaning is explored. The Heavy Metal solo in the middle is judged to be off-mood, but otherwise the piece is commended for beauty and motive. The second voice, curious at the juxtaposition between morose metallic orchestration and positive Christian sentiment, asks about the band and what they believe in. The first voice says 'probably nothing' meaning, they're not Christian. But they can hope just the same, right?

As the voices debate on the possibility of a just afterlife and what it would take for someone to earn an eternity in heaven (more than either of them has done, they concur), Friend Computer counterpoints with his follow-up song.

The first voice is eager to tell the second that this music exits because a friend of his wills it so. Moreover, that friend has made her acquaintance in a few occasions. The second voice pays extra attention to the sounds because she wishes to understand the distant friend as well, perhaps. There are no lyrics to this song to discuss, but there are meanings still. Perhaps because of the previous song, this one is felt and discussed as an examination of an afterlife as well. Especially towards its end where the shimmering guitars stray outside of the mix and what is left is only feedback and smoke.

A connection is made between the two pieces of music. Two paths to an after-life, one where justice is served and meaning is achieved for an eternity and another where words were just words and meanings were an errand for fools, where after-death means eyes that are always open but ever so slowly dim. Hades of thick smoke that enters the lungs not to suffocate, but to embalm, to keep the solemn traveler perpetually existing. A journey without an end.

A third comes as punctuation.

The voices almost simultaneously remark on how this is not a song about an end, it's a song about the now. The first voice offers wisdom to impress the second "this is probably by Gy├Ârgy Ligeti". The umlaut sounds especially impressive. The string quartet discusses with the piano, pleads, argues, commends. Sometimes the piano adds flourish, sometimes it plays along, other times not so much. The whine of the violins is almost sickening, then.

Two songs. One about hope, the other about un-hope. And a third to remind that we're not done yet with hoping. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis. The two voices get up from the bed and go to take a shower. Computer text now in reading range corrects: not Ligeti, Xenakis.


Nekromantis said...

Beautiful write-up. At first I thought the Xenakis piece could represent (in this particular shuffle-narration) a man's fall to madness for being torn apart by dualism of hope and despair but after listening to it more carefully it doesn't sound chaotic enough for that. What you said about the strings is dead on. It's an conversation and we're not done with hoping. Yes! I can take both hope and despair and the painful shifts of the two. It hasn't killed me yet. Give all you got and I'll laugh and ask for another round.

Helm said...


Peeter said...

I love Candlemass and Samarithan is my favorite from Nightfall.