Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Poetry, Songs, Goths and Industrial Music

I've recently been spending a lot of time in correspondence with a dear friend who lives in another country. One of the things that I've learned from her is how important music can be for understanding and communicating emotions. And by "music" I also mean poetry, which finds its expression in our society almost entirely in the form of lyrics. Like a lot of people from all ages, I've found that poetry talks to me and articulates the emotions that drive my life. I thought that I'd toss out some of these influences and share some of the music that has filled my life.

One of the themes that has dominated my life has been the horror I feel at the slowly accelerating ecocide that we are all living through. Being a practical sort, this sort of thing makes me angry and has driven me to take action in a variety of ways. I've worked in politics, written hundreds of pages of articles for the media, organized protests, done community organizing---I even sued Walmart once. Motivating me was a sort of dark rage that fueled a self-image as an "eco-warrior", sort of like the knights errant that come out of Chinese literature like "Water Margin".

One of my favourite Industrial bands, "VNV Nation" sums up this feeling very well in their song "DarkAngel/Azreal". The lyrics are as follows:


In your dream you see me clear
I have no restraint, no fear
Powerless I watched from faces I'd assumed.
My purpose set. My will defined.
Caress the air.
Embrace the skies.
Escape the sorrow and restraint of mortal cities.

Give me time I will be clear.
Given time you'll understand
What possesses me to right what you have suffered.
I'm in this mood because of scorn.
I'm in a mood for total war.
To the darkened skies once more and ever onward.

So many years I stood among the thoughts
and tears of those I served.
Among my own I was alone through my own doing.
All the years I walked unknown
behind the faces I assumed.
Powerless to clear your mind of what you'd suffered.

They fall again.
They fall again.

Give me time I will be clear.
Given time you'll understand
What possesses me to right what you have suffered.
I'm in this mood because of scorn.
I'm in a mood for total war.
To the darkened skies once more and ever onward.
There is no faith in which to hide.
Even truth is filled with lies.
Doubting angels fall to walk among the living.
I'm in this mood because of scorn.
I'm in a mood for total war.
To the darkened skies once more and ever onward.

I'd only come here seeking peace.
I'd only come here seeking me.

It seems I came to leave.

It isn't just a feeling of anger at the death of nature that I feel and see reflected in the music I listen to, it's also a sense of loss and sadness that comes from realizing that it is too late. We should try, but the fact of the matter is that the people who can see the future are doomed to be Cassandras who will ultimately be ignored. This Namnambulu song seems to be somewhat optimistic, but ultimately it is a plea and a call to arms more than a plan to action.

Now or Never:

As we have wandered thousand years
through centuries of blood and pain
I don't believe that god can feel
our mere existence

Technology is who we serve
as we kill by remote control
we do not see and do not feel
disaster is coming

It is time to know that it's now or never
There will never be another chance
What is wrong in doing things together
If you try to take another glance
Now that you've been tryin' so hard to get there
It would be a shame to just let go
Nothing's gonna happen if you just stare
Wouldn't it be hard to never know

Is there no way to intervene
to change belief of those who rule
or do we really have to face
our self-extinction

If he has ever been above
then he must truly be asleep
or we must pray for our souls
that he is forgiving.

I think that another theme that these Industrial/Goth songs are wrestling with is the death of traditional spirituality and a desperate longing for something more. I think that is what all the vampire, ghost, zombie, etc stuff is all about. Possibly the best articulation of this comes from the band Ashbury Heights in their song "Eternity at an End".

Eternity At An End :

Overnight our world went flat
Can't do this and can't do that
Long live mediocrity
Greater than the deep blue sea

Eternity is at an end
We have no more Gods to send
No one longer hears our prayers
We are left to our despair

Eternity is at an end
There are no more rules to bend
We have played our final card
Killed the play in which we starred

Freedom has been torn to shreds
Three Cheers For The Newlydeads
Honor doesn't mean a thing
Empty words a pleasant ring

I don't know if the average Goth would articulate this, but I can't help but thinking that all the dark clothing, black lipstick, etc, is the same sort of thing that Johnny Cash used to do when he refused to wear anything but black clothing. As he explained it, he was in a sort of permanent mourning for all the injustice he saw in the world. In much the same way, I think Goths are in morning for the death of many things---including nature and God.

I can really relate to that. If I weren't so old, I'd probably be out their wearing the clothes and pancake makeup too. But it is a youthful thing and the most I could end up looking like is a sort of Goth Colonel Sanders, which would just be silly. But I truly love the music, which seems to have adapted the very best elements of the pop and classical traditions.

Even though most of it is very sad, some of it has a sort of chilly elegance and beauty. Consider this song by Qntal. The song is sung in medieval German, but I found this translation on the Web. The video on the Youtube emphasizes a sort of neopagan idea of the power of nature and the feminine. Contrast that with the despair of Ashbury Heights and Namnambulu's songs, which are saying that there is no God in the sky who cares about our fate. Qntal's song is a finger pointing towards some future alternative. It is cold, and chilly, but it is hopeful none the less.

Von Den Elben:

By the elves many a man was enchanted,
So was I enchanted by strong love
By the best woman a man has ever befriended.
But will she for that reason hate me,
And stand up against me,
Willing to take her revenge on me
In doing what I ask of her; then she will make me so happy,
That my life will perish with joy.

II. She rules and is in the heart of mine,
Lady and mightier than I am myself,
Hey, if I ever could have that much power over her
That she stayed faithfully by my side
For 3 whole days
And some nights
Then I would not loose the life and all the power,
Yes, she is unfortunately much too independent of me.

III. I am inflamed by the light of her eyes so bright,
As the fire does to the dry tinder,
And her treating me like a stranger offends the heart of mine,
Like the water the glowing embers,
And her high spirit
And her beauty and her dignity
And the wonders, they tell of her good deeds
That is bad luck to me - or maybe good.

IV. When her bright eyes turn to me in a way
That all through my heart she sees,
Who would dare go in between and trouble me,
He must have all the joy of his totally destroyed,
I must stand in front of her,
And await my delight,
Just as the little bird (awaits) the light of dawn.
When will I ever achieve such happiness?

I could go on and on about this music. I listen to classical music---both Western and Chinese---but this goth industrial stuff is what I put in my MP3 player and listen to when I walk to work. It is sad, but one thing that I've learned over the years is that we have to accept and work through our emotions if we ever hope to get beyond them. And I think that the Goth music embodies the sadness that many people feel for the death of nature and God. Until we are willing to feel this sadness and work our way through it, we will never be able to make the transition to something better.

So if you can, find some time to listen to their laments and if it fits, wear something black. We're all at a funeral and it is only fitting to dress in mourning.

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