What is it to feel? What puts you in direct touch with your feelings, your emotions? Serendipity around sweet emotion inspired this post.
For me and for so many people, music is the most direct route to the sweetest emotion. Music is a language that cannot be spoken. Yet it can say everything that needs to be said. Music combined with words can connect directly to your deepest emotions, even if you don’t know why. Music can save your life.
This week I came across a beautiful story about the pure emotional power of music. Run-DMC’s DMC – aka Darryl ‘DMC’ McDaniels – tells of the literally life-saving power of music in his life.
Through the magic of modern technology, I can include the video right here. It would be unfair to “spoiler” this video by saying anything about its contents. But I urge you to devote a few minutes to watching it.
I love that he chose to sport an Aerosmith Sweet Emotion t-shirt for this video, referencing both Run-DMC’s Walk This Way collaboration with Aerosmith, and the sweet emotional power of music that he is describing.
Mr McDaniels shows us that the pure power of music can find you at any age – and when you need it most.
For others the power of music can be nostalgic. It can put you in touch with the highs and lows of your own life.
The best year for music
Gentle reader: What, for you, is the best year that there has ever been for music? The answer to this question is always highly personal, and highly revealing. David Hepworth would argue that it’s 1971, and has written a highly entertaining book setting out his case. But with the greatest of respect to Mr Hepworth, I believe there is no objectively right or wrong answer.
Most people’s answer to the question of the best year for music tends to coincide with the year between ages 15 and 21 in which they were happiest, or on which they look back most fondly.
Been dazed and confused for so long it’s not true
I think it’s safe to guess that filmmaker Richard Linklater would locate both his happiest memories and his best year for music in 1976, when he was 16.
Ever since I first saw it, I have loved Linklater’s 1993 film Dazed and Confused, which looks back to the last day of high school in summer 1976. It is one of my two or three all-time favourite films. Yet I’ve always found it hard to put into words why this film speaks to me so profoundly. It somehow creates the most honest and most perfect – and yet also the most poetic – expression of all that’s good and bad about what it is to be young.
Music enhances and colours the emotions evoked by Dazed and Confused. The music that the teens of 1976 were listening to plays throughout, adding so much to the film’s magic. For example, Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion plays over the opening credits (which act as a perfect summary of the film to come).
I’m currently reading Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies by US film critic Owen Gleiberman*. I was delighted to read (on the same day that I came across DMC’s video) that Gleiberman reveres Dazed and Confused as much as I do. He makes a wonderful stab at trying to capture the secret of its casual brilliance:
“Dazed and Confused is a time-machine miracle, and here’s why I still have no idea how Linklater brought it off. It’s one thing to get every detail right. But when filmmakers go into the past, even when it’s their own, they almost never succeed in capturing the vibe, the way an entire era felt. There was an ethereally morose, hanging-in-the-air stasis to the mid-’70s, and the eeriness of Dazed and Confused is how completely Linklater tapped into the feeling of nothing happening in the midst of everything that was happening. […] The opening shot, of an orange Pontiac GTO slowly arcing around a parking lot to Sweet Emotion, caught the dilapidated aimlessness, and Linklater never deviated from that; he made a teen comedy about the lowly, lovely splendor of going nowhere fast.”
“A time-machine miracle”! Perfectly put, Mr Gleiberman. He is onto something here. I would go further and say that Dazed and Confused captures not only the “vibe” of the time in which it is set, but also that of adolescence itself. Or at least the “lowly, lovely splendor of going nowhere fast” feeling that I associate with that age. "The feeling of nothing happening in the midst of everything that was happening.“
At that time of uncertainty, of growth, happiness and sadness, of everything and nothing changing all at once, nothing spoke to me like music did and does. The ability of music to tap into, to reflect and to express my feelings has always been with me. It always will be.
I always want the best year for music to be next year. More than that, I always want music to be able to mean the world to me. I want music to continue to connect me to purest feeling.
* I first became aware of Mr Gleiberman via his excellent appearance on the Bret Easton Ellis podcast, in which he shared some fine words on why modern interconnected franchise films leave him cold. Testify, brother:
"The dirty secret of fanboy culture, of geek culture, is that it’s this kind of encyclopedia culture. I mean, the fans are obsessed with the minutiae of it. And yet, once the movies come out, most of these movies are not very good. They’re corporate products. That’s true of the Harry Potter films. So what you have now, I think, is a generation that’s obsessed with corporate products and the information that’s in them. These are like cinematically dramatised Wikipedia entries.”