2010 has been, it seems, a sad year for many people. My own sad story has been punctuated with glimpses of light. End-of-year epilogues are so hard to write, but in the light of some illuminating and wistful hopes and dreams that have consumed me recently, I’d like to share some meaningful pieces.
I can be jealously protective of some of my favourite hidden treasures. It is part of what makes things appealing to me. But their allusions are telling, and stories can be built around them.
Ryan Farish’s delightful ambient blend has been close to me for a few years now. From upbeat and energetic to melancholy softness, one song stood out for this year.
There is not too much I can be proud of this year, but my dignity remains. In a culture where it has never been easier to trade words, sully reputations, and break bonds with acrimony, I allowed silence to prevail in the face of great shame, and at the expense of my own self-sovereignty.
It is difficult: how can one ever be sure that what they seek from life will ever come to them if they do not look for it? Words are magic. Much of great beauty will be found from self-expression. This beautiful creation reminds me that sound is magical, but that silence has a context and a colour. All for patience and understanding: there are always reasons.
Elsewhere online, I have listed as a favourite quotation the following:
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep… tired… or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
This is from ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ by T.S. Eliot, a poem that has always struck a very powerful chord. A middle-aged man is growing old, feeling the pinch of loneliness, and scared that every passing day, every physical change, every single move might affect the way he is observed and undermine his chances of finding that something special. He feels the change. There is an identity crisis, and he is afraid. He wants to turn the clock back and relive life, yet aware that it would play out exactly the same again.
This seems remarkably close to the story played out in a little-known masterpiece in German by Alphaville entitled Für Dich. Composed for the Dark Ages of Camelot game, a lyrical version followed, sung by Marian Gold. There’s something bizarrely special about this being produced for its own sake. No album. No single. It sits, like many other fine Alphaville songs, as a piece of musical art obscured in the mists. The subject in this thoughtful video is detached and self-inhibited. Once the moment of crisis is forced, and an identity change takes place, the femme fatale finally comes to him. We can all hope.
Identity came to the fore this year. In February I was applying for jobs in Hartlepool, so fanciful were my fantasies for work. In July, I went to meet old Primary School friends for the first time in over a decade. It was a splendid night, and it would have been recorded in words but for my fears that it was palpably a one-off, despite the declarations made by everyone at the time. It was terrifying from a self-fashioning perspective. I needed people to forget the child existence that I’m trying to overwrite.
But for that, I’m still young, I’m still lively, and despite some of the things I’ve done, I’m still quite inexperienced in life. The most sombre post of the year broke the need to roll back the clock, and that is happening, in a roundabout way.
The most moving song that I have encountered this year – and possibly ever – is from an American ambient artist, Justin Elswick, better known as Sleepthief. Justin collaborates with select friends and vocalists, one of whom, the British hidden gem Kirsty Hawkshaw (once of Opus III), lent her stunning tones to this completely heartbreaking song.
I don’t know why you love me.
I don’t feel worthy…
I refuse to watch or listen too frequently, never wanting the power of emotion it brings to ever fade.
The meaning is rich and ambiguous. Love and Loss; Life and Death; Past and Present; there is pain in elegy and somehow hope in memory. The naivety is exquisite; the loss is acute; the experience is devastating.
The lesson from this is that the worst of tragedies can lead to the most exquisite of memories and the most powerful of rewards. To feel is divine. To want, and to need; to hope for pipe-dreams and to be sad if they fail. We cannot all experience life and humanity with the same degree of success. For some, perhaps, it is all about finding the right consolation. I have felt, or suffered, some of the worst of humanity this year. I would despair if I did not
Look around. My family still welcomes me back home with open arms. The family continues to grow. I have some fabulous friends, the likes of whom I feel humbled to know. While my scepticism is irrationally deep-rooted, there are still exciting opportunities. There are Pieces of Heaven in the midst; illuminating lights around the corner. There are Fireflies charming my every waking moment. There are fine margins between the stoic ways of normality and the wondrous heights of happiness.
Sometimes, one looks up, startled and frightened at everyone flying past in their glorious conquests. One day, though, it will be my story to tell again. I will walk into 2011, determined with all of my will to believe that, for those who mistreated me, ignored me or forsook me this year, the loss is theirs and not my own. Let decency, honesty, and dignity continue to win the war. When a princess enters this particular story, it will be too beautiful, exciting and ineffable to ever end.
Thank you for reading. May 2011 bring you all that you wish for. All my Love.
If you enjoyed the music here, come and enjoy it again here in the context of its appreciation, this garden of repose.
I am also laminating in these sands the stunning response from Justin Elswick received in March 2011. The best endorsement I could have ever hoped for:
Love hearing from you Keith! I think your writing was so inspiring and really touched me!! Thank you for sharing it with me, because it makes me want to always work hard to be as creatively “true” as possible.
Justin Elswick / Sleepthief, March 2011.