All text copyright Stephen Coates 2006 - 2015

I LOOKED AROUND AND HE WAS GONE

We played at the Last Tuesday Society's Walpurgis Night on Friday. To my slight embarrassment, and possibly because of the German connection, until I saw Punchdrunk's extraordinary 'Faust' a couple of years back, I always thought Walpurgis Night was something to do with sausages.

Now we don't normally do club shows but we like Wynd and Suzette who run the society because they do interesting things. I suppose Walpurgis Night (which is actually at the end of April) is a kind of Norse Day of the Dead or Halloween and before the show I had the pleasure to meet and run the slides for Catherine Arnold who gave a talk on her: 'Necropolis: London and its Dead' (one of my favourite books about the city of recent times). Michael Nyman DJ-ed (yes, really) and Giles Abbott delivered a characteristically witty and potent story about Walpurgis. After the show a rather flamboyant Bacchanalia kicked in. My six months of sobriety have sometimes made such things a trifle difficult but these days they seem to lend an interesting, almost anthropological, perspective to the proceedings.

I liked the death-themed activities - particularly in a vault under London Bridge which always reminds me of the T S Eliot piece from 'the Wasteland":

"Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many"


I find it at least, if not more, appropriate to try to write about death as to write about love these days. I always thought it was a rather strangely neglected subject in modern music - apart from the Goth and Metal stuff - which is often just a bit silly. My favourite example is probably 'Abraham, Martin & John' by Marvin Gaye. That's absolutely glorious and generally gets eyes moist in these parts. Do let me know your own favourites.

In the meantime here is a little thing from a private little show I did in the vault of St Pancras church last summer. We've done a few things in vaults of late and a friend secretly recorded it and sent it to me. I generally don't approve of men over twenty five with acoustic guitars - but I'll make an exception in my own case.

44 comments:

Chee said...

Not many songs focus on death...but I love Sufjan Steven's Casimir Pulaski Day. I listened to that song so many times, really sad and beautiful.

Kari Mathias said...

I really love "I Was Standing In A Garden" from Trouble in Tahiti by Leonard Bernstein. It's not exactly about death, but I see it as a song about loss, and finding your way through the grief process. Feeling lost. It's a really lovely song.

Kirjasvig said...

Estonian music (especially folk) seems to be full of beautiful death songs. We have quite gloomy history, dark long winter nights and one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
One song I really like (honest performance, elegant lyrics): "Ja lill on iga inime"(A quick and lousy translation of first two verses:)
"No matter that eventually
My hands will be crossed on my chest;
Six feet long and four feet wide,
it became a small room for the body.

Step from the cradle to the grave,
Step from the grave to the cradle--
Every spring a flower blooms
and every person is a flower."
----
Here's something Clerkenwell-related I stumbled upon on http://bibliodyssey.blogspot.com.

clerkenwell kid said...

Wow. Lovely stuff - keep 'em coming.

And thanks Kirjasvig for the image - There was a little watchmakers across the road from me until a couple of years ago. A tiny shop with an old man with an eyeglass bent over his work whilst wedged into the window . I understand that he actually died in that position - and remained there for a day or so. We were all so used to seeing him that way, that it took a while to notice..

That shop - like many others is gone but Clerkenwell still has a tradition of watch and clock maker, as well of course, of jewellers (in Hatton Garden) - and dissenters (in Clerkenwell Green)

Jonathan said...

I'm not sure if it's explicitly about death or dying, but Bob Dylan's 'Tryin' to Get to Heaven' from Time Out of Mind has a very morbid and 'death-like' feel to it.

It's also Dylan back on form

tony said...

well,It was rather Played To Death @ the time .but I nominate Flaming Lips "Do You Realise"

sally said...
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sally said...
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clerkenwell kid said...

Thanks for the link - that's good enough to make the liver reconsider..

.. and of course there's Dido's lament:

"When I am laid, am laid in earth, May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate.
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate"

Beautifully sung here by my friend Mara Carlyle.

Chee said...

There There by Radiohead kinda reminds me of that Metz Shnappes ad that Sally posted, the video kinda has that aged and creepy appearance. Heh, very well known band, I'm sure you've heard of them, but its one of my favorite songs. Don't know if its about death...but I guess it can be interpreted in any way.

Mara is really lovely, gonna keep that .mp3 and check out her other songs. ;)

Cygnus said...

