Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Listening To Music (2)

Last Saturday, accompanied by some members of the cast of Howard’s Way, I went to see a tango orchestra. No dancing, just the music. It as a free concert in a community centre on the west side of the city. The woman from the opening trio might have fit the bill of a working class teen mum in a British sitcom airing at about 7.30pm.  When she began to sing I lost my breathe a little. Quite amazing. Tango is the most melancholy, raw and simultaneously sophiscated music I can think of….(I don’t claim to understand it but I think I’m falling in love with it).

I continue to be naively amazed by listening to music on the mobile walkman, amazed as if it had only just been invented. Again these observations will be so obvious to most people I probably shouldn’t bother but sometimes a song and a location perfectly coincide, the music soundtracks'  the moment so effectively you feel as if you are in your own biopic, like your life is being directed. 

The sound of a passing train seeps seamlessly into the ambience of Alva Noto/Ryuchi Sakamoto’s Logic Moon in perfect stereo. As the aisle of a bus transforms into a catwalk for an unconnected stream of exceptionally beautiful women, Jacques Dutronc’s J’aime Les Filles strikes up (and makes me grin like an idiot). On disembarking the same bus I get the geek proto-punk of the The Modern Lovers' Someone I Care About -  as if it were a cold shower or a cautionary reply for its predessor. 

Sometimes it is an orchestrated collision – I select Richard Youngs’ Summers Edge and bliss out for 16 minutes in the Jardin Botanico in Palermo. If only for the title, Will Oldham’s Southside Of The World would make sense I suppose, but there’s something else there too.  I don't know if Juana Molina fits because I know she's Argentinean or because well, it just fits. 

I still haven’t visited the Cematario De Recoletta. Perhaps I have a knee jerk reaction to the prospect of seeing the final resting place of the obscenely rich and famous in a country that is full of poverty. I guess eventually I'll go (but really only to listen to Pavement’s Grave Architecture at the same time).

Language (3)

So I can now say I did something. Theoretically I can say this in two different ways[1] though I am still baffled as to how people alternate and apply these two tenses without pausing for an inordinately long time before commiting themselves – and Argentineans don’t pause much. It’s theory because it is not practice. I’ve had a quiet time – an interior time after the relative excesses of my first month. Great for writing music, not helpful to the acquisition of Spanish at all. I’ve hit a wall. There are another ten tenses to learn.

My ego is taking a battering. I am somewhere in here kind of passively observing my social confidence fluctuate more dramatically than it has for years. Depending on my mood, the person or quantity of people speaking - I am a different person. I feel like a teenager.

If I am lucky I have one way to express something, one half cut option. I’m largely bereft of tone, inflection, subtlety, wit – ostensibly an arsenal of self defence mechanisms that have been involuntarily, lovingly and necessarily grafted into what becomes my way for over thirty years (and thirty years is a problem here, it is not ten or twenty. I learn slower now; it is terrifying in some ways).

On a good day I talk nonesense, anything just to let it out.  I talk and I mock myself, past errors and current. In Spain I received some strange looks asking for seats in bars and such. It was some time before I realised that instead of Puedo sentarme? - Can I sit (me) down? I had being saying to Puedo sentirme? - Can I feel (me)? - which, despite the obvious similarities, is really quite different.  The rest is physical, silent comedy spliced with random words and half syntax. I feel like Chaplin’s waiter at the end of Modern Times singing Italian nonsense. Here I'm in the Locutorio doing my best impression of a computer printer for a shop assistant and eight bewildered people in a queue; there I am frantically waving my arms around in an attempt to describe a tumble dryer.

Often I am fighting the fourteen year old that quit French, that felt the language, and as the only other language I took, subsequently all languages, as an impossible horrifying abstract mud. The fourteen year old who eventually let it all go over his head in petulant resignation. Occasionally I crawl into a silence so complete I’m sure it prevents others approaching me at all.

Perhaps people are not bestowed with a special facility for the acquisition of a language at all, they are simply people that always have something to say in their first language and, transferring those same character traits accordingly, immerse themselves with far greater speed. I am simply not one of these people. I can surely talk in my moment, but I can also go for days without saying very much at all. I'm learning that to learn, you have to talk.

Perversely there is some sense of liberation here too. I know that is why I am here - to shake things up. I find my purpose in a way by being lost, purposefully lost. Unmoored twice over – geographically and personally. (I guess I've always made life difficult for myself).

[1] The Preterito and the Imperfect. Technically it is ‘It was’ or ‘It was going on’ etc. – I think….