Friday, March 04, 2005


He's not the kind of wheel you fall asleep at.

I don't often write about music. This is because
1) I don't know much about music, apart from "I know what I like," and
2) most of what passes for music is crap.

A couple weeks after Christmas, I received a CD in the mail from my brother, whom I hadn't seen over the holidays. A couple more weeks passed before I put it on the stereo. Since then, I've been listening to it repeatedly.

Tom Waits' latest album is real gone, as the hepcats would say, and so it is titled. I hear in it rap, reggae, and Afro-Caribbean beats. It sounds like Leonard Cohen and Angelo Badalamenti working together on a David Lynch soundtrack (in my mind that's a good thing), complete with circus dwarves. It's sublime.

I play it at all hours of the days, though it is decidedly better after dark, better still when the rest of the household is asleep.

I don't pretend to know what it's about. I haven't discerned the lyrics or looked at the liner notes. I've barely listened to it. Rather, it's become part of my space.

I can feel it in my bones.

I don't write about music because when it's good, it is meant to be revelled in and revered. More so than the other arts. It seems to me more ethereal because it is less quantifiable (though technically speaking, sound waves can be measured as easily as light waves). (Certainly none is so tangible, so clearly definable, as literature, words ordered on a page; although there's the curious case of poetry, where words become music.)

Maybe it's similar to the sense of smell in its ability to evoke memories (how often I wished I were carrying a tape recorder on my travels; the effect of the fingerprint of the sound of a place, explored by Wim Wenders explored in Lisbon Story). Maybe it's that we are too bombarded by visual stimuli to allow ourselves to be transported by them to the same degree. Maybe it's that we feel most strongly regarding that about which we know the least.

Is it me? Or do you too feel it in your bones?


Mary said...

I'm most definitely a feel-it-in-your-bones kinda gal when it comes to music.

Glad to read you're fond of Real Gone. I've sampled it and had it on my music wishlist since it hit the stores. I've self-imposed a ban on my personal music buying for this year (long story), so I'll have to 'Waits' for a while (it was too easy, sorry) before I add this album to my collection.

Loved how you said good music is meant to be revelled in and revered, and more so than the other arts. I quite agree. I think the etheral quality of music is much more impactful on a listener than any kind of quantifiable means to describe its makeup. Of course, an artful songwriter might disagree; I'm just a girl who knows what she likes to hear and what she thrills at experiencing in the listening.

- M

PS- thank you for the link to the movie. Sounds like one I might like.

Pearl said...

Glad I read about this Tom Waits. really intriguing sound. Definitely will pursue it.