Sunday, September 7, 2008

that thing about music i was going on about earlier

[Note: this post is actually taken from a letter I wrote to an old friend about two weeks ago, a small part of which I've already posted. I've edited some out, but I haven't really rewritten any of it, so if there are parts that address or reference a person or a thing and it isn't ever actually explained, that's why. The point of this anyway is music, and that's all you really need to know, because I'm not sure much other than music makes sense.]

I saw Prince Caspian again the other night, and honestly, I'd forgotten how much I love movie music sometimes. And it is absolutely incredible. Now this is important for two reasons. First, there's only one other thing that gets me the way amazing music like this does, and that's equally amazing writing, and even then it's different (I think music is more pure--while with writing, you do get those moments, but there's more sorting through the parts that aren't as emotionally wrought as the rest).

This listening to a clip of "Arrival at Aslan's How" from the soundtrack: Good writing should be like good music. It builds, it lifts, it moves in you, and when it's finished, you go back to it again and again, a reaching hand in the dark for a thing you can't see or hear or fully understand or really even articulate, the kind you can only feel, the kind you only want to feel. And so you fall into it, turn it up, let yourself be moved to somewhere only it can bring you.

That music is incredible, and I want to write words like Harry Gregson-Williams writes music. It's funny I say that too, wanting to write like he composes. The same is true of Hans Zimmer (especially) and John Williams. And you'll know more about this than I do, but the thing the three of them seem to me to have in common is that they all have a knack for writing music full of "heroic grandeur" and "lyrical and heroic themes" (quotes from a description of the Caspian score), and really I just have a soft spot for that kind of thing. I'll go on all day about hope, and I love the beautiful, lyrical things that just build and fill you up and I'm doing a bad job of explaining, but you know the feeling in the music that I mean. I'm missing it with words, I can't quite reach it. But listen to that track, to music like that that's big and beautiful and swells and reaches and does the same thing looking into the sky or even particularly emotional worship does.

What I mean--I think--is this: music like this does something only music like this can do, and it only ever leaves you wanting more of it. In writing, if you're good enough, you can have the reader feeling what you feel, some strong emotion. In music, specifically in the Caspian soundtrack for example--the first time I saw that movie I cried through the whole thing and I'm not making that up (really I'm just a big softy, but don't tell anyone =p). And it wasn't just the fact that the movie was big and noble and amazing and made me wish things were like how they were in the movie, and it wasn't just that this whole living in a world we don't belong in thing is actually real, that every day we're fighting for Christ's kingdom the way Peter and all of the Pevensie children fought for Narnia--all of that's true, but the music embodied it and every time I listen to it it's all I know.

You and I have always been so alike, and I think this is what it is. We both understand and love all of this (in the knowing and feeling way), we're both moved and floored by big things like this, and we're both going to, one day, and with any luck, make music and writing that gets at those things. I'm thinking right now of a quote Tristan's got on his facebook (and so the circle is completed, haha, since it was only ever the three of us in high school nerdy enough to go on about all this) by C. S. Lewis:

"When I attempted, a few minutes ago, to describe our spiritual longings, I was omitting one of their most curious characteristics. We usually notice it just as the moment of vision dies away, as the music ends, or as the landscape loses the celestial light. What we feel then has been well described by Keats as 'the journey homeward to the habitual self.' You know what I mean. For a few minutes we have had the illusion of belonging to that world. Now we wake to find that it is no such thing. We are mere spectators. Beauty has smiled, but not to welcome us; her face was turned in our direction, but not to see us. We have not been accepted, welcomed, or taken into the dance. We may go when we please, we may stay if we can. 'Nobody marks us.'....The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longings to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret."

This is exactly what I'm talking about, except I'm absolutely crazy sentimental and tenderhearted and probably very foolish, and so I prefer not to think about the fact that the beauty he's talking about is going to turn away, or that we're going to fall away from the feeling we get when we see (or hear) those beautiful things. As always, I'm only ever thinking words like always, like I can keep things I know I can't, that things can stay forever the way, even though I know they shouldn't, I'd like them too. It's like with Colombia--I could never have kept it, the way everything felt while I was there. It felt that way precisely because it was impermanent, the way, to use an awfully cliche example, shooting stars are only beautiful because they burn out so brightly and quickly. The nature of the thing keeps it from being an ''always'' or an ''only ever,'' and I know this, this is rational, but like I said, I prefer to think that maybe we keep things like that forever just because they're so amazing while they last that I'd rather just forget they end and totally immerse myself before, like C. S. Lewis was talking about, we go back to the habitual self.

But there's also something very real in those moments in music. Lasting? Maybe not, I'm not sure, but you can return to it, make your own small beautiful thing. Turn it up till it's all there is.

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