Saturday, February 28, 2009

ASTRAL WEEKS

From other postings, you may have seen that songs - mostly from other times - thread their way through my life and mind. I suspect they take me places I would not have found without their help. Consider this another in a succession of non-linear stories.

A phrase can be enough to dislodge a memory or coax an idea to draw breath. It has been said that singer/songwriter John Prine began his classic "Sam Stone" with two words: broken radio, as in, "...sweet songs never last too long on broken radios." Last Sunday I saw a listing by Ann Powers in the Los Angeles Times entertainment guide. It read, in part, "Martha Wainwright with 'I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too'...made a gorgeous, hungry, sad, sweet album that anyone who's ever been recklessly in love should hear."

Recklessly in love. Oh no.

This morning on NPR's Weekend Edition there was a discussion about Van Morrison's 1968 album ASTRAL WEEKS which he performed live and in its entirity not long ago. Another such performance is scheduled. There was talk of it being considered one of the great, all-time albums by ROLLING STONE; a teacher at a New York university found that of 16 students in his class, 4 called it their favorite album; all 4 had been born long after its release.

Morrison was interviewed about its meaning, the personal experiences it illuminated. His response was that it was fiction, bits and pieces he'd collected from everywhere, "These are short stories in musical form." Others interviewed on the program said of ASTRAL WEEKS, "...so much of what makes music great is courage." (We are shown by the music that) "...life can be lived more deeply." I found my way to the album in 1970 and from the first listening, it was like sliding into a pool, sinking to the bottom, yet still being able to breathe. It made sense to me, I was unaware that it didn't match other music of that time and I found in it images that illustrated the inexpressable state of being, as I then was, recklessly in love.

Even after nearly 40 years, I understand, though I have learned to let go of such expectation, the madwoman wish to dip in bronze, to preserve, such rare merging of the human and the unquantifiable. At the time I didn't even have words for it, I just knew that I wanted to hold onto it in a way that was, at best, unwise and, at worst, extremely unwell, awarenesses that came to me much later. In THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, the thought, let alone the fact, of the gold is the source of insanity. I admit that some of us bring more than a little bit of crazy with us and under such conditions can reach states where instincts for self-preservation evaporate. And if those instincts were not too fully developed before recklessness took over, well, one might as well sit on the railroad tracks and stare at the sun.

I've not yet heard Martha Wainwright's album. I don't know if I expect to find consolation there or the uncomfortable reminder of what it feels like to be entirely in your body, yet out of your mind. I think of it as an obsessive state in which we imagine finding our way into a space of absolute knowing, a place from which we, or so we believe, cannot not be dislodged from our object, where there is, we hope, something substantial enough to grasp and trust, a place where we would be allowed to exchange reckless for real.

Surviving being recklessly in love elicits an ambiguous response in me; yes, I was there and managed to find my way back, but, like the last of our astronauts to leave the moon, will there forever be that longing for one final, impossible flight?

2 comments:

Patti said...

one last flight... the longing that is as reckless as the love... does the shimmer of that gold ever really fade?
incredible post, stellar writing, expressions close to home. a lovely, poignant read.

LisaHoffman said...

"..in your body but out of your mind..."
How do you THINK Of such juicy and poetic revelations? The thing is this: You and I have many long phone conversations and I am a witness to the fact that these things slide off your velvet tongue with ease and simplicity. They come naturally. You are a poet, a writer who uses words like a full and dripping paint brush. I salute another great piece.