Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

To last throughout the years (living forever) with Kool & the Gang.

It’s no coincidence that two of my blogging friends quoted the same sentence in Robert Christgau’s report, which I mentioned in this post, of seeing 32 shows in 30 days: “[R]ecords can't match the exhilaration of the best gigs. You walk home prepared to live forever.

Ali Marcus singled the sentence out as the best thing in Christgau’s piece, while Carl Wilson quoted a lengthier passage but returned to this sentence at the close of his post with an emendation, “To live forever, at least for now.

Carl’s notion of temporary immortality rhymes happily with a discussion that took place in comments to a post by Michael Berube on the paradox embedded in Kool & the Gang’s song “Celebration,” which describes itself as a “celebration to last throughout the years.” Commenter Sean Carroll (comment 16) argues that “it’s the spirit of an ongoing, even perpetual, celebration that irrupts into our lives on special occasions,” while Kip Manley (#20) elaborates,
the song doesn’t itself launch the celebration, it merely acknowledges the celebration that is always-already unfolding; bands that play the song merely join a chorus of bands in a song that never ends; you’re not playing it again three weeks later, you’re just dipping your foot back into a stream that never went anywhere itself.

A recently published book called This Is Your Brain on Music may have insight as to how music has the power to confer temporary immortality by allowing mortals such as us to dip our feet into the never-ending stream of celebration. According to this review in the “Seattle Times”, the book persuasively argues that “responses to music arise from the physical structure and electrochemical activity of the most primitive and the most highly evolved subsystems of that remarkable organ,” because music “involves every subsystem of the brain, including the primitive emotional centers, making it especially effective for bonding individuals to each other and to the group.”

(I was happily unsurprised to see the same “Seattle Times” review sitting by the computer of my friend Robert’s house when I went there for band practice last week. I love my band.)

These arguments would explain why Nietzsche was right to say that “In music the passions enjoy themselves”; and why Pater was right that “all art constantly aspires towards the condition of music”; and why it makes sense that Wilde would have said,
After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own. Music always seems to me to produce that effect. It creates for one a past of which one has been ignorant, and fills one with a sense of sorrows that have been hidden from one's tears.

Music is strong stuff.

I don’t want to go to bed tonight because Billie Holiday and Lester Young sound so beautiful.

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