Before the war we had only the surface
Of the earth and the seas
After it we’ll have the depths
Subterranean and aerial space
Masters of the helm
This will be my final post exploring Shearwater’s The Golden Archipelago.
I saw the first wave
and the flares that fall
This is a good thing. In the “active doing” of this project I have been neglectful. I now, at least, understand my compulsion. Had Shearwater not created the Dossier to accompany the album, I certainly would not have embarked upon this series of explorations. While I am always inclined to try to interpret lyrics, there is something about a piece of music, a song, an album, that feels closed to my further exploration. It is a sense of you’ve got to hear it because I cannot describe what music does.
Every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.
The Dossier, on the other hand, when combined with the music, creates an open sort of space. Now I have somewhere to go. Of course, I also have somewhere I feel compelled to go. It may be my age (or not, now that I’m 40 I’m inclined to blame everything on my age) but in order to feel as though I’ve engaged the Dossier, I had to write about it. To conduct a little research project.
time past time present
present in time future
time future contained
What I wonder does that mean about an album versus and album+dossier? I would be perfectly happy with the experience of listening to The Golden Archipelago–I think it is a beautiful album. But now, post exploration of the Dossier, each song seems to crack open a whole series of intersecting (radial) and here I cannot find the right word. Let’s just say that I cannot listen to the album (and certainly could not experience the recent live show in Seattle) without a sort of racing of images and words and etc. based not on my own experiences but on my experiences of the experiences of others.
From the Beyond of this earth
I do not like feeling inclined to weep. It makes me annoyed.
I’m not sure how different this is from the way I’ve interacted with other albums. Except that, now I’ve completed the mini research, it is somewhat harder/a more intense experience for me to listen to the album than it was before. Because everything is tied up into so many other things.
There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.
I suppose this is a sort of intellectual version of listening to the same music over and over when one is undergoing some emotionally intense experience–there is no way to listen to the music without it being overlaid with the sense of the, very personal, experience. Over time, sometimes, one can go back without it being so hard. But not always
eyes on the waves
and a god below the water line
the last shower of fire wheels
Anyway, because the emotions are less personal, and more generalized–or more intellectual, it is a different thing. But not entirely.
over the fields
the radial lines
that bind the waking
to the hidden life of the empire
It has been a strange project because I feel as though I’ve been moving in a partially illuminated darkness–that there are “right” answers, but I’m not sure I’m anywhere near them. This is, as I’ve mentioned before, because the album and Dossier are based on Jonathan Meiburg’s experiences. So they are based in actual singular context, but not in the typical “context” with which we can dissect much music (relationships eg. to name an oldie Diamonds and Rust). Rather, they are based in personal experience of natural and historical contexts. They are about a single person’s encounter with a variety of the other and the buried history.
Because of all of this, I am both drawn to, and afraid I will misinterpret, the work.
I am life breathed in the radiant lie
god made me
But in doing this project, I’ve experienced the Dossier and the music in a way, for me, impossible otherwise. I no longer have the sense that I’ve received something that I might experience, but that I cannot quite reach. I’ve experienced it, in my own way–personally, with errors and misinterpretations, but experienced, nonetheless.
that dreams of us
down to the waterline
And now that I’ve finished, the water is slick with oil, and everything is still and motionless, until the wind, waves and tide carry it in. I’d love to move but am anchored to shore, and anyway, there is nowhere to go that won’t suffer from my footsteps. In my completion, forgive my clumsiness.
You’re so much alone in this lovely world
as for that
you cannot know
Germany, England, Tierra del Fuego, Darwin, Johnny Rook, Pirates of the Air, islands of plastic, seas of petroleum, Krakatoa, Hana, leprosy, nuclear weapons, trench, pathway, cassowary, liana, rainforest, sea, reef, stone, shore, rock, hand, cut, snow, ice, 40, 50, quail, crown, golden, discovery, Plüschow, Victoria, Wilhelm, Bligh, Christian, midway, Midway, Chatham, godhead, stone, rock, shore, reef, sail, sheet, leeward, windward, the foam, the cutting fin, the play, they play, in the dance, in the silent music, in the feather, in my hand, this child, this life
The wanderers came last night
all the time to come
with your arms at your sides
Crape is charmed
hurl your empire’s crown
something good there was
in how you gazed
wherever men can look at the ocean too
But no one wants to be
in the silence of the islands
the generals’ eyes
Come back from the endless labor
look down on the rolling waves
that strike on the crumbling reef
you who dance in the sun without
stirring the dust
as the body dies
what is left of the heart
We part with the River at the Flood though
though with the same
Waters we have often played
by gathering the holy light
I shore these fragments
a castaway life
the rising fear
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable
the stars in their moorings
Up the cliff, down, till I’m lonely, lost
you live again
the roaring wall of the eye
sailed to the world
27 September 1940
from an insular life
these are pearls
the sun’s red blooming
the gulls on the frozen ropes
lights on the floor
they are gone for life
The sea betrayed countless soldiers
Engulfs my cries
may all things bear a new name
Send back the uniforms
send back the generous reich
28 June 1914
a forever life
1 September 1939
is an infinite lie
28 April 1789
14 July 1789
no light on the western shore
no sign of the ships at anchor
slope and rise
sun in our eyes
August 26 1883
rushing of leaves
dusting of white
till he sees the other side
stave off suicide
the changing guards
the grinding away
at their furious marching
gives us back to our lives
If you doubted my Snow—for a moment—
you never will—again—I know
the world blooms for the last time
bandages pulled from the eyes
the bloodstream of heaven and earth
the airstream is under the waves
the heart’s grown brutal from the fare
we need the eyes that can still weep
the glorious brightness of the moon itself!
on the burning river I have started the catalogue,
before it was quite unsheathed from reality
explode into invisible steam
make of your
crisper instrument, you will need its blade
Fall down, heart, from the tree of time,
With your hand you should have dug into the sandbank
or tied yourself to the cliff with a strand of hair
The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.
may all things bear a new name
Quotes are from Shearwater, Walter Benjamin, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, Ingeborg Bachmann, Guillaume Apollinaire, Jorie Graham, Friedrich Hölderlin, Thomas Hardy, William Shakespeare, Dorothy Wordsworth