The Golden Archipelago, The Dossier–final post

3 05 2010

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.

oh my

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

old lives

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

burns white

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

and weather

a castaway life

the rising fear

the hollowness

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable

the lantern

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

that were

the gulls on the frozen ropes

his eyes

lights on the floor

they are gone for life


The sea betrayed countless soldiers

Engulfs my cries

drowned gods

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

hung wide

14 July 1789


no light on the western shore


no sign of the ships at anchor

ancient fields

slope and rise


sun in our eyes

August 26 1883

rushing of leaves

the straining

dusting of white

till he sees the other side

the horses


blast away

eyes are


stave off suicide


civilian lives

through violence

the changing guards

the grinding away

at their furious marching

gives us back to our lives

turn homeword


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,

your world

before it was quite unsheathed from reality

the oceans

explode into invisible steam

make of your

compassion a

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




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