in which I rave about the things I love for a little bit.

September 10, 2012

There are two things I’ve found that keep me well: good music and good words. Good food and good sleep are greatly-desired auxiliaries,  but on the worst days, neither sleep nor food will stabilise my mood, calm my terror or lift me to a transcendent plane of good-humour in which I have the strength to face the world at large. Good music and good words will do that. I have plugged myself into my music during huge swells of anxiety, or opened Chesterton at bus stops in the gritting bitter blackness of a killing mood. Sometimes I have done both at once, plugged in both my ears and my eyes, and found, gradually, my temper improving, the terror subsiding, sense and kindness slowly shifting into my body until I’m back on an even keel. It even works for panic attacks; even small doses will keep away the wolves.

Hah. I’ve been reading MFK Fisher, and I can tell I have. My sentences are forming a little like hers.

I discovered when I was fairly young that I could forget nearly anything when I was reading, including physical pain. In primary school, I recall a few awful stomach-aches which would send me to the school nurse; on a very few of those occasions I was sent home shortly afterwards. At the school nurse’s, however, they had the Beano comics. I remember sitting in the chair next to the shelf and reading Beano, perfectly absorbed in the exploits inscribed therein, and the nurse coming by a little after. She said, “Your stomach can’t be hurting that much if you’re reading?” or an equivalent thereof. I looked up from the comic and became, rather immediately, aware of the pain. I may have forgot it again as soon as I returned to reading.

I find that still works for me, to be honest. Good words are compelling and enormously arresting, and the best of them hit me in places that please both the tongue of my mind and the strange tangled strings of my insides. They hit me in the chest, as it were, as well as the head. Honestly, what is that MFK Fisher doing to me? I don’t know that I’d ever say such a thing in everyday- and there I almost said parlance. I don’t think she even uses that word.

I’m getting tired. This is becoming more incoherent already.

Good music, though, is the kind that cuts straight through the anchors of your head and brings you to tears in seconds. Or enormous waves of euphoria. Or at least it does for me. I drown myself in Lauridsen or Arvo Pärt daily, or crank up Britten, or someone older- say Mozart or Palestrina or Taverner. There are moments in music that just- cut straight to the heart and flood you with enormousness, a breathtaking overwhelmingness, something that isn’t joy and isn’t delight and isn’t pain or hunger but takes your breath away in the same manner. Or perhaps it is joy, but a joy so huge and vast it usually ends up in me squealing or dancing about on the pavement laughing, tearing up and crowing such incoherencies as “Arvo Pärt I love you ohmygod BASSO PROFUNDO YES. Oh my God this is amazing THAT’S A COUNTERTENOR OH MY GOD HOW CAN YOU BE SO PERFECT-” to the great dismay of passers-by.

Music does this to me often and I am pleased it does. It opens the world up in so many new ways, makes me more aware of the things I’m seeing and hearing around me, brings me to noticing the world more. Opens my soul up and floods it with colour. Honestly, there are too many bits to count in le Nozze di Figaro that make me glee fiercely and quietly every time I hear them; Lauridsen’s Mid-Winter Waking (a choral piece set to a poem by the inimitable Robert Graves) has one particular line- ‘o gracious lofty shone-against-from-under’– that just explodes into my head; his ‘contre qui rose’ is so perfect and so sublime that I’ve used it as my alarm-clock music and I’m still not sick of hearing it; and we’re not even going to begin on the glorious make-me-cryness that is Arvo frikkin’ soul-transmuting Pärt. Fratres. Summa. Cantus in Memoriam. My Heart is in the Highlands. That incredible one I don’t know the name of but has a frikkin’ male choir with a basso profundo and a counter-tenor and such richness of harmony it makes me want to die from the weight of glory. My god, music is an electricity nothing else can match; it is raw emotion recorded, performed, made audible and pure and perfect. I’m actually going to dissolve at this point into a giant squee-fest about my love of music, so I believe it’s time for bed.

… and even talking about music makes me feel like I’m a bottle of incredibly effervescent shook champagne. Good grief. ❤

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