Monday, October 31, 2011

Love Stops to Watch

"Everything is so superb and breathtaking. I'm creeping forward on my belly the way they do in war movies." ~Diane Arbus

I think I'm finally getting the hang of this. This time I enjoyed the messy, frustrating piles of drafts--scraps of paper littered with half-alphabets and pages of bad rhymes (confinement/refinement and the like). It's how you get there. Or, at least, how I get there. I work in drafts, and sometimes I just recopy from Notebook 1 to Notebook 2 and back again until something shakes loose. Bad ideas lead to good ideas.

They say it takes three weeks to inculcate a behavior change. Perhaps it is no small coincidence that October 21, my Day 21 of a 31-day meditation challenge, is when Song for Diane Arbus finally came together for me and I first recorded it. I think that was Draft 12 of 13. (Lucky #13 is the one I am sticking with.) In it, I attempt to compare her approach to photography with my approach to meditation. (It's Day 31 and yes, I did it!)

Meditation can be frightening. It's a quiet way to take a long look at what scares you. Contemplate the thing while it's still. That's what I see in Arbus' work. Another non-coincidence is that her famous shot of the Wade twins inspired the freaky "Want to play, Danny?" girls in The Shining, probably the movie that scares me most to think about in the middle of the night. (And I spent a large number of middle-of-the-nights this month awake, thinking of Diane, drafting lyrics and thinking of those twins.) But again, take it while it's quiet and still and really look.

After The Shining, I'd have to say The Exorcist would be the next scariest keep-me-awake-and-looking-around-the-corner movie. Little wonder that part of its production design was inspired by my favorite painter, Rene Magritte, and his House of Mysteries. This particular piece parallels Arbus' view that a photograph is "a secret about a secret."

Song for Diane Arbus

In the sideshows a light glows and love stops to watch
In the darkroom, resolving, she finds her cause
On the outskirts, at the boundary, and just out of reach
Just to hover and discover, not to praise or to preach

I want to be like Diane Arbus, find a signal in the noise
And I'm crawling on my belly like the camouflage-clad boys
In the sleepless, silent darkness I'm a diamond growing tough
On the threshold is a signal if you listen long enough
I'm listening

The heartbreaking, sense-making things people lose
Her art winning and sharpening peripheral views
A celebration of isolation extreme and sublime
It's a fragment, it's a cipher. If I want it, it's mine.

I want to be like Diane Arbus, find a signal in the noise
And I'm crawling on my belly like the war-torn men and boys
And I look after moments as the boys go off to war
Leaving others to compute what all the noticing is for
I'm noticing

I need the noise to find the signal; my attention span's corrupt
Need the secret in the secret; need something to interrupt
And the stillness is addictive, meditations short and long
My dots becoming dashes, the notes become a song
And I'm in the diorama with the cardboard skylight slit
And I know that art, like nature, just wants me to notice it
I notice it

I want to be like Diane Arbus, find a signal in the noise
And I'm crawling on my belly like the camouflage-clad boys

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