This week in PHL, we tried slowing down another song and using the brushes. It’s a sweet and easy song of happy leavetaking, so we thought the brushes worked out well. Click on the link in the title for a listen.
Pushing off down the river
Beneath a tangled canopy
We bid goodbye in a fever
To a dead-end scene
Sweeter wind, water sweeter
Washes the slate clean
The page is turned my darling one, forevermore
The snake has gone and left its skin upon the floor
Spilling out onto the ocean
As the sun sinks blissfully
We float among constellations
So many dawns still unbroken
Await us eagerly
Should we draw nigh to some pale leviathan
we will steal softly by until we can laugh again
1. Pushing off…
“Sometime chaos is an immense black hole in which one endeavors to fix a fragile point as a center. Sometimes one organizes around that point a calm and stable “pace”: the black hole has become a home. Sometimes one grafts onto that pace a breakaway from the black hole.” This song takes as its theme this third aspect of the Refrain, the breakaway.
2. …down the river…
The first idea was to fill the melody slots with words from Rimbaud’s Bateau Ivre. “Comme je descendais des Fleuves impassibles…” Whenever I read Rimbaud, I understand with perfect clarity how far removed I am from the rooms of poetry. I do what I can, and what I can do is take the little shards at my feet and try to reflect with them the light of greater suns.
3. …a tangled canopy
Signifying the difficulty in beginning the process of breaking away.
4. Sweeter wind
Walking into eternity on Sandymount strand, Stephen Proteus Dedalus ponders for a moment whether he should pay his nuncle a visit. He decides against it, and utters in thought one of my favorite lines in Ulysses: “This wind is sweeter.”
5. The page is turned…
So turn the page. To have done with the past, Friedrich Schelling says, one has to posit it as truly past. (This coming from a philosopher who went through 11+ drafts of an account of the past.)
6. My darling one
Clearly I was thinking of Paul Westerberg here.
I really needed a four-syllable word that rhymed with “floor.” Thanks forevermore!
8. The snake has gone and left its skin upon the floor.
A slightly expanded version but otherwise a complete and shameless rip-off of a line from Wallace Stevens’ “Farewell to Florida,” another, far more moving example of the Refrain’s love of breaking away.
9. …ocean … sun…
“Elle est retrouvée. / Quoi ? – L’Eternité. / C’est la mer allée / Avec le soleil.”
10. So many dawns still unbroken
A clear reference to the epigraph of Nietzsche’s The Dawn. I take a humble bricoleur’s pride in this line. On the other hand, I could have sung it better in this take than I did.
11. Should we draw nigh to some pale leviathan…
It’s likely that at the back of my mind I was thinking of Peter Sloterdijk’s praise of the nobodiness of Odysseus. (How did O extricate himself from the lair of Polyphemus? By being nobody. “I am nobody.” We could marry Sloterdijk and Deleuze and say that “nobody” is a life…, an anonymous but singular conscious embodied life that has lost the compulsion to have an identity.) At the same time, the sentiment expressed in this bridge is problematic, insofar as it eschews what Raymond Williams would call an “oppositional” attitude toward the leviathan (understood allegorically as the state, the society of the spectacle, control society, etc.) for an “alternative” attitude in which a kind of negative liberty from it would suffice. However, one could counter with Walter Benjamin’s insistence that the progressive tendency in a work of art derives more from the umfunktionerung of its given medium than from any attempt on the part of the artist to force the work to talk politics directly.