Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Songs and Sickness

First I had fever in Brooklyn, and now I have fever in Bangalore - which has proven an opportunity to test my last post's theory of hands being there to catch me in this more community-oriented place. Being sick is also a cleansing...and perhaps it should be a part of any complete vacation!

Needless to say, I've been acquainted with bed for the past two days, mostly sleeping, but also reading and listening to music, as well as to the sounds of kids drifting up - and horns blasting up - from the street below. Mark Knopfler is good sick music. Rolling Stone recently did a feature on his continuing evolution, which is inspiration to someone who would like to be creating new things her whole little life.

Knopfler formed Dire Straits in 1977; though still very successful, they disbanded in 1995, when Knopfler felt they had become too big. I admire artists who know to move on when the art isn't feeling right, or before the wind goes out of the sails; it takes courage.

Reading the lyrics of some of his songs now, I'm set to wondering about the components of a song. Like a recipe, so much must come together (as this short post articulates) for the listener to be moved. I've always felt that songs have advantages over poetry, because they have the hook of melody, which can captivate more quickly than words. I'm always interested in knowing what people listen to first: melody/harmony/rhythm or lyrics. My dad is a melody person, and my mom is a lyrics person. I'm both, which explains why, to my mom's chagrin, I got hooked on certain unmentionable pop songs of the early '90s.

A good song, though, blends music and poem and is a romance and a story and something that grows with you over time.

Here are some lyrics from "In the Sky," one of the songs on Knopfler's latest album, Kill to Get Crimson.

"Are you home from the sea, my soul balladeer
You’ve been away roaming far away from here
weathered a storm, your heart unafraid
crossed every ocean in the boat that you made...

And the hard-bitten stranger as deaf as a post
who stands at the fire where a poet’s dreams roast
He can’t know the story, he can’t feel the pain
and all of the glory falls around him like rain...

You’re a light in the dark, a beacon of hope
and strong as a sea boat, strong as a rope
And the vagabond wind, whispers over the bay
and the songs and the laughter, are carried away."

You can put it together with the melody here.

In the home I'm staying at, Gowri's Aunt Kruppa blows a conch shell every couple of days to rid the air of bad energies and contaminants. She's a really wise person, and I'm honored to be staying under her roof. A shell produces a primordial kind of song, stirs the blood the way a good modern song ought.

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