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Ice Skating by night, Vienna, around 1910

in these solitary moments, deep inside the corporal stillness of the midnight hour, listening to a song from decades past that still affects my body and soul with its opulent melancholy, a graceful collision of classical and –  circa 1981 – modern electronic sound.

It longs for something beautiful already fading, dying; it is also a grand yearning for its own romantic essence, existing in an era when electronic patterns, rhythms, melodies were no longer the cultural vanguard, already subsumed into the fabric of popular sound.

Now its grand gestures and opulence resonate with even more poignancy or is that just me projecting as I look back with nostalgic reverie perhaps clouded by sentiment? Is it difficult for me to separate my childhood associations with the song from a clear-eyed view of the song as an adult?

I don’t think so. The emotions I clearly felt as a 4-7 year old as the song played on a turntable in my family’s home for the umpteenth time or when the video aired on someones chunky television set were the same emotions I feel now. For better and for worse, I have had that sense of drama and sadness in my being for as long as I can remember or forget.

Why or how I’m not sure, perhaps it’s genetic or maybe the seeds are planted by music and before we know it or gain awareness through maturity, it is too late to go back and this secret language bypasses common sense, residing forever in the soul.

Does ‘Vienna’ lament the fall of Old Europe? Or a love affair set amidst its decline? Signalling a creative peak that went as quickly as it came and is now a legacy of a particular time of striving in music, 34 years ago, ‘Vienna’ still haunts me; its spectral synth heartbeat, impassioned vocals, grandiose piano crescendos echoing through winter courtyards, empty palaces, cracked marble columns and desolate ballrooms forever more.

A slow dance with tears in my eyes, if you will.

Ultravox – Vienna (1981)

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