Monday, May 17, 2010

It ain't the blues I remember

Watching the singer sing, wondering what it is that he's thinking, or whether he has truly given himself over to the irrational exigencies of the moment. All of his songs are variations on one long song -- OMG it is a terrible thing to be loved and not be able to return that love. Melancholy is forever. His eyes are closed. His fingers move back and forth on the fretboard between G minor and D minor. His accomplice whistles into a microphone attached to a synthesizer of some sort. This is music, made of nothing but sadness and sound. These boys are too young to be so sad, you'd think they were baffled by the world that sustains their breathless pining and the young women who yearn to be the objects of their affection. In an age of artifice and acting out, the stage may be less frightening than real life.


It's hot in here and the waitress has disappeared. I'm thirsty. Is the singer thinking that he can make a career out of these torn ribbons of melody? My friend G. tells me he 'sees' certain chords as colors -- purple, crimson, gold -- but I don't see anything tonight except a boy in distress. His voice is a wisp, you can barely make out the lyric, I'm not sure it matters anyway. I crave a Beefeater gimlet on the rocks, a numbing adult drink that won't give me a headache in the morning. I'm an effin adult, hell, I don't listen to music, I judge it.


I don't give a hoot who says so but nobody can see music as color, that's just a metaphor, and a tired one at that. I'm sick of retread metaphors, I have to put up with 'em all day at work, reading half-baked manuscripts that come straight out of our vaunted MFA writing programs, every bit as clich├ęd and rote as Regency romances. Sad girls and sad boys telling the same sad stories, undoubtedly true enough for each one of them, but IMHO not true enough to be compelling, baffled as they are by the world that confounds their incessant cognition, and the sad strains of skinny troubadours who sing songs to themselves. They travel in schools, these disaffected young men and women, courteous, intelligent, hanging on to each other for dear life, breaking their silence with rapid outbursts of language denoting a certain nervous familiarity with Things That Matter. They behave like spies.


I feel for them, the young artists in the city looking for a break, refugees from public education, filled with Big Feelings, thinking Big Thoughts, and now having the carpet pulled out from under them as the city drifts into bankruptcy and lassitude. Their parents had it good, them not so much. They will have to struggle to be heard, if anybody cares. It's a good thing they enjoy work. The world needs workers who can fix things -- plumbers, electricians, line cooks, mechanics, carpenters, nurses, exterminators. Forget about higher education, the protracted adolescence of the hypersensitive, we need journeymen instead, kids who can wander across this blighted land with transferable skills and the will to survive.


Nobody wants music anymore, or novels, or videos purporting to be a slice of real life. The capitalists ran amok, fouled the fertile delta and killed authenticity. That's one story. Another story is that we're all equal now -- equally screwed by a system so heavy and so complex that we can't budge or untangle it. There are other stories too, of poverty and disease, of warfare and criminality, but those invariably involve people living somewhere else. Over here we're combating obesity and ADD. Not much to sing about.


The singer tonight, he's grown tired of romantic love. How can the head displace what the heart has proposed? LOL. He doesn't hold out any hope for the future but he's too self-conscious and soft to sing the blues with any conviction. His pain is real. He's completely alienated, eyes closed, thin lips pressed close to the mike, hands twisting spasmodically by his sides, jeans falling off his arse, lost in his own world. To sing without thinking, what a wonderful thing. Wandering through this world of woe. The lights go down, there's a smattering of applause and his accomplice starts up the drum machine. Hand me down my walking cane, he says, hey children, it's time to dance dance dance.

1 comment:

  1. This post unsetles me. My wife and I value education and we enjoy discussing big concepts. We attempt to teach our kids to value education. However, given the trends you point out, I feel ambivalent about formal education. I think my kids sense the ambivalence.

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