Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Battle Metal and a Walk in the Snow

It's snowing right now in New York; thick, heavy flakes that pour from the sky in a torrent of individual fluff. When I left work to go to class, I decided to walk the half-hour from office to school instead of taking the train, inspired in part by the unworldly beauty of a snowfall. Beauty in the streets of Manhattan is a rarity and I suspect that one of the reasons why I live here is because the few interruptions in the pervasive ugliness are that much more enjoyable in their few short moments.

However, I did have some additional motivation: serendipity dictated that it was time for me to cycle through another album to listen to during my trip. Scrolling through the list of artists, I came across Turisas and - imagining "To Holmgard and Beyond" in my ears - I put on The Varangian Way.

Inspiration comes in odd forms. As I left the building, the call of the wild-in-a-bottle storm and the music's story of a man going on a quest of discovery steered me away from the close comfort of the subway and out into the snow, where I gladly toiled - displacing myself into the frozen ropes pulling a longship in "Portage to the Unknown" - along the blocks across town. As I walked, I gradually sank into thought, jumping from the story in The Varangian Way to the vagaries of my own situation.

I use music the way others use drugs: if I focus on a song in the right way, I can channel all kinds of powerful emotions: anger, sadness, ectasies of power and ectasies of joy. Recently, it seems that the music that's attracted me most is gloomy and atmospheric, conjuring up dark coniferous forests and the struggle of the single man against the enormity of unfeeling nature. There is individual heroism in these songs, there is the wildness of communing with the animal within, but there is also an enormous sense of fatalism and the knowledge that one person cannot win against the tide of life. Morbid perhaps, but hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

Reflecting on this trend, I worried at first that I was just now discovering subconcious feelings of unfulfilled desire, brought on by my increasingly practical mode of living, but further probing revealed the truth: it's just fear. Fear for what's happening to the institutions of our economy, fear about the future of my own employment, fear that I'm powerless to stop any of the forces moving the world around me with strength of titans. It's irrational to be sure, but it's there - and it's hiding in my thoughts, waiting for a walk among the furies of nature to surface.

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