Despite dressing like a goth half of the time, I actually don't listen to that type of music. Most of the music I've heard that is about death is "lighter" (so to speak) stuff, like Celtic folk songs, and the choir/electronica hybrid that is Libera.

One of their songs, based on Mary Frye's famous poem, I find pretty consoling:
Do not stand at my grave and weep..
I am not there. I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry..
I am not there. I did not die.
It makes me feel less alone. I never lost anyone to Death, but I did have a spirit guide who came to me 5 years ago, whose name is Uilliam. I could not see him, or any other spirit (I don't have that gift, but you do, don't you?), but I could sense him, see him with a sort of third eye. Anyway, he had to leave me after 9 months, and I missed him terribly. But I dream of him occasionally ... and I know that they are more than just lucid dreams.

Speaking of dreams, I actually dreamed of you. And, haha, guess what? You had an acoustic guitar slung over your shoulder in the second dream! In the first one, though, you made it in Time magazine! =D

sally said...
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sally said...
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clerkenwell kid said...

Cygnus, Your Uiliiam reminds me soemwhat of Jung's Philemon. I have indeed seen some strange things - and spirits certainly may have had something to do with that..

Blake saw an angel in Peckham - if you know Peckham now, that's quite something

May all your dreams come true..

clerkenwell kid said...

Very nice sally.

You know I once saw Mr Lemony Snickett have a strange turn on stage. - a very unfortunate series of events

sally said...
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sally said...
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Jonathan said...

Stephen, it seems that the video for 'Last Words' has completely disappeared from the internet... YouTube copyright and whatnot, I guess I'm being punished for being from England.
Is there anywhere else I can see it?

Cygnus said...

Jonathan,

I can still see it on Youtube, so it must be because I live in the US. That's not fair. :/

And Stephen,

Thank you for that bit about Philemon. What I have in common with Jung, strangely, is that he got the impression that Philemon was dead, also ...

sally said...
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clerkenwell kid said...
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Jonathan said...

'This video is not available in your country.'

I keep getting that message, oddly enough I can view the rest of your videos but not that. Could it be that you are signed into your account?

Cygnus said...

Sally,

You're very kind. Thank you very much for your support. I never played that game, but I did enjoy the video in the link.

clerkenwell kid said...

jonathan

you were right - we're trying to resolve it

thanks

clerkenwell kid said...

thanks guys

sally said...
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Requiem said...

Cygnus isn't the only one who feels so deeply alone.

It always seems like whenever I let myself love and get attached to someone, that person suddenly turns against me when I make the slightest mistake. I'm not so sure it makes me long for death, but it certainly makes me feel like I am not truly living.

What are you supposed to do when the person you love suddenly decides to start loving someone else? All the degradation, all the lies, all the pain, and yet I still feel like I'll be doing a horrible thing if I leave. Just because I promised I would never leave.

Sorry to just go off rambling like that. Like I said, feeling alone, got nowhere else to share my feelings, I guess. You guys seem like a very open and understanding bunch, though.

sally said...
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Requiem said...

Thank you, Sally.

If only my mistakes were "slight" in the eyes of the person who can't forgive me. Hurtful things were said and done by both parties. I feel almost cursed in a way, because I can look back on all the pain (most of which I am still in as things have not gotten better) and still forgive the other person for their part in it.

I keep trying to tell myself to walk away but I just can't. I love this person so deeply; I made a choice to love him, and I can't just "un-make" that choice now. It's too late, my heart is already his and he has chosen to take advantage of that as a means of revenge it seems.

My heart was already breaking, and one last little crack was all it took to nearly do me in. Hurtful things were flung back and forth, but eventually I stopped and he did not. Yet I can't help but feel that I deserve to burn, regardless of how "justified" I was in being hurt or upset. I hate myself for knowing better yet still being unable to keep myself from giving way to the power of raw emotion. Love can express itself in such dreadful ways...

I'd like to think happiness is rightfully mine, at least a little bit. That doesn't mean anyone's ever going to give it to me. Most people are too caught up in their own suffering, not of their own fault of course, and I'm too caught up in trying to help them. That's what causes me to cry out like this, I guess.

It's give and take. I try only to give but eventually find myself begging for someone to give me something, just a little. Sorry to lay that burden on you this time.

sally said...
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Anonymous said...

Hello to everyone,

And my support and understanding to Requiem... You will never get to know how I understand you. It's now two months since my couple (16 years together) left. She fell in love with some other guy. I only feel gratitude for what she gave to me and hope she can be as happy as I was. Just that. Life will reward you anytime, anywhere. It´s not a matter of give and take. Love is giving, and getting without taking.

