Monday, September 28, 2020

"With that kind of music"

Two paragraphs from two books I'm currently reading:

"Sam tried to imagine Grace Slick bellowing out at the enemy."
With that kind of music, why didn’t the North Vietnamese just lay down their weapons and get stoned? If they had understood English, maybe the music would have won the war. But now, listening to “All You Need Is Love,” she realized how naive the words were. Love didn’t even solve things for two people, much less the whole world, she thought. But it wasn’t only the words. Sometimes the music was full of energy and hope and the words were just the opposite. Emmett had said rock-and-roll was happy music about sad stuff.
"Almost everything of interest in New York City lies in some degree of proximity to music." 
If you are in your teens or twenties—and who isn’t—pretty much everything you do apart from your day job has something to do with music. And it isn’t even just the permanent soundtrack on your stereo and in your head. The music is your spur. You were led to the city by music. You were fourteen or fifteen and wanted to crawl inside the music. The music was immense, an entire world immeasurably different from the sad one you were born into. If you could figure out how to get in, the music would suffuse you. You wouldn’t even need an instrument: you would become one with the music and it would pour from you like light through gauze.
The first passage is from Bobbie Ann Mason's novel In Country, the second from the title essay of Luc Sante's new collection. Mason was writing in the eighties, Sante in the 2010s, yet both were looking back to the early 1970s. Sam, whose father was killed in Vietnam, is eager to learn and know more about the war so she peppers local veterans with questions. Music threads its way through the novel, and here, having learned that soldiers routinely grooved to rock and roll while in country, Sam tries to imagine how songs might've changed things—politically, culturally—before giving in to ruefully to the truth. Sante's writing about the magic mayhem of New York City, pre- and post-Punk, when songs scored everyone's daily lives with urgency and a kind of magic-ball prophecy, flash-lighting dark corners and opening doors that Sante and his buzzing twenty-something friends didn't even know were there, let alone closed. His reckoning—of his, and our, aging, of the perils of excess, and of general cultural obsolesce—comes a bit later in the essays. But it comes.

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