Obsession about Music

obsession1If I would follow the timeline of the concerts, the next video to describe would be the one with Preperation and Dunkirk from the album The Snow Goose. But that was not the video I wanted to continue with. I even had been hesitating to include that video. Not because of Dunkirk, as I think it is one of the best performances I heard of Dunkirk. I think it has a fantastic power in that concert and it also is amazing to see it played live.

The problem for me is with Preperation. And it is not at all that I do not like that one. I like it as it is played on the original album. It is a very contemplative piece of music which is also very essential in the totality of the whole Story of the Snow Goose. And I mostly like the more contemplative moments in music. I also love those in classical music. I love the adagio in a classical symphony, although somehow those parts are not so well integrated, they seem to be often apart from the rest of the symphony. And that is what I think a band as Camel is very good with. They have many contemplating moments and I feel they fit in very well.

A very good example is Lady Fantasy, which is at times a very energetic and outgoing piece, but it does also have a very withdrawn and contemplating part in the middle. And as much as I like the energetic parts, that part is my favourite. It never was so much before, but after seeing it on the dvd Moondances, I just could not stop listening and watching especially that part. At that moment it feels as if the music really comes from another world, as if it is just a matter of receiving. Really fascinating to see Andy Latimer connected to the world beyond as it seems.

So it is not that he is not capable of producing the beautiful adagio parts in the music of Camel, maybe even very hard to find anyone who is more capable then he is. He really lives his music while he is playing. And as it seems at times he is not even aware of his surroundings. He and his music are often one.

But what was it then what I did not like in Preperation as played on this video? Why did I not want to include it at first? As I think now, it has to do with the voice. For me it is very important to hear the ‘right voice’ with certain music. As much as I love to hear the voice of Maria Callas, I think it at its best in a passionate opera and not so much with Ave Maria. And Erbarme Dich is just beautiful with the right male voice and in my opinion not so much with a colourful female voice. And Im abendrot, one of the four last songs of Richard Strauss, is just perfect with the voice of Jessey Norman.

So it is not that I do not like his voice in general, I like his voice a lot and think it is often quiet, relaxing and effective. But it is just not the essense of his musical performance. And here with Preperation it feels to me that the voices must be more of a background, being an underlying sense of wholeness. And I personally like that part more on the album, where the voices are heard in the background.

Somehow this feels as a very important point. Important in the whole Story of the Snow Goose, but also important in the development of each individual. And besides that also an important point in the human development as a whole. As a point in time now, where individual expression is becoming essential.

This kept going around in my head, but I had no idea how I would write it down. I had no idea what words I could use, how to describe what I meant. So that point of preparation and Dunkirk seemed important in the Snow Goose. It is the battle where the main character Rhayader becomes a hero, but looses his life. And the battle is most impressive shown in Dunkirk.

But before Dunkirk, the decision for this action was made in Preparation. At least that was the idea I got from hearing the album of the Snow Goose. But here in the concert that message did not get through so well in my opinion. Not because of Dunkirk because how that was played here, was even better than on the album. It is really energetic and  impressive and gives a feeling of determination and power which perfectly comes together near the end. But Preparation was not convincing me here.

Searching for the right words
So I sort of knew what I wanted to talk about, but I could find no way of getting it into the right words. Not that I could not get anything on paper, the strange thing was that I typed pages full. Which is rather unusual for me, as I tend to compress what I want to say in writing, into just a few lines. And often even in just a few words. But although I wrote a lot, I just could not get on paper what I wanted to say, the words just did not seem the right one, did not express what I meant. And it was just so very frustrating. At times this week I thought, why am I so fascinated with this music at the moment. What do I care. Just leave it alone. But I just could not, I had to listen to their music over and over again. And this time I just had to understand why I am so obsessed.

Fortunally I also got to read on an online music forum. I got there because I found out that the music Camel makes, especially their early years, was called Progressive Rock. And the music of Camel fell in the category of ‘symphonic progressive rock’ or in short ‘symphonic prog‘.

And being on that forum I noticed that I am not the only one with an obsession for music. There are many out there who have the same. And it is just absolutely amazing to talk about that. And while talking about it (well reading and writing) it becomes a little more clear to me what music can do. Not that I can find all the right words at this point, but I feel I am getting somewhere now.

One very good lead came from a group which is considered the basic of all progressive rock, King Crimson. Before I came to the Prog Archives forum I never heard of them. But many people often referred to them, and so I got to listen to some of their work. And liked what I heard. Not just interesting, but some of it also very intriguing and catching music, although most is in general to experimental for me personal.