Anonymous said...

Anon, you seem very lovely.

Should you wish to, you will surely easily find another - there are many wonderful people in this world - and we all deserve love - especially someone who behaves as admirably as you.

xxx

Cygnus said...

My heart also goes out to you, Anon.

Though I'm sure you are experiencing much heartache at the moment, it's good to hear that you are expressing such gratefulness and well-wishing.

We cross paths with many people in our lifetimes, for short or long periods of time, weaving each other's destinies through actions big and small.

But whether in life or in death, there is someone for everyone.

Someone to love for eternity.

Jack said...

To whom may interest: God exists.
I was the anonymous who supported Requiem in his hard moments. The thing is that miraculously (does this word exists?)I've found someone to love. Or should I say she found me? Strange as this world is, she wrote me an email, I answered... and the rest is an unbelievable love story. We met each other, nervous, anxious, curious. Tomorrow we depart to Sweden to spend some holidays together. She's an actress, painter and art lover. I've began to dream with an exhibition of her paintings where the Real Tuesday Weld could perform their music. Am I dreaming something impossible? Could be, but who knows... Right now I'm in the mood for believing almost anything. Life is so strange sometimes...
Love you all.

Cygnus said...

I am very happy for you, Jack.

It's uplifting to hear such a wonderful story, especially since my own faith in God has been dwindling lately.

Heartache. Love. Dreams. Art. Music. Religion. The Real Tuesday Weld ...

It seems like they all connect at some sort of crossroads, yes?

clerkenwell kid said...

A happy ending?

I hope so

Jack said...

Hello,
Thank you very much to Cygnus and The Kid. Yes, the story seems as wonderful and strange as it is. About the happy ending... uh,mmm, I don´t know. For me it's not the ending that is happy or not, it´s the track you have walked what matters. My target at this moment is to clear a path together through this extrange world.
Sometimes I still don´t believe this story. All the coincidences, all the affinity, all the love that we feel. Sadly we live more than 700 miles from each other. But who cares? I must begin to think of selling things (of course not my record and book collection)and searching new job, new house...
I'm sure there's someone for everyone of us. Who and when it will appear it's a mistery, but I can tell it happens sometimes.
Thanks again,
Jack.

Cygnus said...

I'd say it's more of a happy beginning.

Sally said...

Hello Jack,

I was the "anonymous" poster that replied to your "anonymous" post!

I am so pleased for you x

Jack said...

Hello,
Just come back from my holidays and everything's been almost perfect. Thank you very much to Cygnus and Sally and The Kid for their support and good wishes. Right now I'm considering moving where muy love is, but everytime I do it seriously my stomach begins to ache! I wake up anxious in the middle of the night wondering if that is a good idea...

Best wishes
Jack

Sally said...

I would guess anxiety is normal under the circumstances Jack...only you will know what is right for you...and if you really are in love I guess the place where you are happiest will be wherever your love is; perhaps it is too soon to be sure, but if you don't try it out at some point, perhaps temporarily at first, you'll never know what might be. x

Cygnus said...

Is everything all right, Jack?

I know it's often a good thing to listen to your "gut" feelings, but maybe you're just apprehensive.

Jack said...

Hello to everyone,

Thank you Sally and Cygnus for your interest in my story. First of all I must say yes, I'm all right! I am better than all right, I'm happy as I didn´t expect to be some months ago. Everything is going so fast and so easy. Right now I'm packaging my things to leave this town, to leave my job, my family, my house, my friends... everything. I'm moving where my love is to start a beautiful project together. She has an incredibly beautiful place near the beach were we want to set up our own business. We are going to run english courses there. A non stop english speaking week where people spend all the time speaking, speaking, speaking. By the way, we need teachers! The only requirement you have to fulfill is to have English as your mother tongue and have a fluent and interesting conversation. So why not spend a week working in Spain?
As you see I am determined to change my life. I want to take this train and see what happens.
I´m happy, also scared, but I have learned that we think we have many things, we have created many needs, but in fact we only have ourselves. And when you have nothing you have nothing to lose, and everything is possible.
In a couple of months I will have changed my life. Of course I will keep telling you my story, my dear unknown people, as far as you are interested.
Bes wishes to you all.
Jack

Sally said...

Sounds wonderful Jack - wishing you all the very best x