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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Song in Focus: 'El Derecho de Vivir en Paz' by Victor Jara

I had been listening to Phil Ochs last morning in hope of grasping onto something that could lead me to think of better things but it somehow didn't work out after I ended up listening to 'There but for Fortune' and then went on to read all the way upto his bipolar disorder and suicide. There was one thing that had been embedded quite deep inside me, though - that the murder of Victor Jara injured Ochs permanently. And the only idea I had about Victor was his identity as a revolutionary, as a singer, as a leader and as a martyr. Given my almost villainous presence of memory, I also remembered the details of how the murder happened. Somehow after yesterday, I had been craving his music and it has been almost a whole day that I have been listening to this song and I seem to still not be able to get enough of it! 

I actually played this to several other people today and many of them loved the tune to it, although none of them could make head or tail of the lyrics. Technically, there are two things that might have happened. One is that once music is born out of a certain social movement, and involves an honest intention to freedom, to liberty, there is one common factor - one with no name that binds the universality of it altogether. This is perhaps how people's music has developed as a distinct genre in itself. 
The second thing is that the song is in Spanish and Spanish has an 'universal' element in itself (think why Esperanto is called Esperanto) and perhaps helps ideate certain dormant things hidden deep inside, so even if you don't fully understand the lyrics - it opens up certain doors and windows and helps you look at the world outside. 

'El Derecho de Vivir en Paz' literally translates to 'The right to Live in Peace' and is a song dedicated to Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh. 

The lyrics and the English translation to the same can be found here. It is a flaming, beautiful culmination of the verses that it consists of and the easy tune coming through as diluted, as tranquil as the sea-salt in the ocean waves is something you could crave for on days when you are in need of hope. Given the present political scenario in India, in South Asia and across the globe, it would not be a mistake to remind each of ourselves and those around us that we are in trouble unless we are conscious. Victor's fingers were smashed while they mocked at him and asked him to play the guitar. Victor's nails were uprooted. He still smiled and he sang until they shot him at the head followed by the nearly fourty bullets that riddled his body. The beauty that continues to surround his music and radiate itself is still so evident, and is everything but forgotten. 

The prelude and especially the multiple interludes intertwine a breathtaking combination of elements from folk and also rock - this is not astonishing but bewildering for sure, in a certain sense, and obviously amusing! The whole picture totally makes sense, makes evident, non-chaotic, delightful and strong sense. There is reason why a part of Phil died when Victor was murdered. Victor, in all his entirety, was not just a leader, not just a revolutionary, not just him - he was the voice of a movement, he was the name of a movement and only sometimes...he was but a song! 
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Saturday, April 6, 2019

Song in Focus: 'Roslyn' by Bon Iver and St. Vincent

I have been listening to this particular song like a maniac for the last two days and have still not managed to free myself from its intoxicating clutch. I have been smitten by Bon Iver lately and have been listening to his less popular, less talked about songs which is exactly what people do when they're interested in the poet's method of poetry. Although 'Roslyn' was performed by Bon Iver and St. Vincent and had been used as a soundtrack in 'Twilight: The New Moon Saga' (that movie is lame, oh God start talking about lame) - not a lot of people remember the song because of the song anymore. Also, in the film industry, what's past is past quicker than you can actually sum up the concept of present in your head. 

I had been dragged into his aura when I listened to 'Love More' this week followed by 'Roslyn' but while 'Love More' feels like outer space and whale calls, 'Roslyn' is even stronger as poetry and then the composition reminds me of mountains and kisses and a slow, soft fall down the course of a foggy rift, closer to silence, closer to echoes. 

(Photograph Source: Open Spotify) 

The reason why I absolutely adore Vernon is because his songs are so intricately associated with his emotional being that it shows - in all its beautiful, incandescent, all-encompassing glory, it shows itself, bares itself aloud effortlessly. His poems, his songs, are then him in a certain form. 


Up with your turret
Aren't we just terrified?
Shale, screen your worry from what you won't ever find

Don't let it fool you
Don't let it fool you
Dancing round, folds in the gown

Sea and the rock below
Cocked to the undertow
Bones blood and teeth erode, they will be crashing low

Wings wouldn't help you
Wings wouldn't help you
Down towards the ground, gravity smiled

You barely are blinking
Wagging your face around
When'd this just become a mortal home?

