About Today

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
slip away
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.

About Today

King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: Chapter 1. House of Anasi, 2003. PDF. 31 May 2014.

Marshall McLuhan. Understanding Media: The Extensions of ManMcGraw-HillNew York, NY1964

Ryan, Marie-Laure. Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004.

2 thoughts on “About Today”

  1. Hi Rob,
    Wonderful narrative! As a musician myself, I found everything you said about the power of music, it’s ability to keep people in the moment, it’s ability to act as a narrative for our lives, very familiar and compelling. As I write this comment, I’m listening to a piece of music that is actually about a couple highschool teens falling in love and breaking up(like the plot of 99% of popular music these days : ( ), but that always, always reminds me of my parents. It was written thirty years after they met, but could literally have been written for them. I think you touched on an interesting issue with songs, especially those with lyrics-the words are always the same, and usually have a specific meaning in mind, and yet it is incredibly easy to assign our own importance or meaning to any ballad, drawing the meaning we need from the song. Is it the oral nature of lyrics, do you think, which gives them the same accessibility to being “taken”, like King’s story? What does this say about King’s story, since it is a written retelling of an oral scenario? Would King’s story have the same meaning if it was told to us orally, and is it just possible that we ourselves are providing the oral element by retelling this story over and over, “repetition with variation”?
    I’m sorry to hear about your friend. Welcome to the course,
    Cheers, Breanna

  2. Hey Sharper,

    I do believe in the power of music as well, in particular how it relates to capturing a fleeting moment/feeling. I love the points that you brought up. I think it is the oral nature of lyrics combined with the music itself that forms an aura that is easily reexplored an remembered. I think that it tells us that King’s story is a written retelling of a scenario, but not necessarily oral. To expand on tht I can answer the question of how it would change if i was told orally, and say that I think telling it orally adds visual and acoustic elements which change the recollection and interpretation of the story–much like music.

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