Song Series #17: Songs That Pare You Down

Robert Frost wrote in one of his notebooks, “There is such a thing as sincerity. It is hard to define but is probably nothing but your highest liveliness escaping from a succession of dead selves. Miraculously. It is the same with illusion. Any belief you sink into when you should be leaving it behind is an illusion. Reality is the cold feeling on the end of the trouts nose from the stream that runs away.”

There are songs that do this: that take you through the stream, over the stones. You drop things as you whisk along: tasks, worries, ambitions, longings, even things you thought you couldn’t do without. Minutes later, months, years later, when you come back to them, you drop things all over again. There isn’t much to say about them—or rather, there is, but the words get dropped along the way. The songs do their own work.

So this time I won’t say anything about them; I’ll just name them here and include a link to the music.

Platon Karataev, “Elmerül” (from their album, Partért kiáltó, which will be released this Friday, January 21):

Cz.K. Sebő, “Debris” (the final song of the 2021 album How could I show you the beauty of a life in vain?):

Granfaloon Bus, “Beggar Fatigue,” the first song on their Lucky Curtains album (released in 2003).

Hannah Marcus, “Pain Isn’t Real” (from Meg Reichardt’s 2021 Holiday Recording Party):

And finally for today, though this list is far from finished, “timeawakenness” by Art of Flying, from their 2002 album Garden of Earthly Delights.

Art credit: James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold (1875).

For the other posts in the Song Series, go here.

Four of the five artists in this piece are also finished in my “Listen Up” series—in fact, they are the four I have featured so far. I have wanted to feature Granfaloon Bus as well, but most of their songs aren’t available online at this point. Two albums are available on Spotify, but when you embed something from there, you only get an excerpt. So I will have to pick someone else for the next installment of Listen Up.

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In April 2022, Deep Vellum published her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.

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    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

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