Sunday, 22 November 2009

I dedicate this song to you

Music will probably feature a lot on this blog. Music can be eerily, hauntingly beautiful. It can shoot shivers down your spine, it can make you smile, blink back tears and transport yourself to distant times and future hoped fors.

For me, the most beautiful kind of music (indeed, the most beautiful kind of anything) is the happy-sad songs. The ones that make me gaze out of the window and think about how fragile and fleeting true happiness is, but how much more grateful that should make me to grasp it.

And I do grasp it. I have a wonderful boyfriend. Well, ‘boyfriend’ sounds too trivial a word after nine years together and nearly twelve years of friendship. And you can give me dancing shoes, a party dress, a night out on the town, a bunch of interesting people to mingle with, a near-empty bottle of champagne – but, although that would be fun, I would always, truly, unashamedly, much rather just be sitting in our flat – just me and him – talking, laughing, holding, maybe listening to music. Oh yes, there is always music in our world.

This week I downloaded an album by Sibylle Baier. 

It is a gentle, undemanding album – perfect for late Autumn and carrying on the seasonal theme of exquisite melancholy. A strumming guitar; a soft, unassuming voice. Something sweet and refined but undeniably cracked.

Sibylle, a little-known German actress, received no recognition in early life. One day, in the 70s, she was moved to record an album of her songs, at home, on an old reel-to-reel machine. These songs were never meant for the public and never heard by anyone – until later, many years later, her son heard the album ‘Colour Green’, and asked to release it. It received critical acclaim.

But, by then, Sibylle was content to live a simple life. She had gone away and raised a family and lived without the fame that she had once pursued. Once it came knocking, she recognised it as an empty husk, and threw it out of the world that she had created.

There is one song on the album that I keep turning to. It is called ‘Tonight’.

tonight when I came home from work
tonight when I came home from work
there he unforeseen sat in the kitchen
buttering himself a bread
and the cat was on his knee
and smiled at me

It evokes images of what I long to return to every day from work: a work that is not particularly grueling and that I should not begrudge (so many have it so much worse) but neither does it inspire or stimulate. On that train journey home, I think eagerly of seeing Him in the kitchen: waiting, smiling, the stove turned on, heat emanating to every corner.

Domestic, yes. Ordinary, yes. My teenage self would have seen this as the ultimate failure. Why aren’t I travelling the world in a caravan with only hand luggage for company? Why aren’t I living in a yurt? Why isn’t my face on the cover of the London Magazine, alongside Angela Carter and Martin Amis?

Maybe these things will still happen. Maybe not. Probably not. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter at all.

Self-absolution has a kind of beauty too. 

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