But then I heard several people mention King Crimson’s Epitaph as their all time favourite. I got curious and went searching on Youtube to see if I could find it. Well, I did… and it just blew me away. From the very first seconds I was impressed. The combination of the extremely dark music, the screaming picture from the album cover, the voice, the fantastic instrumentation but above all the overwhelming lyrics.

I have this thing with lyrics, I hardly ever listen to them. At best they are good, but even then the music is so much more important for me. Because if that does not so much for me, if I have no desire to listen to it at least 10 times in a row, I just consider it music I like. But on the other hand there is music I am obsessed with, music I want to hear over and over again. Often I do not understand the lyrics (3th symphony of Gorecki) or they are religious (Schubert’s Ave Maria, Mozart’s Requiem and Bach’s Erbarme Dich) or actually mean nothing and is a made up language (Lisa Gerrard from Dead can Dance). Or with the music of Pink Floyd, which I like along with the lyrics. But still the music is much more important to me. And with Camel I also like the non lyrical vocals a lot. So somehow the meaning of the lyrics was not the most important. Much more important was if it sounds perfectly coherent with the music.

Between the iron gates of fate
But then I found that video of King Crimson’s Epitaph with the lyrics. I read the lyrics while hearing the music and was just shocked. There was this text which is from the late 60s and it had just the subject I was thinking about for such a long time now. The whole text was extremely intriguing, but the most I was impressed by the middle part, because that is what I was thinking about the most.

Between the iron gates of fate, the seeds of time were sown.
And watered by the deeds of those, who know and who are known.
Knowledge is a deadly friend, if no one sets the rules.
The fate of all mankind I see, is in the hands of fools.

To me this bears the essence of human development. The free will we all have in essence. But which is only effective in the right mix of action, skills, knowledge and responsibility. Well something along those lines.

That is what I see as essential in the development of the music of Camel. And that is what I think I felt on my first concert in 1984. So I thought about writing my next blogpost about the video that started my obsession with their music. And I knew for sure it was somewhere at the concert of Pressure Points.

Although I was listening to their music for a few years at that time, and it was more or less the only music I listened to, it did not have a real meaning to me until then. It were just a lot of albums I happened to love. But then I got to the concert. The concert was in 1984 and it had a very huge impact on me. And I have always wondered why. Was it the fact that it was my first concert? Was it the fact that it was in a relative small space with very loud music? Or was it the music itself?

When I found all the videos on Youtube slowly I became aware of what it was, that impressed me the most.

Becoming aware
First I thought, it was Stationary Traveller, because that is absolutely one of my favourites. Then I thought it was Lady Fantasy, because I remember very clearly that I was very surprised to hear it. They played Long Goodbyes (which has one of the most amazing guitarsolo’s at the end) and I thought the concert was over. But to my surprise the best (at that time) had yet to come. Parts of the Snow Goose and Lady Fantasy. Which was really fantastic.

But then I got the dvd. And from the very moment Pressure Points started I knew that was the one that had the most impact. On the album Stationary Traveller, Pressure Points is a relatively short track. I like it a lot, but it really is nothing compared to the live version. When I heard it again now, it immediately pulled me back in and I was totally overwhelmed. It has an inescapable sphere, it draws you in and there is no turning back.

So I realised, that there was the point where it started for me. That moment where I realised what music can do. But still, although I felt clearly what it did, I had no way of describing it in words. And it did nothing else than going on in my head, trying to find the right words. There was a connection with Preparation and Dunkirk of The Snow Goose, and there was a strong connection with the live version of Ice.

Ice that I must have heard many times before, because I immediately recognised it when I heard the video as it was uploaded on Youtube. But it was so much more impressive now I heard the video with the live performance, it is really so powerful and impressive. Especially the second half. I heard someone use the word haunting, and that was exactly how I felt the impact, having a deeply disturbing effect. And that is the same I felt with Epitaph of King Crimson.

But here I did not only hear, see and feel it, my brain could also take it in. And it very much gave words to my perception of the music. Which as I see it, is a very important point in the process of the human development as an individual, but also in the process of human development as a moment in time. This moment in time.

I will try to put my thinking about that it in a more structured and (I hope) more logical blogpost, but here I first will try to describe the video of Pressure Points.

Describing the video
The video is from the dvd Pressure Points and it does not have the bright colours and the amazing camerawork of the Moondances dvd. Which is a pity of course, but on the other hand it does very well fit the sphere. The sphere of beautiful music in a very dense atmosphere. And somehow I just very much love that combination.

