Take Time – The Books

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I’m not going to say that this is the weirdest thing I’m ever going to try and claim is pop for the sake of this blog. But it’ll be in the running.

A cut and paste mass of archive recordings, sliced up guitar, percussive plonks and who knows what else.

But by god, it lifts my heart, it wraps me up, and I think it has something deep and important to tell us about music and life and everything.

Take time.

For the first time in the history of the world a young girl climbed into a tree one day.

She climbed down from the tree next day.

God bless her.

Music is a fundamentally temporal experience. It is the arrangement of noises over time. Normally fitting particularly familiar patterns.

This song is a clear instruction. Take time. Take time.

It asks you to do it, and it makes you do it.

Music is a way to spend time, but also a way to make you notice it passing. Music has a habit of pulling you into a moment. Deepening the moment. Whether sat in bed writing, wandering through a forest with headphones, pressed up against a train window or dancing the night away, music can be with you, pulling you deeper.

It never tells us what to take the time to do. I recommend you take some time time to take time with take time. It’s worth pouring yourself into its odd little headspace, and just listening to the wonderful array of voices on offer.

The glorious, joyful laughter of it.

Something is happening that is not happening.

It’s okay to take time for yourself. To not happen, and revel in that. Music begs you to do this. To experience the now as deeply as it can allow. To be in your body and feel what it feels when presented with such a particular, alien and specific stimulus.

Music is probably the most unnatural thing that feels the most wholesome.

I take that back, because I don’t believe in the words nature or unnatural. But it’s important to remember that music doesn’t really exist outside of time, mathematics, and familiarity. The patterns make sense only because of that mathematical specificity (the intervals between particular pitches, and particular moments) and the amount of time you’ve spent exposed to those particular patterns.

Music makes you take time, because it is made out of time. It is simply sound objects manipulated in time.

The abrupt artifice and bluntness and spasmodic pulsing of this song should help make that clearer. It starts insistent and unpleasant. Wraps you in a recording of Medea. Then laughter, laughter and whooping.

Take time.

It’s all people.

By the time you hear the first simply played guitar, you’ve already heard so many voices. Each speaking directly to you, and tugging at you.

If music is alien, on closer inspection, then what happens when you make music out of humans?

For me, it’s a burst heart. A thoughtful mind. An affirmation.

You won’t find the meaning of life in this song, or any song. At least partly because there isn’t one. Maybe.

What you will find, though, is a way to remind yourself what life is.

Just the organisation of actions through time.

A chance to move and feel and listen and be.

Take time to do that. Take time to listen.

Pay attention.

Fill your heart with time.

Let time pour out from you, through you.

And revel in the fucker. Because you won’t have it forever.

Take time.

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Solsbury Hill – Peter Gabriel

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As I write this, I can still feel the dried tears on my cheeks.

I cried sheets of tears during the closing episodes of Halt and catch fire, a shockingly heart-filled alternate history of the computing revolutions of the 80s and 90s.

It was mostly because I knew I was spending the last hours with a group of people I’d become remarkably close to, after forty hours of television, and about fifteen years of their fictional lives.

But it was also because the perfect moment was accompanied by the perfect song.

Solsbury Hill.

TV has a way of working songs deep into your consciousness, and I think this one has got me. A good sound director recognises a song that creates a feeling, and I feel like this song has driven a lot of those feelings.

There’s a rehabilitative process in soundtracking. Every song becomes a pop cliché once it’s been around long enough, and it’s hard to shake off some of the naffness of history. But some combination of nostalgia and revisionism slowly open your heart, and let’s things in.

Solsbury hill is a song I would’ve cast aside as pap in my youth. Corny and cheesy, fusty and bland.

But now it lives in my heart, warms me, fills me, opens me up.

My heart going boom, boom, boom

It’s about climbing up a hill, and touching the sky. Letting the abundance of nature into your heart.

It feels like marching up a hill. It has that tugging effort, and the constant sense of opening out. It relentlessly marches, expanding and lifting. A (mostly) 7/4 time signature pulls it onwards, ever onwards. Like a lot of rhythms just shy of a simpler 4, (cf some future piece about Hey Ya), it gains a relentlessness from the sense of nearly catching up with itself. Perpetually.

It even satisfies that, with tiny slivers of 4/4 at the ends of each chorus.

It’d be a cheap trick, if it wasn’t so breathlessly perfect. If each of those choruses didn’t feel exactly like reaching the top of a hill and sucking in a stunning view.

I’m never where I want to be

There’s a feeling I absolutely adore in music. A physical feeling, generated where harmonies thicken and open out. It feels like my chest is pulling outwards. Like my world and my heart and my mind are getting bigger.

I think it’s a trick. I think it’s just playing the same theme on slightly more instruments, while simplifying the chord just a little. Giving a bit more space to the sound, but also a bit more heft. Each element of noise feels more particular, more personal. And I am lifted.

Peter Gabriel, from the little I know, is excellent at this. He has a concrete grip on the space of a song, the weight of it. And he uses it here to create a constant, permanent outward swell.

You aren’t just climbing a hill, you are expanding your view. Expanding your whole world. The song does it too. Even right to the yelps of boggarts and elves in final crescendo.

The song takes you by the hand with that opening guitar hook. Pulls you along with strings and words. And fulfils every promise it makes.

Just had to trust imagination

Not many people could make your heart go boom boom boom with the words ‘my heart’s going boom boom boom’. But here it’s perfect.

It’s archetypal explodeypops.

My heart’s going boom boom boom.