Just like most people, I enjoy music that summarises the way I’m feeling or thinking in a form that I would have considerable difficulty expressing with simply words. The following is an incomplete summary of my feelings as I prepared the trip, all of them recordings of personal significance both musically and symbolically:
- Richard Wagner – Vorspeil to Das Rheingold from Der Ring Das Nibelungen. As far as my German goes, I think Vorspiel translates directly as foreplay (an activity that has probably never been associated with Wagner and never should be…), but a better translation would be prelude. It is a dreamy, airy piece, with an undercurrent of ever increasing anticipation and wonderment before it hits a most invigorating finale and breaks out into The Full Wagnerian. I assume it is designed to capture peace and silence in the auditorium for live performances and get everyone comfortable before the lengthy ass-destroying opera to come. This particular recording was used gloriously in Terence Malick’s 2005 poetic dreampiece The New World (a film I would recommend heartily), where it signified a new beginning, a healing process, reparations, and, above all else, the hope and joy of discovery.
- Philip Glass – Osamu’s Theme from Mishima. Of all the pieces in my collection by Glass, this one came out top for its exciting and uncharacteristically jazzy introduction. The first part reflects the initial joy of something new, that elevated feeling of wandering into the unknown with heightened sensations. It quickly moves on to the violin-led section, a blend of tender bliss that Glass squeezes out of the strings with his usual skill, the quartet vibrating with the purest of sounds and the acoustic guitar tying it all together with a sense of sweetest satisfaction in the here and now. From discovery to pleasant familiarity, the piece calms itself down but does not cease enjoying itself. The main contenders for the top spot were Glass’ 21 minute and 21 second master work of repetitive structure and unfettered joy, The Light, and the deep, rich sounds from Naqoyqatsi: Massman.
- Sigur Rós – Glósóli from Takk. The video for this song is all about children meeting other children on some epic journey through the Icelandic countryside, before climbing the easy side of a seaside cliff and flying into the air to places unknown. I see it as a journey from innocence to full mature expression and the leap of faith we must Vorspiel to Das Rheingoldtake at the end of one and beginning of the other. Another interpretation would be a brash leap into oblivion with little thought for the consequences. The song itself is quite distinctly Sigur Rós with its use of childish instruments, ambient bow guitar playing and the singer’s distinct Elven falsetto. Like most of their songs, it has a multilayered, sweeping complexity to it, weaving in and out of the shallow and deep end of the musical spectrum. Where it differs is in its intense finale, like the flood of blood that mirrors the palpations of the heart and mind during those moments when we gamble with everything we have left.