Won't, won't, won't, won't
Won't let you talk me
Won't let you talk me
Will pull it taut, nothing let out

The last part of this post had been written last afternoon. It has been more than a day since then, and I started playing the song on my ukulele when it was dawning outside after an almost sleepless night. I have listened to the song countless times since then and it probably was echoing in my head even when I was thinking of other things. The last time I got this addicted to a song was probably when I was fourteen and had listened to 'Wish You Were Here' for the first time! This is perhaps the biggest analogical compliment I can ever gift to a song. 

While trying to play the song on the ukulele, what I realised was that the composition is based on a rotational pattern of very simple notes, which can be morphed into a little more complex tones - as in you can use a combination of Dm and Dm7 instead of using Dm7 or Dm individually, you can alter the strumming patterns. Either way, if you got a high-pitched voice (which fortunately or unfortunately is the situation with me) - this song might sound beautiful! I am not sure if a more bassy baritone would do the trick in this case. 

The song sounds very mysterious, to begin with, and as the readers would know - I have a habit of relating songs with seasons and time. The twist in the plot of the story is that I absolutely have no clue if this is more of a day or night song, I think it's more of a dawn or dusk song ; probably more dawn than dusk because there's an element of 'lift', of vanishing into thin air, of elevation...something that is rising and not sinking anymore. 

The lyrics are absolutely Bon Iver kind of lyrics. You could tell they belong to Justin Vernon once you go through the intense, intimate kind of poetry that hits the core of your neurons the moment you begin paying attention, and there is not much reservation left not to. I still am listening to the song on repeat as I write
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Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Song in Focus : 'Cherry Wine' by Hozier

I'm concerned about not turning this blog into a musical journal but I think this is possibly the best I can do at the moment and playing the ukulele, or singing, or understanding and demystifying the basic tenets of how a song is constructed are some things that are making me feel better. 

I have already been asked once or twice if I've been going through something now that I'm not writing very regularly - an honest answer to that would be yes. And not just one thing, but many and as has always been the case, nothing apart from work is working. I've gotten myself into a crisis as bizarre as it could ever get and at the moment that seems undeniable and it's messing with almost everything I've got to do with in life. Period. What's worse still is probably the fact that no matter how close I get to writing an original piece of anything non-academic, or off structure, like a poem or poetic text or a song or something, I simply don't seem to be in the situation to put it together and I firmly believe an inherent part of me has been fundamentally damaged. 

I have been trying to author a political piece on the only political issue I've been writing on for a very long time now - the rise and development of the fascist regime in India, that also happens to be fundamentalist, racist, ultra-misogynist, casteist, far-right and brutally repressive. To add fuel to the fire, they are probably going to come into power again (name-one-fascist-regime-that-wasn't-elected-via-the-farce-of-representative-democracy-in-a-capitalist-context) and we're so doomed for the coming years. 

(Photograph Source: National Rock Review)

Coming back to the forte, I think Hozier does write very evidently political songs. Although he wouldn't admit it, 'Take Me To Church' is literally an anthem and very few people would have the guts to pen down something like that thriving in the global music industry. 'Cherry Wine', in that context, resembles 'Nina Cried Power' and is a beautiful, delightful culmination of tenderness and scars. I wouldn't say this is the best Hozier has written given that 'Shrike' or 'Take Me to Church' are breathtaking in terms of poetry. Although 'Cherry Wine' is good poetry, it does not send chills down your spine, but the videography might end up giving you goosebumps. 


Her eyes and words are so icy, ohh, but she burns
Like rum on a fire
Hot and fast and angry as she can be
I walk my days on a wire
It looks ugly
But it's clean
Oh mama, don't fuss over me

The way she tells me I'm hers and she's mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine

Calls of guilty thrown at me all while she stains
The sheets of some other
Thrown at me so powerfully, just like she throws
With the arm of her brother
But I want it
It's a crime
That she's not around most of the time

The way she shows me I'm hers and she's mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine

Her fight and fury is fiery, ohh, but she loves
Like sleep to the freezing
Sweet and right and merciful, I'm all, but washed
In the tide of her breathing

And it's worth it
It's divine
I have this some of the time
The way she shows me I'm hers and she's mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine

The lyrics are oriented towards the presence of a woman whereas the entire content of the video relates to domestic violence practised on a woman. Now, this is something truly brilliant and Saoirse Ronan is a wonderful artist herself. 

