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May 18th, 2007

story-told

We watched Ray Davies perform a bit of his show on Austin City Limits on the television tonight. Although the parts I saw did not include some of my favorite songs from his repertoire, the parts I did see made me wish once more I had gone to see him this Spring when he came through Dallas. One of the best concerts I ever saw was a Kinks show in London in the Summer of 1980, a surging crowd of fun-lovers singing along as if we were all in a pub together. One does not realize how many Kinks songs one knows (or can easily pick up) until one sings along in surges with surrounding strangers.

I think that of the great 60s mega-bands, the Kinks are my favorites because the best of their music had a narrative quality I find irresistible. Even today, when far and away I listen to more instrumental music than music with lyrics, the story-telling quality of a song draws me in the most. I am not much for cinematic music in the big-sound, dynamic melodies sense, but I love the sense of "very small film cinema" in music--when a house beat evokes an unvisited and inaccessible European night vista, or a melodic drone tells of waterfalls more lovely than those in the unforgettable Columbia Gorge. Indeed, one of my favorite new finds of the past five years, a little-known small-label artist called Him & The Drinks (who, curiously enough, now works on the Onion staff), evokes cocktail jazz in an electro-lounge in a distant but not distant enough future. The story inherent in that music draws me in, even absent any word of lyrics. Even a lyric can be a wordless clue--Henri Pettersen's "sonika" features a woman whispering German words I cannot understand, and yet I understand her implictly.

I've never wanted to be a film-maker particularly, but if I did try to make a "real" film, I'd want it to be five minutes or less in length, a visual vignette, forming a celluloid song. I wonder sometimes if any story any more takes more than five good minutes to tell. A lot of people spend a lot of time worrying about a lot of flash fiction, but that's all kit-car stuff. The real Excalibur, chrome engine and all, is in the kernel of truth within each tale. It's a kernel that need not have words to pop up into life.

I'm going to write some song lyrics over the next few weeks, for which a friend will write and sing songs. I want the stories to be narrative, more or less, so that one can launch into them and hear some tale writ large. I was listening to some slam poetry from a youtube this week and thinking to myself how the sound of words can be so different from reading the same words on the page.

I've had a very busy week this week, punctuated with a legal clinic tonight. The world wants to tell a story, sometimes, about how people are just irredeemable--but let me tell you, people are in there punching, hurling marigolds in a flower war in which, despite the challenges, they count coup without bloodshed. There's a power in people, just waiting to be unbound--hidden in a story, waiting to be told.
Last night I came home in the usual way. I drove my car in the usual way. I followed, I thought, all the routines that I usually follow. I know from past experiences to do the routine things to keep my day-to-day working.

This morning, my car keys were not in my pocket. I don't know where they are--they're clearly in my house or in my car. They'll turn up. I have a spare. But this evening,they have not turned up after my looking in what would ordinarily be the "right" places, but are not this time. So I prowl around, from place to place, knowing they will turn up, knowing that when they do I'll say "of course! I set them down there!" and knowing that until they turn up, it will be immensely frustrating.