The Friday Morning Listen: Dar Williams My Better Self (2005)

Every once in a while I’m reminded, quite randomly, of the feeling I get when completely immersed in a piece of art. I don’t really keep track of the statistics or anything, but it feels like the phenomenon is spread equally between musical and non-musical events. What amazes me are the similarities that exist between what you might think would be dissimilar experiences.

A few nights ago, I found this short article describing a recent art installation called the event of a thread. The concept was pretty cool (read Ann Hamilton’s artist’s statement here) and the visuals got me thinking (check out the gorgeous photos of Paul Octavious). But it was the video he shot that completely blew me away…for reasons that still aren’t clear. And that’s the thing: those reasons will never be completely clear.

Taking the installation’s elements as discrete objects, we have: a field of swings, the pulleys, the silk curtain, the ropes, readers speaking to pigeons, a song cut to vinyl, a song replayed. I understand Hamilton’s concept and I’m always attracted to any use and extension of the ideas of things being interconnected…but I read her statement long after being taken in by what I was seeing. There was a point not long after the one minute mark, where several couple had swung in and out of frame, to be followed by shot of the rope and pulley assemblies. I found that very moving and felt what I always feels at those moments — a kind of intellectual and emotional “bloom.”

So I had to think for a bit to come up with a similar example coming from the music world. I feel that kind of “bloom” frequently when listening to music but those moments can be ephemeral and if I don’t note them they can be gone forever. Not so with one particular song from Dar Williams: “Miss You Till I Meet You.” In the middle of a story of longing there are a couple of lines that set me up:

But there are days I think of you
Saying “Hey that’s beautiful I see it too”

And then Dar’s voice rises to:

It all goes by so fast, like waving hands

…and, just like that one point in the event of a thread, I am lost in the bloom.

In both cases there’s this idea of a coming together…of things being shared and making the world a better place…and of the impermanence of it all. It’s really difficult for me to articulate. One thing is certain: I must have watched that video twenty times and the field of swings and the interacting ropes brought a tear to my eye…which is exactly what happens to me during “Miss You Til I Meet You.”

In her artistic statement, Ann Hamilton refers to the joy of swinging as a child, to that point at the apex “when we felt momentarily free of gravity.” That’s kind of what this “bloom” feels like. I’m momentarily free of life’s bounds…when the essence of this one thing can hit me with full force.

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Mark Saleski

Mark Saleski is a writer and music obsessive based out of the woods of central New Hampshire. A past contributor to Jazz.com, Blogcritics.org and Salon, he writes several weekly features including the Friday Morning Listen, (Cross the) Heartland, WTF! Wednesday, and Sparks Fly on E Street. Follow him on Twitter: @msaleski. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.