"The magic of pop music is, to me, that you can hear a song sort of off your radar, know about it and without even liking it for many years, and then something happens in your life that the next time you hear it, it's forever connected to that moment and that feeling, and it becomes important. It resonates in you because you're ready for it there and then. I like to think of my artwork in the same space."
That has definitely been my experience. My relationship with music changes over time, most often in relation to circumstances or moments in my life, and the same happens with art.
Here's an example. I've always loved 'Stay On These Roads', it's an objectively beautiful song. I've never been separated from a loved one in this way, though. I've heard the song live over 50 times, and of course I've listened to it hundreds of times over the years. Good song? Absolutely. But was it 'important' in my life? Not until the Oslo show on April 30, 2016. I was in the third row, with Amanda and other dear friends, and the song started as usual. Then suddenly I heard lyrics in a whole new way:
"Old man feels the cold"
Instantly, unbidden, came the mental image of my father when he was in the hospital, and how he was constantly feeling cold towards the end of his life. He often wore woven, fingerless gloves that went up to the elbow; he usually also had a red and white crocheted blanket across his legs, which he was so fond of. The blanket was a gift from a women's organization that donated various handmade items to the Armed Forces hospital where my father was being treated during his 20-month illness. When I think of that time of his life, our lives, I will always picture him wrapped up warm against the cold, in that red and white blanket, with a bright, beaming smile to show us how comfy he was. Through various facility transfers, the blanket traveled with him, until he had an emergency procedure several days before his death, and it was lost in transit. It's funny how grief works; I grieved his death with all my heart, and still encounter waves of profound grief at his loss, but I also grieve a little over that red and white blanket, which we all looked for after he died and is lost to our family forever. It was just a blanket, but any one of us would have treasured it because it brought him so much joy and comfort during his last months.
Long story short, those five words during the concert hit me like a ton of bricks, words I had never paid much attention to before. Suddenly I was crying and hanging on to Amanda's hand for strength. That powerful association of the song with my father, feeling so cold during his final illness just a few months before, was something I never would have expected or been able to prevent; I now can't hear the song performed without feeling that same intense sadness from that moment in Oslo, which crashed in on me so unexpectedly. Every time the song starts, if Amanda is with me, she holds my hand or puts her arm around me, or just quietly offers a tissue. So my association with the song also includes her dear friendship and understanding, which makes it a lot less painful to hear.
"In fact, probably the most thrilling comment for me is when people come up to me years later and say 'oh I really miss the atmosphere you created in this museum...I miss being in that room' and that has something to do with atmosphere, it has to do with charging the room. This is what you do when you write music, you charge the room for the recipient."
I totally get this! You form a relationship with space just as much as with art and music. When I went to Edinburgh Printmakers in 2004 to see 'Payne's Grey', I spent many hours in the gallery there. First there was the preview on the Saturday, which Magne and his family were late for due to a flight delay into Glasgow; a number of us were waiting for his arrival, with encouragement and updates from the gallery staff so we'd stay on until he arrived. During that time, music from the album was playing in the gallery, and that absolutely created a mood. Then we returned on Monday evening for the official opening of the exhibition, which was also very special. Plus there was the energy from Magne himself, he was proud of this work and eager to perform as well. It was such an important moment in his career, we all felt part of something unique and important. I miss that atmosphere, I miss that room and that art and that music and those people. Not only will that exhibition not happen again, but that room is gone - Edinburgh Printmakers has moved to a new, renovated building that looks beautiful on Insta.
Speaking of 'charging the room', if you are unsure what this means, all you have to do is watch this video from last December. I can't wait to watch the entire concert when it becomes available. At least that charged room and atmosphere was captured and we will be able to go back to it whenever we want :-)