Thursday, February 05, 2009

Songs After Dark

And I did go to the Doveman Footloose show and am extremely glad that I did, it was an unusual and quite moving show...

(Also I am glad to say that I heard the voice of reason - I had dinner with training partner S. and his lovely wife beforehand, and resolutely told 'em that I could not meet S. this morning for our projected 9am run because of a deep psychological need for a morning without having to set the alarm! In fact between cat and insomnia I am well up already, but it was the right thing, made for a much less stressful later part of the evening! I will run tomorrow instead...)

This project actually involves Thomas Bartlett a.k.a. Doveman covering the songs from the album accompanying the 80s film Footloose. It was spurred by Thomas's friend Gabriel, who writes as follows:
When I was very young, my half-sister Jenny died tragically. She was a teenager, and it was the 80's. She left behind a wardrobe of brightly colored clothes, rainbow stickers, life-size paintings, doodles on lined paper, and hundreds of tapes. These constitute most of my memories of her. It's sad for me to look at these things, and usually I don't. But a couple of summers ago I found a tape of hers with a startling cover photograph - this was Footloose. I couldn't stop listening: it was a portrait of 80's love, desire, pain, freedom, and frenzy; of being a teenager in a time of change.
He described the tape, when he spoke before the show last night, as a message in a bottle, and it's an interesting notion. I think in some ways that the project/performance/album is a failed experiment, but that the partial failure itself becomes part of the magic of hearing the music played live - it's very lovely to listen to, because all of Thomas's music is, but in fact the Footloose songs do not speak directly and immediately to the audience, so that the music prompts thoughts about absence and loss and the ways in which an emotion might be forcibly reproduced or remembered without being anchored to anything one can really hold onto.

The medium of the cassette tape is the perfect way of thinking about this stuff, too. I don't think it's really because of high-culture things like Krapp's Last Tape - it's more just that Beckett saw exactly the thing about the medium that others would also later see and muse upon. What I was most strongly reminded of: the use of the tape in Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go.

I will cannibalize my own blog post on that book, given here in slightly redacted form, having long since given that copy (and several others - but the book and the tape are two quite different media, in my opinion!) away:
A prized possession--in this case, the narrator Kathy H.'s cassette tape of Songs After Dark by Judy Bridgewater--remains prized in spite of the fact that "the music has nothing to do with anything. It's an object, like a brooch or a ring, and especially now Ruth has gone, it's become one of my most precious possessions." .... The "students" at Hailsham misunderstand a teacher's casual reference to Norfolk as England's "lost corner," conflating it with the fact that the "lost corner" is where lost property is kept at the school: "Someone--I can't remember who it was--claimed after the lesson that what Miss Emily had said was that Norfolk was England's 'lost corner', where all the lost property found in the country ended up. Somehow this idea caught on and soon had become accepted fact virtually throughout our entire year." Kathy's precious tape is lost, but she finds another copy years later (this may sound clunky, but it's actually an extremely subtle counterpoint to the cloning stuff): "Norfolk came to be a real source of comfort to us, probably much more than we admitted at the time, and that was why we were still talking about it--albeit as a sort of joke--when we were much older. And that's why, years and years later, that day Tommy and I found another copy of that lost tape of mine in a town on the Norfolk coast, we didn't just think it pretty funny; we both felt deep down some tug, some old wish to believe again in something that was once close to our hearts."

1 comment:

  1. Cool post you got here. It would be great to read more about that matter.
    By the way look at the design I've made myself Russian escort