Hozier also has a very sweet, almost melting kind of quality to his voice which literally adds value to whatever he sings. His involvement with his songs are almost visible to the eye once you hear him. Also, it's good to listen to him without having to look at him because that's truly distracting. 😛

The instrumentals used are a bare minimum and the song is as tender, as feather light as a song could get in its artistic purview. However, the meaning imbibed to its body is a lot more visible once you watch the episode, so there is a parallelism created that
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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Song in Focus : 'Love More' by Bon Iver

Bon Iver makes very strange songs - there could be no doubt about that. However, this is a level apart from even 'For Emma' or 'Skinny Love'. As for someone like me who's a sucker for good poetry and is perpetually concerned about lyrics more than musical composition, this should be an exception. The song sounds like a composition of human-whale calls put together, as one of the comments in YouTube had pointed out and is both psychedelic and very surreal as an experience. You could transcend into spaces you have never come across before and then hit the walls of your room and float back into nowhere again. 

I had literally gotten down two stations later at the metro and had to manage my way back to the right place by getting rid of the headphones for the while this afternoon - so if you're talking about levels of getting song-high, this could be an ultimatum. 


Chained to the wall of our room
Yeah you chained me like a dog in our room
I thought that's how it was
I thought that we were fine
Then the day was night
You were high you were high when i was doomed
And dying for with no light with no light

Tied to my bed
I was younger then
I had nothing to spend but time on you
But it made me love it made me love it made me love more
It made me love it made me love it made me love more

Do what you said the words she said left out
Over unto the sky where i'll soon fly
And she took the time
To believe in to believe in what she said
And she made me love she made me love she made me love more
She made me love she made me love she made me love more

The lyrics to the song is fairly simple considering Vernon has penned down songs like 'Flume'. This song is more on the Justin Vernon than Bon Iver side of things, the basic tenets matching with songs such as 'Song for a Lover of Long Ago' or 'When It Rains Down Here'. 

Vernon also happens to be one of those musicians I absolutely adore, and could add to my list of perpetually sad people in general and go on listening to him at times the world looks absolutely doomed and about to collapse. The kind of crude emotions that he puts into his performances is resemblant to both the quality and the method of his songs. 

About this particular track though, I think the Bon Iver and Sharon Van Ettan version has done justice to the entire composition. I honestly cannot recall the last time I saw a woman that involved during a performance and I checked her solo performances - singing this particular track brings something else into her. With almost tear-filled eyes, that amazing fluidity that she puts into the performance is breathtaking and not something you come across a lot in times of music-less rhythm. 

'Love More' is a gem of a song in all its entirety and is an experience, more than a song, more than poetry, more than the aura and shadow of itself. It is still amusing me as I write this how a song with components as simple could transcend your mindscape
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Monday, March 11, 2019

Song in Focus : 'The Wisp Sings' by Winter Aid

It has been ages since I have had written anything spontaneous for anybody! Recollecting what life has hacked out of me ruthlessly in the last three years, if there is something I regret more than anything - it is the subtle but gradual yet reluctant manifestation of negligence in the art of empathy. I have not written an unprofessional letter in more than a year, have stopped singing in public and have cut down innumerable connections for no apparent reason. And although this new found 'professionalism', as they might call it - does imbibe a certain confidence in you, it also takes away a hell lot of vitality, and the ability to sense what others might be feeling. 

This was a song I heard only recently - has not even been twenty four hours and I am writing about it already! The song has a very fluent, very mild and hence a very pungent drive imbibed in its body. That is the best and the worst part of it and would probably leave a lasting impression only on hearts that adore lyrics-focused songs, ballads and a certain form of poetry that is very easy on the eyes. 

The entire composition looks like a floating kite on a lush, green valley - no strings attached or a white handkerchief embroidered by a few loving fingers that you encounter for only a brief period of time, or a white dove's wings glistening in the morning Sun and although there's an almost painful thrust of melancholia carefully buried at the core, there is also an inherent kind of beauty to the entirety of what it is - something that doesn't fade easily. 
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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Stills from 'The Virgin Suicides' (1999)

I had had the opportunity to watch 'The Virgin Suicides' quite a while ago from now - more than a month and a half, probably. And it was, in all its entirety - soul haunting, breathtaking and beautiful. Sofia A. Coppola's take on Jeffrey Eugenides' novel of the same title is highly commendable, and the only other time I felt a similar kind of disturbance creep up the spine was while watching Lars Von Trier's 'Melancholia'. 

The stealth in the ambiance that shadows the myriad lives of the Lisbon sisters, the disturbing silence and the stirring contrast of how the entire story revolves around the neglected tale of the sacrifice of that one elm tree combine to form an unforgettable trail, a chronology worth experiencing. These are the eight stills I could actually afford saving! On the brighter side, they probably do stir curiosity in people who secretly adore the lesser mentioned shades of greys and blues. 

