The Slow Spread of our Fragmented Songs of Self

Over the last few days, I’ve been talking a lot to musicians from Pakistan. (Such is the nature of my work.) And it’s fascinating to hear about the way they are approaching their art. In a society where more collective identities (family, class, etc) have profound, determining impact on people’s lives, musicians and lyricists are seeking a way of expressing the individual, the self as emotional, creative center. Often in very impressionistic, abstract terms.

It reminds me of a poem by Clemens Brentano, “Es Sang vor Langen Jahren.” Western creators waged their own battle to embrace and capture an individual’s inner world. In this poem, the poet loops around, repeating and reordering a set of images precious to Romantics–a nightingale (the lovers’ soundtrack of yore), the moon, a few simple but potent words like “pure” and “clear”–until all feels strangely fragmented. Yet it remains lyrical, creating mood more than narrative or completed statement.

The poem’s perfect balance, its novel (for the time) state of compression and intensity, of seeming spontaneity, comes to amazing life in Arvo Pärt’s stark, emotive setting.

It feels so commonplace to us now, this traced map of an inner state. It has become the norm to English, French, German speakers. We have lived with this kind of expression in our language for centuries. And the technique has slowly seeped via rock and pop songs into other places, into very different cultures, to come to the aid of artists looking for other means of engaging with life.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s