What’s in a Dream?
Heading back to Austin from a weekend of Shinyribs gigs. I have rehearsal today and will probably not get to posting much till tonight. I thought this article on dreams was interesting and worth passing along. It is a brief overview of what science knows about dreams and their relationship to our concious lives.
uncanny – strange or mysterious, especially in an unsettling way.
I have been revisiting Twin Peaks lately in preparation for the return of the series next year. It still amazes me, 24 years, on how well it holds up. I also can’t believe it was on mainstream network television. There are scenes of pure surrealism that often disturb due to their uncanny nature. As I’ve grown older there are very few times when I find myself the least troubled by things that try to shock or scare. However, there is some subconscious level that David Lynch taps into, especially in scenes in the red room, where I find myself still getting chills late at night. This is, despite the fact, that I have seen this show many times and have read and watched countless interviews about it.
Because the show was on network television there is nothing explicitly sexual or violent about the series, although explicit sex and violence are always lurking in this show just off camera. Lynch, without being able to show any nudity or extreme violence, is able to tap into some kind of primal dream state that unnerves in ways that so many other TV shows have never been able to. Lynch has a strange ability to put images and sound design together in a way that is the closest to the unsettling nature of dreams as I have ever seen. While surrealism can sometimes just appear to be random things thrown together, with Lynch there is always some perfect connection between the things he uses, even if it can’t be described in any intellectual way. While most dreams on TV are nothing like real dreams, but are simply pieces used to move the story along in a different fashion, Lynch gets that dreams reflect life without adhering to the same logic or structure.
Lynch is a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation. He talks about how he uses this for inspiration in the book Catching the Big Fish. While having next tried it myself, I can neither confirm or deny its merits. However, he does seem to be able to tap into the subconscious in ways that no other filmmaker can quite match. I’m looking forward to what Lynch does with this show once it returns, especially now that it will be on Showtime, which does not have the restrictions of network TV.
This afternoon I fell into the deep and dark sleep of the the hungover, only to awaken to a cold grey and white grave like early evening. It looked as much like a dream outside, and a far more nefarious one, than the dream I had just been having on my couch. Realizing that my dog had not been walked I put on my headphones and headed out the door. I put on the last two songs from Bash and Pop’s album Friday Night is Killing Me. Those songs would be Tiny Pieces and First Steps.
What an album! It is one of those albums that I discovered in a used CD store some years back that has never completely left the rotation. And yet it is an album so few people know about. I wonder how many people even own that album? It was Tommy Stinson’s first album after the breakup of The Replacements. It is full of loose disheveled rock n roll. The playing is simply fantastic, especially the guitar playing. It has so many cool little guitar parts delivered with a ton of feel. The production is organic and inviting. It really is one of those great lost rock n roll gems, like if the Faces had some record out there that had escaped release. It’s not music that will change the world, but it is a record that always manages to change my mood when I am listening to it. I imagine it does that for other people that have discovered its charms.
It’s funny how the things that can mean so much to us, like dreams, are things that so many other people will never ever know. How many great albums are out there that we will never hear? Even more, how many great songs were written that have been lost to the sands of time? Unlike many other types of art that must be rendered in physical form in the doing, usually songs that make it to record often leave behind many other ones that never will. Shadows and spirits of sound that a songwriter may deliver in their living room, that are swept aside as the times change. Ghost songs. Not the songs of the dead, but the songs of the deceased emotion.
Maybe that organization of sound was developed into something better. A lot of times it is just a numbers game. You only get the financing to make so many records. At the time you choose what you think are your best songs, although it can be very hard to judge your own work. You record them, in a process where so many things can be lost in translation. Then out of all of the recordings that are made only so many of them find an audience, often having nothing to do with the works validity. Even for the most popular of artists it can sometimes be a losing game.
Friday Night is Killing Me is one of those records that at least got made, but has been largely forgotten. It makes no difference, other than maybe in the financial bearing of its creators. They made something great. They took a chance and dreamed. Even if they are few and far between, there are still people out there like me whose souls are warmed by it on a grim afternoon, as if we had suddenly stumbled upon the hearth of a friendly fire after a great storm.
One day you’re stumblin’ around
The next you’re thinkin’ of the town
And the friends that you thought would always be
With old friends come those greetings
That your eyes won’t be meeting
Though your insides want to embrace
You hardly recognize the face
With Chicago round the corner
Baby takes her first step today
Bash and Pop First Steps
So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people, all those lives
Where are they now?
