Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Grace Missing From The Old Sparks

Fell asleep thinking of how music wears tracks through our brains, or creates trigger points, so that a song or even a style of song will elicit a certain emotional response characteristic of the times, the conditions when those tracks were first worn. Thus John Denver's Country Roads is forever evocative of our house on Williamsburg Road, in summer or early fall, storm clouds gathering, a deep sadness already taking root.

Putting music on the computer yesterday I ended up temporarily with only six songs: three AC/DC songs, all from For Those About To Rock We Salute You and three Ozzy songs, all from Blizzard of Ozz. And then for half an hour, while I futzed around with Amarok play lists, I kept hearing those old standby's. And was aware - or was thoughtfully aware, maybe that's a better way to say it - of how I cannot listen to AC/DC anymore except in brief spurts of nostalgia or because I am technically trying to learn something. It grates, like blocks piled up high then crashing down, is sonically redundant, et cetera. It's unrefined. Yet it's the music that, from the moment I first heard Back in Black while roller skating alone in Hadley (Bon was dead when I found them), was the soundtrack of growing up, a touchstone, a blanket in which to wrap myself, tighter and tighter.

Contrast with Ozzy - read Randy Rhoads - who I can still listen to, still do listen to. Because the music is complex, varied, sometimes to an astounding degree. The instruments integrate better, and I even like Ozzy's voice, would love it if I were a non-English speaking listener. Point being, I didn't really see this so much when it was happening on my turntable some twenty-odd years ago. I liked Ozzy fine, loved Randy, but the music didn't resonate the way it does now.

If I think of metal as the music of anger, defiance, the upraised middle finger, whatever - and I do - then those tracks (the anger tracks) in my brain still light up, still want to light up, but can't abide clunkiness, mere shouting or banging. They want elegance, multi-textuality, complexity. They want a grace missing from the old sparks.

Think about this viz. novel writing. Think about the search for, the creation of, the refinement of containers, of form, as being distinctly related to grace, an ongoing grace. And think about anger, its voice, how it responds to or functions in those containers, that grace. Think too of what Susun Weed says, somewhere, paraphrased, how depression, the inclination to depress, is a protective impulse, a loving impulse, tamping down our anger where its expression would endanger or threaten us.

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