Monday, April 05, 2004

Tragic Kingdom

I'm not a Goth (if you've ever met me, this is a "duh!" statement). However, I have to admit that tragedy can be fascinating. Most of my favorite stories are tragedies; The Count of Monte Cristo is probably my favorite book. Ska music, while upbeat in tempo and style, usually has very sad lyrics. I also like some rock along the lines of The Doors and Iggy Pop and classical music by Russian and British composers, such as Marche Slav, 1812 Overture, Procession of the Nobles, The Vanished Army*, etc.

I've also noticed that American rock bands often sound different than foreign ones; there's usually a sort of roughness to the American sound that makes me think of intense emotions, as though they were so caught up that the power of what they were feeling caused a tiny but perceptible loss in technical ability. Everlong by Foo Fighters and No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age are good examples of this. Sometimes the most powerful part of the song is just a repetitive driving beat, like the musical equivalent of someone who has just been so deeply upset that all he can think to do is the same, simple thing over and over.

I don't know why this is. I don't think my life is a tragedy or anything like it. It occurred to me that it might be that I'm so insulated from harsh realities that I need to fantasize my own tragedies in order to add a little balance. The fact that I tend to prefer happier music, movies, and reading when volunteering in Chester would seem to support this. The ancient Greeks were fond of the idea of catharsis; that the purpose of art was to help us express those emotions we had trouble with on our own. Maybe this is like that. Teams getting pumped up for a game are naturally a little bit afraid, and so they listen to hard-pumping rap and metal. If you listen to folk tunes, they tend to be lively and bright, though the performers may spend most of their time simply tilling fields or herding goats. Heck, this may be why guilt-tripped WASPs feel good about seeing a Congolese or Amerindian group singing native songs.

I guess the catharsis idea makes sense. Of course, it's also 2:30AM, and the idea of running naked through campus doesn't sound utterly insane, either. I'm thinking that I'd better quit running my mouth and get to bed.

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