I listen to music as a non-musician, naively. Every listening, even a repeat, or much-repeated, listening is naive. Naïveté in listening is the foundation for the ecstatic luxury of body and sound when I am listening to music. Movement may or may not enter the act; body in stillness is still body, still hearing and sensing the reverberation that is sound.
I listen to a lot of music, infinitely different kinds. In the universes of music I have encountered — with ever greater density rushing past me, mushrooming, my body relentlessly naive — I have found only occasional spots that have stopped me short, but no, I will skirt around that path, it’s not interesting.
Sound — the music I stay with, but sometimes even and consciously ordinary sound — may be just strung or dropped notes without words.
Or: that sound that catches and holds me, that I behold so to speak, may be words that give histories, expressive consciousness of a sort, to the notes that run through them.
In music, I listen to words as sound first, and as words after. Often I barely listen to the words as words at all. This is certainly true about words in languages I don’t know, but often this is true about words in languages I know as well. When I listen to the words, often I hear just a repetition or a phrase, sometimes I hear the wrong words, meaning the words I hear or place in that music are not the words that are formally part of that composition. When I listen to the words, however I hear them, I attach conscious meaning to that phrase of music, to that sound composition as a whole. Sometimes that meaning is fragmentary and surrounded by the corporeal and unconscious sensation of music on and in the body, and sometimes it dominates the composition. Whether scattered, ethereal, or dominant, the meaning permeates the composition, not in some completed or static way, but in a dynamic, evolving, and sometimes dying way.
Returning from my digression into meaning, in the primary experience of listening naively, music as sound and body is meaningless.
This post was catalyzed by listening to the music of Son Lux for the first time. I haven’t dared write about music before this because, well, I’m naive. But some days ago, I listened to Son Lux for the first time. Initially this was an unconscious listening to the background sound of the tumbling pictures and disorderly words of the film Everything Everywhere All at Once. The film is such an eye-popping feast of increasingly riotous movement and meaning that I didn’t notice the music until the credits. That’s a compliment to the synchronicity of the music with the psychedelic movements and meanings that lurch with the characters and their stories, between bills to pay, receipts to recover, hurtling stereotypes, a stunning range of emotional content, and much more.
I only noticed the music, noticed the music as composition in its own right at the end when the score continued through the credits. Aha, this is interesting, I thought. I looked for and listened again to the most obvious track, the song This Is A Life, then bought and downloaded it. After listening to that song a couple more times, I got more curious. Who or what was this Son Lux? So I listened to the full score and loved it. I bought and downloaded all of the two hours. My first few listenings of the whole two hours in one sitting were gloriously naive listenings.
There are some words associated with this soundtrack: a few songs with English words; one song with Chinese words; the titles of the songs; and the name of the group that composed this soundtrack using original and sampled music — Son Lux.
When I first saw the name Son Lux, I assimilated the word “Son” with its homonym, “son” meaning male progeny. Of course, it’s an electronic boy group. Then as I listened to the full score the first time, the second time, “Son” became sound, and lux became the first syllable of luxury, sensuous excess. And that led to this first written reflection on music — indeed sound — as I hear it.