We imagine our world to a large extent. Some might say, we imagine all of it. Our minds collect the inputs from our five senses, all the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches, and we mix and match on the fly. The structure of our body and brain creates the world, imposing a certain kind of order on it that does not exist in “reality.” That order can be beautiful, or terrifying, or somewhere in between, and we can invent more on top of that to fill in the gaps, and we usually do. But, in truth, if the tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, it doesn’t make a sound, at least not in accord with our assumptions.
And, to make this all the more confusing, each one of us invents different worlds, with parts of those inventions being unique to us alone, so translation is always needed. Between each one of us and the world, and each other. Translations beyond language, back to the root of our being as humans.
Lucky for us, to one degree or another, this is relative. As in, we’re all constantly reinventing the world, and no human has the ability to see it as it really is. One might say it comes down to how close we get, and how useful our fictions may be. It is, of course, within our power to make those (necessary) fictions better.
We humans are passing strange, in so many ways. But we have our compensations . . .
Music is perhaps the most immediate and direct of the Arts when it comes to compressing and connecting us to our emotions, to our sense of the world and its relationships. Our sense of its order and disorder. But it remains largely abstract to us and indirect . . . without words attached, without the stories formed with those words. Popular music, then, the best of it, can be the Great Translator standing between us and the world as humans see it and each other.
I imagine the three songs that follow as part of an impossible dialogue, a call and answer of sorts — a riff on an earlier riff/post — from June, of 2015.
“Never Tear us Apart”
INXS, one of the great bands from the 1980s and early 90s, brings haunted blue notes, and dark silences between those notes, to the deceptively simple idea of finding someone, losing them and finding them again. Contradictions fill the scenes of the video and lend an air of ambiguity to the sounds we hear. A tinge of sadness in the voice/lyrics is echoed by the sights of people wandering through a gray city, expressing their fear of being alone, and of death between tombstones. Real life events, ten years later (1997), transform the song into a kind of premonition.
I imagine the character in Ani DiFranco’s brilliant “Dilate” as the woman they seek, and that her reactions to the world are quite different from theirs:
Ani, or the character she invents, is also a wanderer, and she looks through the grayness and the darkness too, and she despairs, goes deeper and deeper, and is finally, sadly triumphant. Intense anger, with moments of sweetened misery, merge, break apart and cohere again. Her deeply intelligent quest to understand cries out to the Michael Hutchense character, who longs to forget both the past and the future and live in an invented present.
In “Slow Like Honey,” I see another character on the stage, reaching out to both protagonists in the songs above.
“Slow Like Honey”
She wants them both to abide, to live slowly in the moment, but to remain in the light. Yes, to be haunted too, but by that light, shining obliquely from the secrets she brings them both. Fiona’s character is ageless, though she was all of 18 when she wrote it. She’s damaged, too, and in “real life” kept her tragedies secret from others for a long, long time. So she knows what she knows, and she’s going to rescue them. Ani and Michael, and anyone else who meets her at least halfway.
1987, 1996, 1996 — 2023. Dialogues across the universe.