26 November 2010

keep music miserable

Judge a book by its cover? Me? Well maybe a little bit.

Alright, I admit it. I don’t find it necessary to carry out a full assessment when a cursory glance with a practised eye will tell me all I need to know; will warn me of potential boredom. Time is too short to waste sieving babies from bath water!

Take film genres for example. Scanning a review, I only have to spy the words ‘heart warming,’ ‘inspirational,’ ‘wacky’ or (heaven save us) ‘screwball adventure’ and I read no further. No good can possibly come of wallowing in such drivel. Now, take ‘supernatural,’ ‘paranormal,’ ‘horror,’ ‘alien...’ all these will catch my eye. If I should detect ‘exorcism,’ ‘abduction,’ ‘conspiracy’ or ‘vampire’ in the same paragraph then I’m sucked in.

It’s true, I am swinging wildly between extremes here. But that’s not a bad trait, eh? You know where you stand, or at least I do! That’s not to say I won’t ever watch a ‘chick flick.’ I have been known to allow these in my DVD player and even permit a slight grin or release a low chuckle at a ‘hilarious comedy’ but I’m happiest in my preferred habitat – ‘dark,’ ‘serious,’ ‘psychological thriller,’ ‘alternative comedy...’ you get the picture.

Is there a possibility I may have missed some subtle and engaging story by my dismissive choices? Perhaps. Over the decades I estimate I have dumped several million gallons of bathwater so there is a chance I have thrown out a baby or two. (Gently of course!) But that’s ok they do bounce!

I have an interesting DVD collection. Some would say, scary, black, depressing and troubled but hey, I own the musical ‘Oliver’ and the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy so it’s not all doom and gloom! (Says the proud owner of ‘The Shining,’ ‘The Exorcist,’ ‘The Omen’ and ‘Silence of the Lambs!’

In fairness, even I detect a trend here. I prefer ‘sad’ over ‘happy,’ ‘ironic’ over ‘funny’ and ‘bleak’ over ‘uplifting.’ This is even more true of my music collection. I haven’t counted (yet) but I would bet more than fifty per cent of my music is in a minor key! Whoever said “the only good songs are sad songs” has a powerful point. (Actually it might have been me!) Wait a minute, I have R.E.M.’s ‘Shiny Happy People’ on their album ‘Out of Time.’ But that’s ok, I usually skip that track!

Music stirs the emotions and mostly, though I concede by no means always, the darker emotions, sorrow, loneliness, loss, fear and disappointment. There is nothing missing from my collection of Pink Floyd, Radiohead or Dire Straits, to cite a few dinosaurs, and they are largely miserable. Fantastically miserable! A melody may be evocative of a certain mood but the lyrics coax that mood to full bloom. Consequently I can’t listen to anything bland or repetitive. I demand quality lyrics that can stand alone as poetry. Gloomy poetry of course!

Whoever heard of a happy poem? That would be a limerick! Poetry is another example of art appealing to the darker emotions and surely best exemplified by pieces like Wilfred Owen’s “Anthem for Doomed Youth” or Ted Hughes’ “The Thought Fox.”

All of this rambling thought brings me to my long-held conviction that the best artists, be they in the fields of literature, poetry, music or even comedy, are mainly mad or sad or both. Yes even comedy, the very best comedy, is a hair’s breadth away from sadness and madness. Pathos is powerful. Try laughing uncontrollably and you’ll quickly realise you’re crying really.

Most of this boils down to depressive thinking. To depict suffering in words or oils, in reality or irony, first you must study suffering. That’s just one example. But consider the various dark corners artists repeatedly explore, despite the warnings of those who have gone there before: death, despair, futility, anger, hatred and regret. It’s not surprising that some of the most exceptional authors, poets, songwriters and clowns have succumbed to depression and madness. I used to have a list of all those who suffered but it grew so long it became redundant.

Therefore, art equals misery and insanity. Q.E.D.

... now where was I? Oh yes, having fun!


Michelle B said...

Great post! I have to say, thanks for putting up with some of my dramatic/inspirational/quirky picks -even though I knew you didn't really like them :)

C.J. Duffy said...

I have two confessions to make.

1. I watch chick flicks
2. I have no idea, apart from it being a modern term, what one is.

Is not a chick flick simply a romantic comedy? Did not Cary Grant make some excellent chick flicks?

I have another two, even worse, confessions to make regarding music.

1. I don’t mind listening to happy clappy stuff. In my mind it is just easy listening, something I may turn onto early in the morning. In fairness I am more likely to listen to John Humphrey’s on Radio 4’s Today programme but I really don’t mind that wallpaper stuff at all. I do admit to preferring songs or music that make you think and I suppose I tend to put my money where my mouth is and by that I mean I purchase similar music to you and never the self-same happy clappy stuff I sometimes listen to. I guess, at the end of the day, that is the acid test: will you fork out hard earned cash for easy listening music? No.
2. I love The Smiths and I love Morrissey and you cannot get music that sounds so wonderfully happy but in reality is as gloomy as hell.

As for comedy being a thin veneer over tragedy or comedians wearing thinly veiled masks of humour whilst weeping tears of desperation – think Spike Milligan. The man was as depressed as you can get and yet conceived some of the funniest comedy ever written.

Having said that I do enjoy a bit of Madness (take that as you will!)

Perfect Virgo said...

M - I thought I hid it so well, is it that obvious! In fairness I do remember you watching The Exorcist with me one Christmas day, of all days!

CJ - you know the sort, goofy woman short on romance meets the irrepressibly rascalish guy of her dreams but of course he's pledged to another. Somehow it all turns out right in the end.

Spend money on happy-clappy? No you're right, it would be folly! As to Humphreys well I forced myself to listen to him for years, despite his abrasive technique. Since leaving England I haven't missed him.

Yes, that fine line between humour and madness - between humour and addiction too: Tommy Cooper and Mike Yarwood, Yootha Joyce and Caroline Aherne, drinkers all.