Thursday, January 17, 2008

When A Song Is A Place

When one lives out West, in the open spaces, one can develop a curious appreciation for country music, even when country music used the be the only kind of music one did not like. Now, when I hear the call of the lonesome steel guitar and a voice that sounds like it’s haunting a desert, I long for places in which I used to dwell.

I miss the hollow, steel cold beauty of the winding Columbia River where I drove more than once through the night to get to the Oregon Coast, the Seven Sisters of the Cascade mountains looming in the distance like great ships. It was on one of these drives that I first fell in love with the music of Neko Case - and in the desert along the Green River* in Utah, where I first came to understand that a song can be a place. I was on a five-day river trip with friends when I poked my head out of my tent one cold morning to find Neko Case’s song “Deep Red Bells” staring at me across the parched landscape. A skeleton tree stood windblown, and the land stretched beyond it, hues of dull pink and gray hanging on the horizon. I froze, like the dead tree, as the song lured me toward the edge of something I still cannot fully explain. I could call it misery, but it was something I longed to be a part of forever. I felt as if I had seen a unicorn, as if I was one of the fortunate few to be able to see a place that was a song, even for that brief moment of my life. That vision followed me for the rest of the trip and for many years since. Whenever I hear the song today I get an ache in my gut to see that mythical animal again.

One always longs for something that can never truly be grasped.

How has music mystified you?

*Ironically, it was the Green River Killer of the Seattle/Tacoma area that inspired Neko to write "Deep Red Bells".


ryan said...

Beck - "The Golden Age"

Riding in the back of Mark and Leanne's VW Van, Conrad and I shared a six pack of Corona that we bought at the gas station in Llano. After a long day of climbing at Enchanted Rock we indulged in the delicious intoxication of being dehydrated and exhausted. The song floated around the van as we watched the golden light of the sun recede behind us, not wanting the day to end. We drove through beautiful Texas hill country on a late spring afternoon, Sadie watching for a piece of "Smart Pop" to slip out of one of our hands and onto the floor for her to gobble up . . . myself letting a few extra pieces slip her way. A perfect end to a great day.

These are the moments that I wish I could store in a glass bottle so that whenever I am in need of that experience, I can open the lid and breath it in.

Larissa, thanks for giving me the opportunity to open that bottle. Great post!


Karl Staib - your happiness matters said...

Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" makes me feel like I'm hanging out with my bother. I never really thought about it until this post. Great concept!

Larissa said...

Ryan, This is a great memory - one that I can really relate to. I feel like this could be a project: getting people to tap into their musical memories and writing about for thought.

Larissa said...

That's great, Karl. Don't you love how music stirs up these memories?
Thanks for the comment!

Suzanne Koett said...

The first time I heard "Deep Red Bells" I was in my tiny studio apt in San Francisco on lower Haight Street, baking a pear galette and having a Dewer's, neat with a twist of lemon. I had just bought the record and was giving it a first go and the song came on, Neko's velvety voice pouring through the speakers and out of my paper thin, open windows, and all I could do was stand there with my mouth open. Until I probably ruined the perfect moment with the perfect song and screamed out my window, "Dude, can you fucking BELIEVE this fucking song?!!" And played it at least 5 times in a row.

Larissa said...

I'm so glad that you commented. This is a fantastic musical memory. I'm comforted to know that others have had similar emotional experiences with Deep Red Bells. Great description. Hope you are well!