With loves and hates and passions just like mine
They were born
And then they lived and then they died
Seems so unfair
I want to cry
Cemetry Gates – The Smiths
I was reading the Hampton Sides book In the Kingdom of Ice this morning. I came upon the following paragraph (They are talking about exploring the Arctic at a time when it had not been fully explored yet):
In 1869, in fact, a French expedition, to be commanded by a scientist named Gustave Lambert, had planned to try for the pole via the Bering Strait, but that expedition had been called off because of the Franco-Prussian War. Two years later, during the siege of Paris, Lambert was killed in battle, and the expedition was never undertaken.
At this time preparing for an expedition like that was an absolutely tremendous undertaking. Lambert must have been dreaming of this expedition for some time.
We must stand up for peace and against war whenever possible. It is not only the destroyer of men and nature, but the destroyer of dreams.
Contains a small spoiler for the latest episode of Mad Men.
It’s been raining the last few days in Austin. My writing production has been slow. Ideas can only be dispersed if you are busy collecting them. Prepare to be inspired as David Milch says. Last night I had one of those rare nights where you watch TV all night and everything is inspiring. I watched The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, Werner Herzog’s batshit insane My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?, and the latest episode of Mad Men. I have been slowly picking my way through the book version of Under the Skin and James Joyce’s Dubliners. Musically I have surprised even myself by becoming obsessed with Kanye West, especially his new album Yeezus.
Although I’m not far along enough in Dubliners to comment upon it, many of these works deal with the idea that the modern world creates the wrong kind of dreams in one way or another. We are searching for a connection all while being told by the dominant society to crave material things that bring us no lasting happiness. The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology dealt directly with these themes. Mad Men and the work of Kanye West both explicitly deal, in different ways, with the world of the material, but also both show its shortcomings. The Herzog movie dealt with a character who searches constantly for something to cling to only to finally be driven to complete insanity.
If you are a fan of Mad Men than this review of this week’s episode over at Salon is really good: http://www.salon.com/2014/05/26/mad_men_finale_recap_the_moon_belongs_to_everyone/
I’ll leave you with lyrics from Mad Men’s Bert Cooper’s strangely delivered farewell song. On one hand they can be seen as too sentimental. However, in the overreaching story of the show they seemed powerful to me:
“The moon belongs to everyone.
The best things in life are free.
The stars belong to everyone.
They gleam there for you and me.
The flowers in spring, the robins that sing.
The sunbeams that shine, they’re yours they’re mine.
And love can come to everyone. The best things in life are free.”
I work best at strange hours. I like to be up late at night and early in the morning. If I could I would sleep a couple hours at night and a couple hours in the afternoon. I like the hours of the day when there is often a quiet stillness. Yet at the same time these hours abound with possibility. They are pregnant with moments waiting to be born.
One of my favorite shows ever is the show Twin Peaks. This show has endless virtues to talk about. However, one thing that it got really right was the sense of time and day. Often in the show, the moments right before dawn were filled with a sense of mystery. Something was happening.
David Lynch, one of the creators of Twin Peaks, is a master at creating those feelings that we all feel but can’t explain. He can capture that eerie sense in dreams when it is neither day nor night, the way our brains relate unrelated things in a way that somehow makes sense, the mystery always hidden just behind reality. He understands that emotions are abstract and can paint pictures of pure emotion. He uses surrealism, but there is always some kind of unexplainable logic at work.
If you are not afraid of mystery, surrealism, and interpretation, then go down the rabbit hole with him. He will show you something you have always known, but could never quite place. He will show you a world full of imagination, and possibly a little sliver of your soul reflected back at you. His movies are full of both strange horror and extreme beauty. They are not an easy ride. But they are worth it if you care to make the journey.
One of my favorite films is the film Trouble In Mind. It is directed by Alan Rudolf. I also love the version of the title song that is sung by Marianne Faithfull. It is one of those rare pieces of music I can leave on repeat. They both fill me with dreams and that certain kind of sadness that is comforting at the same time. You are down but there is a strange beauty in the world.
Tonight I am playing Seattle and just for a minute I can kid myself and escape into the dreamworld that movie creates. Reality slips away into the shadows, if only for a moment.
Alan Rudolf is dialing in supernatural frequencies in that film. Like the best of cinema it’s characters and setting reflect our own inner selves and yet somehow give us a new look at the larger world. It is a heightened and stylized reality, but somehow feels more true in spite of this. I am always glad to stumble upon such a thing.
Trouble in mind, I’m blue
But I won’t be blue always