The Songs of Life

Every so often I come across something very like musical sonar. When I listen another part of me feels the connection. A great musical performance is a series of magic moments – a fleeting array of light and shade.

Bob Dylan & Patti SmithI get to spend time with architects, musicians and film makers and the great ones all share a kind of visionary inspirational ‘joie de vivre’connectedness, exultation of spirit – call it what you will when viewed from a certain angle.

These angles are often from a sideways direction and if you look too closely the magic fades but when like an eclipse if you catch the right angle there are gifts a plenty.

In my world poets are genius and their best moments are fragments of time. Less is always more.

Michel Tournier’s fables in “The midnight love feast” are deceptively slight but transformational. The back story there is that a married couple decide to part – but first they have a party to celebrate the end of their life together.

The guests all have to bring a story to the party and so begins 19 tales of mythology and archetypes that are so beautiful and moving that I wished my French were better so I could read them in the original language.

Like all great stories the magic comes from the parts where the familiar stories and notes are tilted just enough to let the light shine through. There is an alchemy of song, sound and hinted at reasonances that are not there but our musical brains fill in those gaps.*

This live clip by Patti Smith and Bob Dylan is a great example of performance magic. I don’t know the song “Dark Eyes” but I can feel the harmonies and connection. I suspect if I knew the lyrics the song would become less spectacular. I don’t know them and I am not going to look them up either – happy to let them wash around.

So how does one person write 500 songs. This is the tone of questions put to Bob in a 60 Minutes interview. I have heard Michael Jackson and other songwriter talk about song composition before when some songs almost write themselves.

Sure there is a whole songwriting craft there but there is also magic and exploration and art.

*Daniel Levitin has done some great research on this which I have written about many times.

Note: Just having another of those interesting conversations with a film maker and a musician.

A recurring theme for both of them  is to find an interesting character and write half of a script or a few songs but then go into a set or studio and turn on the mikes / cameras and see what happens.

It is film festival time again and my favourite last year was Once Upon a Time in Anatolia directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

“A group of men set out in search of a dead body in the Anatolian steppes.”

Which as an idea for a film doesn’t sound like much but really it is it just sort of unfolds like an extended dream. That is what I’m talking about here.