“The truth about stories is that that’s all that we are“
The truth about friendships is that that’s all that we are, too. There will come a day when the only living left is to the imagination–whether we’re reminiscing another, or being remembered ourselves. I remember playing this tunefor the first time, on a weekend, comfortably lost somewhere in middle Ohio.
“Today you were far away
and I didn’t ask you why”
As the last ride-cymbal faded out, you came up to me from across the room and asked me the name of this song. “(This song) played at the end of my favourite movie,” you told me, “I started crying my eyes out.” I’ll never forget that moment, because it has changed everything that this song means to me.
Sometimes music offers itself as medium of a storyteller. Whether it is new media, oral history, or the baritone sounds of ‘The National’–the medium truly is the message. Vocal expression, emotional recall, and aurally conveyed happiness or destruction can be conveyed in a manner that is altogether unique to this specific form of narrative. We hear the words and can offer no backstory–no narrative–except that of our own. This is what makes music objectively the most relatable artform . As Emma Kafalenos describes in the 2004 text, Narratives Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling, musicians “perform the story, in the present tense. They cannot disarm the story, or comfort us, by insisting on its pastness”. There is no past to music. Music exhibits itself as a vehicle for recollection of past memories–in a manner that is often joyful, sometimes mournful. I just listened to this song for the first time in at least a year. It previously had always brought me back to memories of my youth; to family and friends I loved entirely, and lost just the same. In reality, the song perhaps isn’t meant to be offered that way. The lyrics could more accurately be interpreted as the trying cries of a lover, questioning the inevitability of a shared dissolution. But to each of us–with music uniquely–we become the narrator to a singer’s story that only offers itself in the present. Never do we expect to wake up without the other to be comforted by. Yet, I listen to this song today and all I can I think about is how it’s you that I’ve now lost. As human beings, we’re biologically programmed to ignore the possibility of death. Yet, maybe quelling the knowledge of the frailty of life prohibits us from the appreciation of every moment shared. That’s what I make this song remind me of today.
How close am I to losing you
Tonight you just close your eyes
and I just watch you
How close am I to losing you
I can’t now say that I’d live life differently had I realized that, because I do realize it, now I’ve heard the end of your story.
Reflection: I heard this song for the first time in quite a long time the other day that reminded me of a friend that I found out passed away while I was away at University this past spring. I intended to share this on his facebook profile when I finished, but I decided against it. Anyhow, by relating narrative theory pertaining to music in particular, I hoped to convey the particularities of the medium of music. Each time you hear a song, the story changes in the same way as King described. The story is our emotional connection to the rhythm, meter, and tonal qualities of the sound produced (which itself never changes). Benjamin Boretz states that the listener, as opposed to the music maker, forms the “ultimate act of musical creation”. To him, “listening is do-it-yourself composing”. The music never changes, only we do.
King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: Chapter 1. House of Anasi, 2003. PDF. 31 May 2014.
Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 1964
Ryan, Marie-Laure. Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.