Music, inspiration and human bodies

Two songs to inspire with striking harmonic similarity, despite their different approaches and pace:

For me these two songs are incredibly emotionally stirring, in very different ways. The first song, ‘The Way Down’ by Wim Mertens, is from the score to the film Fiesta (1995) about the Spanish civil war and the human tragedy of war, in general. Through it’s bolero-esque militarism and increasing discordance as the piece progresses I think it impressively captures the fervour, despair and tragedy of internal conflict between a country’s government and its people; although I’m thankful I have not experienced this myself to know first hand. This live performance was from 2008, and possibly through my association of the music with the film I experience it as evocative of humanitarian injustice and cruelty, the excesses of nationalism and inspiring of a reaction against this.

The second piece, ‘Audio, Video, Disco’ by the French duo Justice (2011) is experienced as more spiritually uplifting, although I find it difficult to articulate how exactly… Justice’s performances play on the crossover of ecstasy and fervour experienced through both religion and electronic dance music: the DJ as secular prophet. (two other links, very tangentially related: ‘Last night a DJ saved my Life‘ by Indeep (1982), and ‘Lost in Music‘ by Sister Sledge/Niles Rogers and Bernard Edwards of Chic). This linkage is clearly not new, and has been written about.

Personally I’m not sure about the dance music / relgion metaphor: whilst there can be formal similarities in terms of gatherings of people, group excitement, even dancing, most religions have a clear ethical dimension. Dance music as experienced at parties, clubs and festivals may be considered as dionysian/bacchanalian; and I’m sure humans have always found occasions to have a release from social responsibility, but Contemporary dance music, through its association with commercialism has a notable tendency to being “apolitical” (except in the more latent sense of being complicit with consumerism/capitalism) and ethically agnostic, seemingly more about sensuality, fun and escapism than any purposeful ‘way of being’.

I think what might make ‘Audio, Video, Disco’, and other dance music, special is its bodiliness: beat pumping like blood, breath and muscles (deep, excited, spiked with adrenaline, as though by sex or ecstatic religious experience) and sensuality (frequencies washing over and into our bodies, exciting our ears; we dance, we sweat); like a sonic manifestation of beingness that makes us more fully aware of how alive we and those around us are.

What these songs also have in common, is that I like them both, a lot.

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