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Sunday, January 27, 2019

Stills from 'Dead of Night' (1945)

There were three reasons why I wanted to watch this movie. Firstly, I needed to watch a horror movie - it works wonders when you need a kind of detox, a sweet rush of adrenaline all the way up to your head and back down the spine. Secondly, Mario Livio in Brilliant Blunders cited the impact of a viewing of Dead of Night had on astrophysicists Fred Hoyle, Herman Bondi, and Thomas Gold. "Gold asked suddenly, "What if the universe is like that?' meaning that the universe could be eternally circling on itself without beginning or end. Unable to dismiss this conjecture, they started to think seriously of an unchanging universe, a steady state universe.
And lastly, 'Dead of Night' had been featured in Michael Scorsese's list of scariest horror movies ever made in the history of cinema in the whole wide world. 

To put it in brief, I think it was apparently quite a light-hearted, smooth, classic work of filmmaking and it tasted really good. But on a note different from this, I think the film had deeper flavours, themes that dealt with the unreasonable side of human functionality - of motion, of stillness, of boredom, of dreams, of control and perhaps most importantly, of time. 

Here are 8 stills from the 1 hour 44 minute film!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Stills from 'Lady Bird' (2017)

I have been watching a lot of different genres of cinema only recently, in an attempt to calm myself down after long, uneasy working hours and it has actually been doing wonders in many different ways, one of them being an increased ability to compose multiple contexts into a streamlined series of images and words (important to people dealing with languages beyond programming, in general). 

I ended up watching 'Lady Bird' (2017) last night and directed by a woman as young as Greta Gerwig, this piece of art is vibrant and well put although a little more cohesive approach to politics would have been done justice to the recurring theme of isolation in the modern world. All in all, the adolescent psyche has been portrayed in a manner so serene that the vulgarities and defiant behaviour and cold, chaotic, hurtful demarcation lines have been concealed well. This is a treat to people who can afford watching other genres beside adventure or action. 

Here are 19 stills from the 1 hour 35 minutes film! 

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Stills from 'Adieu au Langage' / 'Goodbye to Language' (2014) ⁓ A Film by Jean-Luc Godard

As I have probably mentioned for the umpteenth time, but never stopped obscuring the essence of it, to put it in brief - I am authoring a paper on linguistics, cognitive and organisational psychology, and the role of capital in changing the behaviour of language. Now, since this is essentially mind boggling, I wanted something that could set the fuel on fire by primarily isolating you from the subject, and then letting you explore the remaining subjectivity from the topic altogether. Jean-Luc Godard is the piper at the gates of dawn, changing the dynamics of time and space and motion like an artist, like a loner, like sensation of pain, like the transcendence in the shades of summer evenings. So here, we will let the stills do the talking instead of Roger Ebert and still insinuate that Godard is not for everybody, and especially not for the faint-hearted!

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Playlist Sessions : Third Day ⁓ 'For Emma, Forever Ago' by Bon Iver

It so happened that one rainy day when I went out in the neighbourhood and was on my way back, it began raining very heavily that it drenched my clothes and my skin and perforated my ribs and clasped all the organs inside for a while before saying goodbye. And I accidentally ended up listening to this. I later realised the song hadn't left, it clung to my wet clothes like the last bits of rain on the planet and when I changed to dry ones instead, it still reminded of the essence of wet soil and just how the world looks different,tender once it has rained after long. 

First things first, the lyrics to the song is liquidated poetry taking the shape of an incandescent source of light. It might be a lost place, a memory, a verdict passed, someone's face or just an urge to return to something you cannot clearly make sense of. Whatever 'it' is, it is breathtakingly beautiful and sad. And somehow, given the circumstances I was subject to while listening to this, drenched in rainwater, crazily in love with the verses, almost stupefied and physically numb - I have shared more than six months of prolonged, irreversible kind of pain with the song itself. 

(Photograph Source: Wikipedia)

There is a very subversive, epigamic kind of attraction that you might possibly feel while listening to this. It's volatile, but essentially and rudimentarily sad and in its consistency almost rooted in brutal sorrow that vents out your incapable attempts to recurringly address the secrets behind motion. Out of all the songs included in the playlist session until now, this is a distinguished expression of genius and I would very much like to know someday, what made Justin Vernon write something like this - because as evident as it is, you can't at all afford to write something this crazy without going through some kind of emotive discourse that
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