if i asked you to make funny faces with me

For reasons I'd rather not go into, I recently found myself without a driving licence, and with that, I have temporarily lost perhaps my most loved of all musical experiences: singing alone in cars.

The distinct pleasure is hard to describe, but there's nothing like having the windows down, sound peaking above the barely adequate dashboard speakers, screaming your lungs out (Animal Collective's 'Grass' was always a favourite pick, probably because it was already unhinged). What it all comes down to actually, is experiencing the ecstasy of hearing your own voice seemingly becoming that of the songs, as you feel your mouth move to the words but hear (mostly) those of the recording. The overtones of your own voice are sonically present just enough for you to convince yourself that it is indeed you that is co-producing that beautiful, skilful sound.

I guess you're reading this and just think, 'wow, what a sad guy' - and yes, I guess it does seem delusional, idealistic and even solipsistic. But I don't quite feel like I'm consecrating my own farcical vocal talents or the genuine ones of whoever I'm singing along to, rather worshipping the way in which music comes to life in the bodies of all those involved, be those of the car, myself or the artist.

Though I might claim otherwise elsewhere, music really doesn't exist (or is only a fertile possibility) until it is heard, and music isn't heard until it is played in the heart of both giver and receiver. So driving along highways karaoking to the latest chart topper (or indie jam) of course is a telling symptom of modern times and all that produces us, but there's a spirit inside it that speaks to nothing other than the promise of music as something we all share, even if we're alone.

When I used to drive, every now and then I would pull up next to a fellow convert, blissfully (dangerously?) unaware of their surroundings as they mouthed whatever it was they were listening to. It's always an odd feeling, this - you can perceive them singing, you know they are listening to music, but no sound escapes from their auto-bubble and makes it into yours, save sometimes for a bass hum. Often you also have no idea what it is that they're singing along to, unless its you're a particularly good lip-reader. But you still know they're feeling it (anyone that spontaneously externalises song is), which is all to say that 'music' isn't content, let alone even sound, but event.

Do you know what I'm saying here? You have 'heard' music when you see fellow commuters singing along, but no sound, you don't even know which song. Like me, you probably feel good whenever you catch someone doing this - it's a strangely innocent activity, and completely uninhibited. What you are feeling is music.

I always do my best to smile knowingly/approvingly when, inevitably, the singer glances over to your car and finds themselves caught in the act. I probably look like a raving loony giving them a big toothy grin, but upon receipt of the smile the fellow convert's look often turns from embarrassment to camaraderie. It's important to keep the faith.

2 riffs:

Anonymous said...

i hear music on the train when emos and goths are listening to techno goth shit at a billion deibels.

Lawson said...

Thanks anonymous, you're indeed right that you hear that kind of music! Well done! Though I think your experiences speak more to what I'd call the 'oppositional proxemics of amplified sound in public' rather than music as event.