India Uncut

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Joni Mitchell's Blue

Once upon a time, I'd listen to music all the time. When I was in college, every mood of mine would have a soundtrack, and when I'd discover something that touched me, I'd listen to it two, three, four, up to 50 times in a row -- ever more often than I blog about cows today. It could be a Tom Waits song or a Van Morrison album, a Television riff or a Nirvana state of mind, and I'd embody it in my little hostel room, or walking around in college with torn jeans and attitude.

As a kid I'd been a voracious reader and occasional music-listener (for want of a less clumsy turn). In my college years that reversed itself. And, as I reached the second half of my twenties, that changed again. I began reading more, listening to music less, and the chap who had hundreds of CDs once (and worked in MTV and wrote for RSJ and suchlike) suddenly bought just a couple of albums a quarter. (Instead of a couple of albums and a quarter.)

Then just a few days ago, the partner picked up a CD I'd recommended to her while romancing her more than a decade ago, which she hadn't liked then. She heard it again now, loved it, and I thought to myself, "Hmmm, this used to be in my juveline list of desert island discs, and I haven't heard it for what, five years? Time to hear it again."

It was like rediscovering a piece of myself, and looking at that person I used to be with both affection and empathy (instead of the mild disgust I normally reserve for the college me). And serendipity struck a few hours after I spent half a night listening again to Joni Mitchell's Blue when I came across a post on the album by one of the finest bloggers around, Falstaff. In it, he writes:
What astonished me, as I listened to the album, was the combination of intelligence and sympathy that Mitchell brought to the music - here was music that seemed to understand me, but insisted on being understood in turn. "Truth is beauty, beauty truth" Keats said - in Joni Mitchell's songs I could hear both.


Thinking about it, what makes Mitchell so special to me is the way her music connects to something within me, the way her songs seem to speak not to, but for me. Other songwriters may write more beautifully, but my admiration for them is aesthetic, impersonal; not to love Joni Mitchell would be not to love myself. Mitchell's songs feel both essential and familiar precisely because they are superior echoes of that voice in my head that I've been hearing all these years, often without knowing it.
Falstaff's post is so beautifully written, and so reflective of the way I feel for the album, that anything I add to it would be banal, and redundant. So do read it. His blog rocks as well.

Tomorrow I shall write about another recent discovery that I'm rather excited about. Ever heard hip-hop in Gujarati? And Hindi and Spanish and Punjabi and English all in the same song? No, that's not as ridiculous as it might first appear. Later...
amit varma, 5:17 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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