Steve, the uncertainties of music (2)

steve de vos


When he was young he'd heard it on an old gramophone, the music playing on a record that scarcely managed to play the bass line behind the white noise of the crevices and cracks in the vinyl surface. Ella Fitzgerald's voice came as if from far away and that was how it had been, the voice traced on the vinyl surface from some unknown club in New York and now emerging into the hot summer of the south downs. The song was glorious, the voice pushing the band far into the desert, drifting over the dunes into the desert with the caravan. Whilst Steve sat on the floor playing with the banalities of racing cars and lego his unconscious was hearing the call of the other that he was already beginning to hang out with too much.

Thirty years later in a Brooklyn bar the music system brought him a piece of the song in the voice of another woman's that he didn't recognise. The harsh and irresistible hand of the past dragged him out onto the street into the Tower multimedia store and late that night he listened to the music in his hotel room on W45th street. I think that he was driven into lonely melancholia over many things, alone in his room and drunk on scotch and self-pity. He was sad without knowing why it was that the song was bringing forth this meaning, unable to recognise what ambiguous call from the past required that he respond in this way. How can you say after all where a song has come from, whether it is heard in the midst of the British countryside or hotel room in New York; in any case it was filled with the blues.

The voice moved onto singing goodbye to her son with a prognostic understanding of the misfortune about to fall upon him, salvageable only by a return home to the countryside to the loving peasant like arms of his mother, locked into an oedipal embrace with broken wings and broken heart, with all self-esteem burnt away. The voice hiding behind some familial ifs, safety in the family, parental love and a few hundred other dubious myths of the late 20th century, the wonderful ifs of guilt and self-punishment. '....If friends you haven't any, in your pockets not a penny...' But after all this your family will always open the door for you at home sweet home.

Steve recovers from his melancholia about two thirds of the way through the song and begins to wonder why the pain and unpleasantness of a wooden shack would be preferable to the city . But then there is Freud, the cat and so on. But music is the stuff of dreams, aesthetics and sometimes dance (but not so much these days since his body creaks too much for energetic exercise) and it doesn't matter whether Parsifal is a drip or Siegfried is a prototype fascist, such things are resolved in the noise and the melody (if there is one) and all that matters is the voice whispering the collective words, reinventing the symbolic realm for just a few moments before it collapses under the assault of exchange value, the symbolic circumstance of who we are and of what we will be; 'and if trouble comes down the line, just write' . So easy and beautiful, just write, except of course you left them far behind so that you'd never have to suffer the painful moments of being with them. The racism, the reactionary stupidities of self-oppression and the harsh realisation that change wasn't always possible. Just write – he did but had long realised that they didn't understand a word of what he wrote. Sometimes in summer he went back to visit and ended up sitting by the river in non-communicative silence or lying back in the sun eyes shut behind shades musing on what name to put on the envelope.At Christmas they came to him and his family sitting around invoking but that is another more successful symbolic adventure.

Steve turns off the music and heads out into the night determined to leave his melancholia behind and ends up drinking chocolate and reading 104 stories by Thomas Bernhard in a cafe run by an expatriate French dance master. At two in the morning the sun begins to rise and Bjork begins to sing what is supposed to be a melancholic song but which inexplicably he finds terribly cheering. He begins to write some emails back home.

Steve, the uncertainties of music

Steve, patriotism (2) - a soliloquy

Steve, the uncertainties of music (111)

Introduction to the Hypertext Novel

Back to Outwork 1

Steve de Vos - London 02/14/98