“In Exile” by Lisa Gerrard and “The Proximity of Death (Blue Eyed Boy)” by Jordan Reyne

It’s almost Monday, right? Not that I’ve been sticking to the Muscial Mondays all too vigorously as of late, but as a friend (hi, Jessica!) once pointed out, she keeps tabs on my musical tastes and enjoys my recommendations. Which is really just a way of me saying I’m flattered that many people think it’s okay to bribe someone in order to destroy American Idol forever so no one has to be subjected to Daughtry ever again I can spice up music collections.

Lisa Gerrard is the lucky lady tonight and the song “In Exile” is off of her second solo album The Silver Tree. (The cover, to me, looks like the tree o’ dead bodies in 300, but that just makes her more awesome.) I say solo album because Ms. Gerrard likes to collaborate and was a founding member of Dead Can Dance, one of my favorite bands in the darkwave/dream pop/goth rock genre. Which is more impressive than that sounds. Most people, however, will recognize her voice from the vast amount of soundtrack collaboration she’s done, and most notably, the theme to Gladiator. (And if there’s one thing I love, it’s stamping my toilet with cleaners that turns the water blue. And if there are two things I love, it’s stamping my toilet with cleaners that turns the water blue and crazy socks. And if there are three things I love, it’s those two and movies where ‘British’ is synonymous with Greek, Roman, or my personal favorite, Bad Guy.)

Now, usually I take a few moments to post some lyrics and sort of analyze a deeper meaning to the song, but, alas, since Ms. Gerrard sings in many languages, simple vocalizations, and even in an idioglossia, I can’t do that here. Or, I could try and get a little something like:

Ohhhhouyeeeeeee ayiiiii ieeeeeeee

And be like Professor Higgins. Or, rather, ‘Iggins. So, does that make me a misanthropic yet brilliant genius? Well, my right knee hurts

But, most of Ms. Gerrard’s stuff is melancholy, meditative and redemptive. Her deep range, searching vocals and glistening vibrato create a creeping, dark atmosphere of loss and heartbreak. There are rarely songs that can be classified as uplifting — at least, not without a bitterness to them, almost as if peace has finally come at last, but only at the cost of a greater sacrifice — and all invoke a deeper sense of longing for simpler existences and innocence.

Which is why I believe she fascinates me so; we can all understand an emotion like happiness. There are many times, even in my own life, when I’m happy without a particular reason in mind. But if I’m sad or despondent, I’m constantly searching for a reason and trying to rationalize it and break it into digestible and palatable chunks that are a mite more manageable. Anyone can be pitifully annoying and happy and write a song about it, but it takes real self-reflection, a deep ability to dive into depression and see what makes it tick in order to write a sad song. A sentiment, I believe, that testifies to why I love sad music so much here on the Songs to Die By hour.

And because I’m such a nice gal, I’m giving you a double dose of the depression! Since I can’t really analyze Ms. Gerrard any more than that, and certainly because I don’t want you to suffer from a lack of mysterious and depressing music, I give you Jordan Reyne! She’s from New Zealand and sings a lot about her homeland. She reminds me of Lisa Gerrard because of her voice, her strange arrangements, and even “The Keening Song” is in an idioglossia. Unfortunately, I can’t find that one on the tube of you, (but if you go to her website you can download much of her music and Dr. Kevorkian and the Suicide Machine or The Ironman is what I’m obsessed with now) so you get:

It’s an actual music video! When has that ever happened before? Never! Time to go call in my flying pig. His name is Harvey.


“Symphony n.6 ‘Pathétique:’ Adagio lamentoso” by P. I. Tchaikovsky

A little something different this time, guys.* Just recently have I delved into the world of classical music, and though I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to sit down with a glass of sex on the beach wine, smoke a meerschaum pipe, and expound about the chromatic scale progression in the third movement of Mahler’s sixth symphony and how that, combined with the tonic minor, create an atmosphere of the power of Fate in life and death, but I do like me some purty music.

I love Russian composers. I don’t know what it is about Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky and the like, but I find Russian classical music to be fiery, heart-breaking, and passionate. (The translated name for Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony is Pathétique, from Патетическая, which means passionate, rather than pathetic. Though, given the fact that the fourth movement is possibly the most depressing piece of music I’ve ever heard, the latter makes sense as well. I’ve made a special note for myself to never listen to this song when reading Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, the most depressing book I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. I might go into the bathroom, dab on some eyeliner, and take pictures with my hair in my face and some mood lighting.)

(There is a wonderful book that actually helped inspire me to listen to classical music instead of just dismissing it as a method to torture clarinet players. It’s called Shostakovich and Stalin by Solomon Volkov, and it’s an excellent resource for understanding Shostakovich’s work, but also to re-live the artistic cultural history of Russia during the years under Stalin. I originally had to read pieces of it for a class I took, but read the rest after I graduated because it was just that intriguing.)

Tchaikovsky had a rough way. He wrote in the late 1800s, in the Romantic era, and despite being successful, was rather anxious and almost always depressed. His repressed homosexuality, disastrous relationships, and misunderstood passion in his music allowed for unimagined creativity, but also may have driven him to suicide by drinking water contaminated by cholera when he was only 53. The Sixth Symphony is his last, and the fourth movement is considered to be a suicide note by some. (I feel like an investigative journalist when I say that. And now I’m imagining having the public go into a fuss about his death like many people have over Michael Jackson. And now I’m giggling like Egon before the attempted trepanning.)

Now, I played the bassoon** in high school, so I know a bit about music, but aside from all of the regularized musicality, the theory behind it all, I know that this song starts me off with melancholy, gives me some hope at about the three minute mark, and then plunges me deeper into depression. Kind of like Great Expectations really, in that all I learned from that book was to aim high, become jaded, and then figure out that your entire life was a lie perpetuated by an Australian criminal.

I put this song on loop whenever I’m killing off anyone important who’s not Nathaniel, because he gets “Another One Bites the Dust,” imagining it’s rather like the end scene from Gladiator. Maybe I should just get a compilation of Lisa Gerrard‘s music and shuffle that into the mix as well.

*I’m still looking for a name to call y’all (all six of you, which might be be a stretch.) Buffy had the Scoobies, Angel retroactively had the Jabberjaws, there are Twihards and Avatards, etc. We can go with the obvious Bunch o’ Sauer Grapes, but that’s a little pedantic.

** Its name was the Nah-zy horn because it was, I kid you not, made in East Germany and had what looked like bullet holes in the side; we used to joke that it was used as a weapon in the Cold War. Yeah, band kids have a funny sense of humor. Drama kids are worse. Luckily I was able to be a part of both. Which has had no sense of lasting impact. Nope. None. At. All.