Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Song of the Day #235 - Joanna Newsom - Time, As A Symptom

In the nullifying, defeating, negating, repeating joy of life...


Man, where can I even begin with this song? Just from the opening coos of the doves, linking it back with the sublime opening track, gives this track an aura of untouchable reverence. It's like with the beginning of "Only Skin", there's a sort of hesitation where the track itself is almost warning you, telling you "this one is the real deal, no holding back now, are you absolutely ready?". Like a final dialogue choice and save point before the final boss. Ever since "Same Old Man", the last "innocent" song, each track has such a declarative start: "You Will Not Take My Heart Alive" with the foreboding immediate vocals, "A Pin-Light Bent" ruminating on a simple two-note ostinato, each, in their own way, saying "what unfolds cannot be contained within traditional song structuring". And then, on this final track, the same message unfolds in a more mysterious way, and you know, you just know, that this is the real one, the really real one.

And then thematically, we have the major questions of the album being met head-on, and I feel still unable to address them in sufficient depth, so here's a summary: she talks about the courage of childbirth; the forgotten pre-natal abyss discussed by Nabokov; the cruelty of time wrt an anti-natalistic argument; the quality of joy that gives life worth; the idea of encapsulation of joy being able to negate the effects of time, that is, you are so joyfully content with the present instant, it does matter that time progresses past that point; that "time is just a symptom of love", which to me is perhaps the most beautiful and succinct summary of the ethics of Levinas; the location of such joy relative to the visceral everyday experience; the discovery of such joy through Athenian agricultural mystery cults; a preparation of a message to loop back around to the start of the album, thus defying time and capturing infinity within the album; a direct allusion to the end/beginning of Finnegans Wake, the originator of such a device, and oh my God no matter what you think about Joyce or Finnegans Wake I defy you to read the two pages containing this quote and tell me that isn't just the most amazing thing you've ever seen; and finally a desperate plea that her message will arrive at the beginning of the album, which we know that it has (although we are always tempted to listen to the whole album again to confirm it).

Every item on this list seems boundless, they each allude to whole library shelves full of masterpieces, suggest debate that can drill into your deepest held beliefs, open into general philosophies that range from the ontological to the everyday to the eschatological, and invoke images of such overwhelming beauty that it seems to physically hurt sometimes. And the music, of course, does it justice, which is basically all I can say about it that is sensible. I cannot at this time approach any closer. So instead I'll take the opportunity to discuss my new novel a little more "candidly". I think the most haunting aspect of this song is the relentless plea at the end for communication, for her message to reach through time and be understood. And like... I think I can understand that? To some extent?? I mean I'm not trying to transcend time or anything but on some level whenever you post something online that you want people to read, there's an inherent disconnect that you have to overcome, where people are reading things and forming their own judgment and understanding of it that you no longer have any jurisdiction over. And for all I try to downplay it by pointing out that I only wrote it in a month and never reread any of it, let alone edited it, or whatever, it is still an extremely personal piece of writing that I tried my best at and people's opinions of it will probably affect me greatly. And I have anxiety about how many people will like it on Facebook and how many comments it will get and stuff like that, so much so that I sometimes feel like I'd rather it just be ignored (but that is scary too). And I keep going over what I remember the order of the sections being (I still haven't reread it, lol) and feeling regret and fear of what I see as "barriers" of weirdness or feebleness that would turn people away. All of this is scary. But uhh, you just have to have courage, I guess. I will maintain that idea until I truly regret it. 17 people have liked the Facebook status I made about it. That makes me so happy it's pretty embarrassing.

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