Monday, November 13, 2006

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

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Bob Dylan, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (live 1962)" (sendspace link)

Bob Dylan, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (live Carnegie Hall 1964)" (sendspace link)

Bob Dylan, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (live 1975)"
(sendspace link)

U2 & The Alarm, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (live)" (sendspace link)

I figured I'd put up some extra Bob Dylan this week, as I've spent a good amount of time with the man's music this weekend. You'll still get your Dylan Sunday radio show jawn, we'll all pretend that it's Sunday and my days haven't fallen into a black hole.

Before I begin to build my Ark in the basement to survive the rain, I wanted to look at one of Dylan's most powerful songs, "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall." I've been trying to understand why I turn to his music first in bad times, whether a death or a breakup or a smaller failure. I think that it's because in his songs and lyrics, I hear the sadness that the bad times bring, but also the sense of struggle and survival that these times shall pass too. I think that the most powerful art reflects this sense of sadness and pessimism about the world with a committment to survival and witness.

The past few days I've felt a numbness descend on me, a difficulty to do much or get enjoyment out of things. Yet, I know that I can't descend into some sort of abyss, that I need to fight and continue on. I'm especially glad that I finished Joshua Wolf Shenk's Lincoln's Melancholy recently, a book that deals with Abraham Lincoln's lifelong struggle with depression and the ways he used it to fuel his greatness. It's become an underlying theme here and in my own life, reflected in some of my posts and thinking. I think that Dylan's music might capture that sense of struggle better than anything (except maybe jazz). I'm rambling, sadly, but hopefully this makes sense.

This song capture all of that eloquently, from the ominous title to the bleak imagery to the more hopeful ending. Notice how in the final stanza, the question suddenly becomes "What are you gonna do my blue-eyed son?" It's the key question, right now. Oh, and for those want to hear how Dylan could reinterpret a song, listen to the existential, solo version from 1964 and then the rollicking, joyous 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue version. Note the extra line in the version from the Gaslight Tapes 1962:

"I heard the sound of one person who cried, he was human."

1 comment:

wildflower seed said...

Sorry to hear you're in a funk. I would only say that its always a mind-body problem. Every emotion has a corresponding rhythm in the nervous system, and the most obvious manifestation of this rhythm is in your breath. Work on your breath - breathe deeply, and consciously, and you will begin to see that the knots in your mind have physical counterparts; by breathing - mindfully - you will be able to relax all that tension. Hope you feel better soon.

Now moving on to "art" :), you said :

"I think that the most powerful art reflects this sense of sadness and pessimism about the world with a committment to survival and witness."

I agree. For me good art has to perform both functions at once. What you said - survival and witness - that is crucial. Think, for instance, (and if you havent seen these films, I apologize for offering non-contextual references), of the difference between an Antonioni film like La Avventura and a Tarkovsky film like Stalker. Both filmmakers are celebrated as probably the most accomplished auteurs of their medium. But consider that La Avventura is all about sorrow and melancholy, and there is really no escape from this world of stifling existential crisis in that film. Whereas, Tarkovsky takes that existential crisis to the next level, by giving it a spiritual dimension - he lifts us from the mire of existential grief and horror, and shows us that there is a world over and above it of serenity and peace, if only we will stop and open ourselves to it. A world where one is not trying to manipulate the environment, but is just a witness (there's that word!). There is no action involved - yet it is a survival strategy.

Sorry, I just rambled! I hope this made some sense. I know you moderate your comments, so feel free to discard if it sounded like a lot of nonsense. :)