Monday, June 29, 2009

Reading Stephen Fry's "Moab Is My Washpot"

[...] "Music is the deepest of the arts and deep beneath all arts. [...] I don't know if you have ever taken LSD, but when you do so the doors of perception, as Aldous Huxley, Jim Morrison and their adherents ceaselessly remind us, swing open wide. That is actually the sort of phrase, unless you are William Blake, that only makes sense when there is some LSD actually swimming about inside you. In the cold light of the cup of coffee and banana sandwich that are beside me now it appears to be nonsense, but I expect you know what it is taken to mean. LSD reveals the whatness of things, their quiddity, their essence. The wateriness of water is suddenly revealed to you, the carpetness of carpets, the woodness of wood, the yellowness of yellow, the fingernailness of fingernails, the allness of all, the nothingness of all, the allness of nothing. For me music gives access to every one of these essences of existence, but at a fraction of the social or financial cost of a drug and without the need to cry "Wow!" all the time, which is one of LSD's most distressing and least endearing side-efects.
Other arts do this too, but other arts are for ever confined and anchored by reference. Sculptures are either figuratively representative or physically limited by their material, which is actual and palpable. The words in poems are referential, they breathe with denotation and connotation, suggestion and semantics, coding and signing. Paint is real stuff and the matter of painting contains itself in a frame. Music, in the precision of its form and the mathematical tyranny of its laws, escapes into an eternity of abstraction and an absurd sublime that is everywhere and nowhere at once. The grunt of rosin-rubbed catgut, the saliva-bubble blast of a brass tube, the sweaty-fingered squeak on a guitar fret, all that physicality, all that clumsy "music-making", all that grain of human performance, so much messier that the artfully patinated pentimenti or self-conscious painterly mannerism of the sister arts, transcends itself at the moment of its happening, that moment when music actually becomes, as it makes the journey from the vibrating instrument, the vibrating hi-fi speaker, as it sends those vibrations across to the human tympanum and through the inner ear and into the brain, where the mind is set to vibrate to frequencies of its own making.
The nothingness of music can be moulded by the mood of the listener into the most precise shapes or allowed to float as free as thought; music can follow the academic and theoretical pattern of its own modality or adhere to some narrative or dialectical programme imposed by a friend, a scholar or the composer himself. Music is everything and nothing. It is useless and no limit can be set on its use. Music takes me to places of illimitable sensual and insensate joy, accessing points of ecstasy that no angelic lover could ever locate, or plunging me into gibbering weeping hells of pain that no torturer could ever devise. Music makes me write this sort of maundering adolescent nonsense without embarrassment. Music is in fact the dog's bollocks. Nothing else comes close." [...]

I conclude with my "song of the day": The Grit - Straight Out the Alley.


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