Only a crossword
by Emma
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


David Bowie - "Always Crashing in the Same Car"
David Bowie - "Be My Wife"

It feels strange and vaguely disingenuous to try to write about David Bowie; something keeps stopping me from starting. His music mattered a lot to me, the same way it did to everyone else, but I've been reading all kinds of lovely words about him and nodding a lot and for the most that feels like enough. The strange comfort that comes of letting other people's memories press against your own.

But this week has been weird. When you're writing about music in public it's not exactly in your best interest to talk about the ways in which it sometimes fails you, or the ways in which you fail to meet it on honest, open terms. You (or I, I guess, just me) want to seem always on, engaged, engaging, useful; that's how you get read and agreed with. Sometimes this is so easy to do I can't believe I get to get away with it; sometimes I feel like every single note I hear - on my computer, in line at the grocery store, faint metallic buzzing whisper from someone else's ear buds on the subway - is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. Sometimes I can lie on the floor and listen to one song over and over and over, letting a single pressed string or hard breath catch against me and it is the sweetest brightest feeling, one I would dissolve myself into forever if I could.

But some days it doesn't work. There's this Frank O'Hara poem about the way your days empty out when you are truly alone, when you ache from missing someone who won't come back, where he says:

there is nothing that
distracts me music is
only a crossword puzzle
do you know how it is

when you are the only
passenger if there is a
place further from me
I beg you do not go

All the music I heard this week sounded worn-out to me; no shimmer, no shudder, no catch. I kept doing this thing without even thinking where I'd get ten seconds into a song and then fast-forward impatiently to the middle, like I was looking for the point of it, like that's possible. Sometimes you just get tired of the music you know; sometimes you need a little silence. But I think there was something in me that was turning away, again and again, from the experience of being overwhelmed; something that was driven by the feeling that it's maybe too dangerous to let some fucking song rush into your life and sweep you up completely if it means you also have to be open to whole new pitches and timbres of sadness, if it means the death of someone you've never even met can hang over you like a cloud for a week.

Everyone knows the right answer to this problem. Between books and friends and general living around most of us can recite it in our sleep: if you let death or sadness or heartbreak move you away from the world, then death and sadness and heartbreak win. They get to turn you lonely. You don't need me to tell you this. But also, I think there is maybe something to dwelling in that avoidance a little bit, the same way it's important to let yourself surrender to the things that move you most. Maybe there's a way to let heartbreak be a part of the way you fall in love; to let it be dissolved into the joy of finding, say, a song that takes you apart, or an album, an artist. A life. I'm still working on it; I'll let you know if I figure it out.

Posted by Emma at January 17, 2016 4:29 PM

everything you write is wonderful

Posted by @_@ at January 18, 2016 1:10 PM

I don’t know about ‘everything,’ but it does seem to be a very high percentage. How nice to find words on the Internet that definitely seem to have a thinking, feeling person behind them.

Posted by RPS at January 18, 2016 5:14 PM

Great writing...!

Posted by Petr at January 19, 2016 12:33 PM

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This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

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Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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