Van Morrison and the Technique of How to Live
When I finish a book, I go back and re-read what I have highlighed, which reinforces that Resonant Thing inside of me. My posts often consist of articulating and amplifying this resonance, so that hopefully it will resonate in you as well. (In my book this is symbolized ≈. That with which ≈ resonates is ¶.)
I finally finished this book on Van Morrison that I started reading at least a couple of months ago. This morning I've decided to review the scattered passages I highlighted. In what follows, you may see that a kind of narrative emerges, one that is certainly relevant to me, but perhaps to you as well.
"I don't want to just sing a song... anyone can do that... something else has got to happen" (VM).
America exists as an emotional idea, both within its own people and the wider world.
The BBC depended upon imported American records during the Second World War.
Port cities throughout the UK emerged as centres of Britain's growing popular music scene.
... jazz, blues, country records, all saturated with the spirit of America, the sound of a far-off new world dream, where even songs of poverty, hard work and harder luck seemed magical.
"Blues isn't to do with black or white; blues is about the truth, and blues is the truth" (VM).
... if 'having the blues' is a cultural shorthand for feeling down, then 'singing the blues' is surely something else -- suggestive of resistance and endurance.
Sun's going down, nightfall gonna catch me here. --Robert Johnson
... the blues can sound like anything -- it is in performance that they become "truth."
"I wanted to make my own blues, my own soul music, to do something of my own with it. That's where I'm coming from" (VM).
So he wanted to take the tradition, and innovate within and beyond it.
... these songs were not necessarily born to be sold, to be "listened" to for pleasure or "consumed" by others; other imperatives came to bear upon their coming into being.
Morrison was perhaps at the deepest point of his interest in the metaphysical power of music -- music as healing force.
"Jazz is not a kind of music, it is an approach, and it applies to how one goes about finding their voice, relating to a tradition, stepping into the unknown and swinging" (Ben Sidran).
... Morrison has called it "the sense of wonder," the unconscious living in the now, that seems to fall from us as we make the transition from childhood to adulthood, from innocence to experience.
Paul McCartney once described the riff of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" as "the riff of the universe... that just keeps going forever."
[Gloria] is simplicity of a near-primal kind... the feel -- that which cannot be transcribed -- is everything.
[Gloria is] so pure, that if no other hint of it but this record existed, there would still be such a thing as rock and roll.
"How can a 51-year old sing that? I can't relate to it. Why am I expected to, anyway, at 51? I wrote it when I was 20. I was never paid for Brown Eyed Girl" (VM).
The memory of it [the Garden] is both a thorn in the side, a reminder of the Fall, but also a spur on to working towards some kind of return.
So there is this literal use of the term [healing] to consider, and it is certainly part of Morrison's deeper interest in music, in its nature and its "secret power."
"Any kind of art or music is involved in healing, whether it's rock 'n' roll or classical music, it's all healing.... All this is just the foreground, but the background is something else."
... the ancient roads are under our feet, criss-crossing what appear to be our fixed navigational material realities, hidden but perceptible.
This is the role of the ancient highway, to provide a link between the "forgotten" reality and the present material circumstances...
"He's after the musical technique of how to live" (Patrick Kavanagh).
Samuel Becket said that the most he could dare to hope for was to make or leave "a stain on the silence".... [His] ambition was to create what he called "a literature of the unword."
"The expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express" (George Duthiut).
Distrust the artist who tells you they know exactly what their work is "about."
In Morrison's art, silence is at the centre, and sometimes when he approaches that centre on a good night onstage -- when something is about to happen -- the conditions need to be absolutely right or it won't happen.... [It is] where the commonplace can become the marvellous.
... silence is a positive presence, rather than a vacuum, or an absence. It is an aspect of being, rather than non-being.
Q: ... [Y]ou seem to sing somewhere between your throat and your heart.... [I]s that the zone you want to both come from and resonate in other people, the heart?
VM: Eventually it'll get into the heart. That's what the eventual goal is -- Exactly.
Why was I writing this kind of material when my contemporaries weren't? So I wanted to find out where I stood and which tradition I came from. Well eventually I found out that the tradition I belonged to was actually my own tradition. It was like being hit over the head with a baseball bat. You find out that what you've been searching for you already are. --VM