Discovery comes accompanied by emotion. Those who have felt it know that, under its effects, people can go beyond any limits – we remember Archimedes jumping out of his bath. Revealing the hidden, getting it out into the light, making the limits of ignorance, even your own, retreat, heighten the discoverer’s pride, and encourage him to reach out for new inquiries. It doesn’t really matter how simple the finding is. Only the small and immediate is what makes up our world, what constitutes our circumstances, our surroundings, that which has touched our existence. If the perception is shared with others, when there is a agreement in the association or the criterion, a collective reading, there is greater intensity in the feedback and one can achieve impressive emotional heights.
There are unforgettable feminine voices. Two of my favorite singers have something else in common. The first one I came across, chronologically speaking, was the Colombian Shakira. The way she sings and her uniqueness among her contemporaries, give her a special place in my musical preferences. More than a decade later, when I heard Dolly sing–not the sheep but Dolores O’Riordan–it was like everything started. I will not try to compare them, much less describe them, their voices, I mean. The first doesn’t interest me, and the second, I don’t think I’m capable of it. One thing I’m sure of, those who have heard them will understand. Besides the emotional effect I get from listening to their voices, they have this mysterious ability to evoke each other. One calls to mind the other, makes me want to listen to her, to look for her, to alternate their songs in an endless dialog of associations.
Night in Lisbon, February 2001. The Convento do Beato welcomes the Scorpions in an acoustic concert. To close the night, they play Winds of Change, which is heavily applauded by the audience. Klaus Meine is at the center of the stage; Chris Kolonovits, in charge of the musical arrangements for the acoustic format, starts a melody on the piano. The notes are suggestive, they incite memory, but before we can start to remember, he sings “love of my life, you’ve hurt me,” and now everybody knows. It doesn’t come as a surprise; halfway into the concert, they’d already presented an excellent version of the Kansas classic, Dust in the Wind. It doesn’t matter that this tune was written a quarter of a century ago, when a big part of this audience wasn’t even born yet, or that it was written by a musician and a band that don’t exist anymore. None of that matters, now that the discovery has occurred. Ever since the third verse, “love of my life, can’t you see,” audience and performer sing together. The song and emotion shared in these brief minutes are a tribute to Freddie Mercury, that unique genius, who more than a decade ago broke our hearts and left, without ever knowing what his leaving has meant to us.
We humans need the past. This need has allowed us to develop our memory, writing, and graphic representations.
If the loss of memory brings about tragic consequences for an individual (see the movie Memento), when it happens to large groups it could reach catastrophic dimensions. The obsession for shedding light on our origins, takes us, through material things, to archeology; through the spiritual it takes us to mythology and religion. Take Blade Runner’s replicants, for instance. These artificial creatures, product of genetic engineering, need photos and souvenirs in order to answer questions related to the origin of their own consciousness and their possible significance.
Much of this dependence on the past is also found in the visual universe – beautiful and decadent – created by Ridley Scott to depict a utopian Los Angeles in the year 2019. In order to get answers, the Nexos look for their creator, who lives on the top of a pyramid, like a pharaoh of the future. J. F. Sebastian, the scientist employed like an access method to this creator, lives in an apartment in the Bradbury building, dating from the late 19th century. The office of Bryant, the police captain, was filmed in Union Station, built in the decade of the ‘30s in the last century. Deckard’s apartment is located in a house that was designed by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1924. This house, known as the Ennis Residence and inspired by the art and architecture of the Mayans, serves as a location where Deckard explains to Rachel that she is not human, based on his knowledge about the implanted remembrances on Rachel’s brain. The emotional destruction of this character is presented in the combination of textures of the ornate blocks, the light screened by a curtain that throws diagonal shadows on the surfaces and atmospheric objects, creating one of the most enduring scenes of the movie. This atmosphere is majestically accompanied by the music of Vangelis, a composer who uses random electronic sounds, over it the piano plays a suggestive melody, minimalist and romantic, entitled Memories of Green.
With her novel Interview with the Vampire, the writer Anne Rice adds new dimensions to the stories of vampire. New myths and a sharp depiction of the existential drama of the main character, deeply troubled about his need to live and the necessity to end human lives in order to do so, as well as his search for identity through meeting others of his species, constitute some of the ingredients that make this work a great influence on literature and other artistic manifestations.
British musician Sting made his debut as a soloist in 1985 – after a successful career with the band The Police – with his album The Dream of the Blue Turtles. It includes a song entitled Moon Over Bourbon Street, which is a small gem that he creates with lyrics, music and atmosphere. Inspired by Rice’s novel, the song convincingly sums up the main character’s drama in a brief verse:
“I have stood many times outside her window at night
To struggle with my instinct in the pale moon light
How could I be this way when I pray to God above
I must love what I destroy and destroy the thing I love”
This song has a dark blue color that turns to violet, the color of the nocturnal shades of the light of the full moon slightly hidden by clouds—just like in the werewolf movies—shining over Bourbon Street where the horror begins. The full moon with its chilly nocturnal light, unlike the warm light of the sun, cold dark funereal, that envelops you like like the bass chords, in circular anguish.
The full moon over Bourbon Street, shining, opening all the horrors and closing all the stanzas.
In 1994, the Irish director Neil Jordan adapted Rice’s novel for a movie. Jordan, who has directed such memorable movies as Mona Lisa and We’re No Angels, based his adaptation on Rice’s own script, and chose for the film an all-star cast that included Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas, Christian Slater, and the astonishing twelve-year-old Kirsten Dunst, to create a vision of the world of Anne Rice that has been described as hypnotic, fascinating, hair-raising, and sexy.
My personal chronology is this:
First I listened to the song, around the time the disc was released at the end of the ‘80s. Many years later, already in this 21st century that still wears short pants, I read the novel in its original language. Shortly after that, I saw the movie.
I can not say how I would have felt had I accessed these works in their natural sequence, but remembering the song while reading the novel, and then watching a visual interpretation of a world provocative of so much horror and seduction, has given me an unforgettable aesthetic satisfaction.
The boys of Porno Para Ricardo, whom people talk a lot about (and, hopefully, will for a long time to come), also give me an opportunity to feel like I’m a discoverer. Their song El Delegado, said to be edgy and, if we take it literally, advocating a use of violence I don’t agree with, has a delectable segment inspired by the classic cancan.
Me? At the end of the day I’m a peasant, so I don’t know much about music. Nevertheless, for over 20 years I have tried to educate my ear, and I believe by now my “shit detector” for both music and literature should be quite fine-tuned. And these kids know how to make good music; they have depth and an hilarious sense of humor. As we say in good Cuban, they have a good time and are a good time.
The good stuff starts with the title of the disc I don’t like politics, but politics likes me, compañeros, an allusion to a certain celebrity, whose name I cannot recall, and who said something like “I don’t support drugs, but drugs support me.” In the bass players’ song, a delicious mockery of the band’s ups and downs, they surprise us with some hectic phrases from “William Tell,” and on top of that they throw these words at you: “Listen, how beautiful, the sampled bass.” And finally, my favorite: in the song La libertad [Freedom] the vocalist continually distorts the verse “all in the same cell,” which touches on a similar passage in Nirvana’s classic, Territorial Pissings.
The journey continues. New searches push the boundaries of the unknown, increase the potential to make new references, to complexify the readings. The perception is widened towards others and acquired knowledge deepens.