Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Give me that Old time Religion
A week or so ago, I wrote that I "need to see neon occasionally." That was understatement. (As opposed to my statement that I am "vice-less," which was just a lie).
Last night, Andreas and I tore ourselves away from our respective domestic Hells, and went to the Szene club to see the Romanian brass band Fanfare Ciocarlia. Andy is one of the other double-papas I know; he's also a former employee of a multi-national music conglomerate. He practically had to propose to me to get me out of the house.
The band was great. Ten or eleven non-slim, non-young men playing horns 80 MPH. No stringed instruments in sight, and only two small drums. No room to breathe between the notes, barely any swing, all one crazy Roma hurtle. (Until you listened a little closer.) I've never shaken a tail feather to anything like it.
Andy and I couldn't/didn't speak much as they played, we just exchanged occasional grins, and I got lost trying to puzzle out why I liked these sounds. I thought about how dense and strange they seemed, and I remembered how dense and strange Roxy Music sounded to me the first time I heard them, back in the Cenozoic Age. I thought about Klezmer music, and wondered how this Romanian stuff is related to that Jewish stuff. And I remembered again, for the first time, that listening to music and going to see it played in a club is like church for me.
I wasn't raised with a religion. And though I know some fine Christian people, I am as suspicious of organized religion as I am of most governments. I think churches lie like snakes.
But music doesn't lie. Okay, wait, some music lies: Celine Dion has never sung a honest note in her life. What I really mean is that music is capable of telling truths words cannot express. It gives voice to the unspeakable, the un-sayable, the fearsome, awful, unapologetic and mega-wonderful stuff that is life.
Music, and what it does to us, is ultimately mysterious. Who knows why it works or why it doesn't? Why some songs are soulful, some bland, and some kill you every time you hear them. And why do we come back to the songs that slay us?
These qualities--honesty and inexplicability--are the same things people attribute to the Divine. Last night I realized, again, that listening and feeling good music is the closest I have ever come to God.
I just wanted to let you know.