03 February 2009

When on and off collide, we'll set our souls aside and walk away

Yes/No, Pulaski, VA

The Silver Jews final performance, January 31, 2009, Cumberland Caverns, TN

"Think about it. If you're stuck. Say no."
--David Berman

Berman's introductory remarks and the song the band opened with--"We Are Real"--made me think of Melville's "Bartelby, The Scrivener." In an interview for Tanglewood Numbers, Berman quoted Shopenhauer, saying there are only two possible paths in life: loneliness or vulgarity. Up to that point, he said, he'd chosen loneliness, but after his overdose he realized that route was a dead end. Now that he's decided that writing/performing music may also be a sort of dead letter office, it will be interesting to see where Berman turns. It's certainly something I've given thought to: how to say no while still saying yes, to disappear or slip through the cracks without ending up like Bartleby. I suppose I've always favored art (or, as callow as it may sound, life as art). But if that proves inadequate, what then? To a degree, I think Melville's story is a parable about faith and doubt (loneliness and vulgarity?). And for those inclined to wrestle with such things, the choices may be between Melville's Bartleby or Beckett's Unnamable. But I'm neglecting the music. And things aren't so unbearable when there's music.

1 comment:

Tema said...

YES/NO speaks to me ... can that be my present?