Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"And the four right chords can make you cry"

"And the four right chords can make you cry"

We sit round the table, one of many that have been colonised over the past three days, the empty glasses cluttering the available space.

There have been more arguments than normal amongst a group who do not know the backstory, effortlessly public sparring that at first amused its unintended audience but which is now causing the rolling of eyes and a slight discomfort, the rules not quite apparent to those watching.

"When I say contemporary music, I'm sure most of you have wider interests -"

"What he means -" I pause as the levels of amusement, intellectual indignation and alcohol fuelled frustration rise, "is that it is my taste in music which he is arguing against".

The head nods. "Yes". There's a pause. "For something to be sublime -"

I realise that I'm only half listening. Knowing this is not something that can be intellectually deconstructed, each of us subtly altering our position in some endless debate of ideas. I am arguing for something that goes beyond intellectual understanding, something rooted deeper than that in, I suspect, both of us. Maybe for once we are both arguing about something we properly believe in and not for who can score the most points with the tightest posturing.

Sublime is the word. It links me effortlessly back to my Romantic boys and their preoccupation with the sublime. The moment of transcendence which reveals something greater than you know.

For me sublime is 47 seconds into The Verve's 'Bittersweet Symphony'. It is the break in Gary Lightbody's voice in the final chorus of 'Chasing Cars'. It is the sheer effortless beauty of REM's 'Nightswimming'.

It was there in a kitchen in Oxford dancing to a recording of 'Mr Brightside', just as it was in the faceless lines of 'I've got soul but I'm not a soldier' chanted in the darkness of a mud splattered field. I saw it in a ballroom in Blackpool to the strains of 'Last Request', in a pub in York to 'I Have Lived' and a theatre in London to 'Cable Car [Over My Head]'.

Rufus Wainwright's voice has so much of it that he could sing a shopping list to me. David Gray owns it so completely that it makes him one of the greatest poets of the last twenty years. Adam Duritz aches with it so much that a throw away reference to a Counting Crows song can stop me in my tracks. Without it there would be no fuss about Amy Winehouse. It is because of it that I cannot get through a Damien Rice album without crying. And I do not even have to go that far, I could open up my mouth and simply say: Griffin.

'Elenor Rigby', 'Live Forever' and 'Like A Rolling Stone' have it as do, in their very different ways, 'Don't Dream It's Over', 'Fix You' and 'Sit Down'. 'Good Riddance' is an utterly perfect 2 minutes and 34 seconds of it.

And why should it not be elsewhere? In the sheer joy which is 'Dancing Queen' or 'Five Colours in her Hair' or 'Umbrella'? Should 'Buck Rogers' or 'Girl From Mars' or 'Best of You' not have it? If I cannot help but smile when I hear the opening bars of 'With or Without You' or 'Come Back To What You Know' or 'Common People' does it say more or less about me?

Without these songs, my music, memories wouldn't be quite as strong and I would be slightly less of a fully rounded human being.

Music is subjective, something that catches you on the hop, tangling you up when you least expect it. And whilst it is easy to criticise - the repetition, the unoriginality, the incessant drum beat - to dismiss everything, out of hand, is something else entirely.

But I cannot say all of this, any more than I can express tightly in language the reason why my music does this to me. The inarticulate reason why sometimes I need a voice and a guitar to guide me, to hold me or just to make me understand, as much as I need a poem or a novel or a play.

So this remains unsaid, impasse reached. We leave it at a draw.

"You're like an old married couple".

We both laugh, arguments put aside for some distant point in the future.

But, some hours later, unable to sleep, I write this. And then, months later after we have revisited the argument for at least the fourth time, I not only click publish I also open my email, ready for the very first time, to send the attachment.


cat said...

Absolutely. Rather predictably I add this for your consideration, 3.19 in to be as precise as is possible in these matters:


And, in a brilliantly different way, and just because I'm in a girl group kinda mood:


cat said...

Also, have you heard they new Elbow single? I think it has exceptional "20000 people in a field" anthemic possibilities for, *hush*, Latitude.


Stephen said...

Corinne, that is a post of pure genius. You are spot on about the power of the right music at the right time, and how it can be just about anything. (And I say this not because you manage to list stuff straight off my iPod, but because it's true).

You're a star.

Corinne said...

Cat - I actually got a shiver down my spine at 3.19. Superb. And the Sugababes link led me to find Snow Patrol's version of 'About You Now' which was a little bit of wonderful. As for Elbow at (whispers) Latitude - I need to remember to bring a lighter!

Stephen - Thank you for making me blush! And I think a bit of mutual congratulation is in order for musical taste ;-)