Monday, July 30, 2007

The clock is a stooping cartoon dinosaur; the men are alarmed, but are unsure why. Each suspects the other plans to steal his work if he sleeps.

I was listening to John Tavener's 'The Protecting Veil': what does this music have to do with a protecting veil? How does this music express or suggest a veil? Tavener states his intent with the title, but take that away - what is left of veilhood? He urges us on towards veils of protection with those three words, but then what? What? If he had named the same piece of music 'The Birth of a Blue Whale', would we have dreamed along dutifully in this other channel, hearing/seeing the booming of the ocean, the hulk of a mother, the first flaps of her calf's tail? Not a veil in sight?

I realise here I have inadvertently chosen an example that mirrors the original. Is there an example that does not? Maybe all tropes are one substance suggested by different prompts. As though we each walk to the same pool and drink from it, and seeing our own reflection, claim it as our own unique well, over and over and over and over... when it is just the stuff that is there, undifferentiated, unselected, impersonal, not owned, just lived along with earnestly in the assumption that somehow the water that we assimilate is part of us uniquely.

This narrative, like all human narratives, is ultimately false (and not false), as it assumes eternal life; assumes that our vast impressions of ourselves are somehow acknowledged by the universe (they are), and that we are granted ownership and the power to create (we are): as opposed merely to finding pretty pebbles in the dirt and arranging them carefully to show to our parents, before they fall from our grey fingers back into the mud at the other end (this antithesis is of extinction, and is as redundant as that which it refutes).

Of course the music has nothing to do with veils and everything to do with veils. It is intrinsically and uniquely expressive of veils in ways that someone unaware of the title of the piece would instantly grasp. Of course it is nothing whatever to do with veils. It could equally be the soundtrack to a film of someone preparing food (there we go again). Big mirror, little mirror, cracked mirror, rippled surface, veil of night, pinpricks, light, dark, distance, void, the impossibility (and certainty) of knowledge within a cellular instrument. Yes and no. No and yes. Where are you watching this from? Yes, so am I.

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