The video here starts with a sort of added story on the dvd, which all looks very dated now. But somehow it does fit the feeling of being torn apart. It is given in the form of the divided Berlin just after the second world war, and the concert was in the the time a few years before the fall of the Berlin wall. But as dated as it is, I think it is a very essential theme, not just for the world a that time, but also for each individual. The struggle between the individual autonomy and the oppression of the outside world. And about how you might want to avoid that struggle, because it is just to difficult at times to deal with.

But it is easy to just skip the intro and start with Pressure Points. It is a much extended version, much longer and much more intense than the version on the album.

The start as I feel it is a very dark drum with the extremely crying of the guitar. Very expressive and outgoing with a firm base of the drums, starting more slowly, but increasing the speed as it goes on. Then the keyboard produce an erratic and very speedy sound which seems to even further speed up the guitar and lets it produce some extra creativity.

But then the energy completely changes, and the bassguitar takes over, which gives an extremely depressing, dense but at the same time incredible beautiful atmosphere. And it definitely sets the tone for the whole piece. This goes on for a while and Andy’s guitar is only occasionally highlighted in the back ground. Then his guitar comes in more strong and more melodic, but at the same time very melancholic.

Complete surrender
The next is a very close picture of his playing and you can just watch the searching for every next note, as if there is no direction any more, as if the rest has to be invented yet, there seems no way out of this, it is so difficult to escape from this depressive feeling because it is so mesmerizing and comforting, but at the same time there is this feeling of need for an expression. But then he seems to give up, and what you hear seems a very desperate cry, which really gives the feeling giving in. A complete surrender, there is really no way out, there is nothing left to do then to accept.

Then the guitar stops and the keyboards take over. A real special moment as you hear the leading keyboard give a high and melodic melody, repeated again and again. But at the same time there is a very, complete opposite dark and deep sounding keyboard complementing it. And this goes on for a while, but nothing the dark and deep can do to stop the cheering melody.

Then, as if the guitar has been listening to the repeating sounds, he steps in. As if he has listened and found a ground to react on. And starts to play his own melody now, perfectly backed up by the ongoing melody of the keyboard, and the basguitar that seems to acompagny him now.

Then the guitar seems to have found a new way of expressing himself, but this time much more in harmony with the other instruments.

What also impresses me very much here are the drums. It is also a very dense and compact sound, which also gives very much the idea of suppressive and coherent sound. And that starts already with the beginning, and it stays in the background a while and continues the rhythm, although it goes up if the guitar speeds up. But it stays quiet with the bassguitar. As if there is no need there for the drum at that time. The bassguitar seems to represent the soul that has not much volume, but sooths and is a very attractive and appealing serene sound.

Darkness and beauty
And this is the music that gives a certain feeling which is similar with the live version of Ice and King Crimson’s Epitaph. They all have it in a different way, but somehow the theme seems the same. The intensity, the inner conflict, the density, the despair and the darkness. But also the enormous power and beauty.

Somehow I see those themes also in the Snow Goose (Preparation / Dunkirk). But there it is a battle in the outside world (Dunkirk). Here with these three the battle is the inner conflict, the conflict with the use of a free will. A free will that wants to express itself and needs the space to do so. But that space is limited. There is an outside world that oppresses and limiteds. And possible to the extend that the individual gets paralysed and in despair will give up.

But the beauty of the music of Camel is that there is always a way out as it seems, an immedate shift of emotion if needed. A creative solution to any given situation. But at the same time the realisation of a world beyond the individual and take full responsibility for any conscious action. I think that was somehow the message I got when I was at that concert all those years ago.



echo February 12, 2009 at 9:15 pm

Great albums: Gorecki’s Third (Some info: http://inkpot.com/classical/goreckisym3.html ) and Crimso’s First. Great contenders for my Desert Island Discs. (Unlike King Crimson’s Island, the album from which you used the cover at the top of the article.)

By the way, Andy Latimer played some excellent soli on Colin Bass’ first solo album, An Outcast of the Islands. For starters a clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2eVXTChPiM

Good post, keep it up!


Annemieke February 13, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Thank you so much for that video, amazing guitar again. And what a wonderful webpage about Gorecki’s third symphony, beautiful description.

Well, you are not exactly going to have a party on that Desert Island :-)

Funny that you mention the picture of that albumcover. I did not think about the music that is behind such a picture. I had been looking at a lot of pictures as I finally found this one. To me it was an abstract picture which reflected exactly my feelings of the post. But ofcourse, as it is an album cover, it already has a meaning. Which might be totally different from my interpretation. So I guess I have to listen to the album then, to know at least how it was intended.

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