There seems to be a trend of listeners at open mics hoping for upbeat, hopeful songs….it’s no wonder in a day and age of continuing war and occupation of countries for over a decade, let alone unemployment figures, pay discrepancies and governments shutdowns. Often songs which deal with issues or uncomfortable feelings are heavy-handed and so do no service to their subject. There’s a hard balance to strike between being topical and felt. A lot of my songs are not necessarily loose and easy love songs or sunshiney flower songs, not that there’s not a place for these types of songs, so I often wonder what it is that draws me to the darkness. I’ve seen singer-songwriters at open mics apologize for their sad or dark songs and every time it happens I wince. I started writing this post a week or so ago and right after I began it there was an op-ed in the New York Times about why we like sad songs….I didn’t really feel like the article answered the question. Rather, it drew a distinction between perceived feeling and actual feeling. It contended that we enjoy perceived feeling more than actual feeling and that a sad song provides the ground for those perceptions. I didn’t really like the article. Here’s a link to the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/22/opinion/sunday/why-we-like-sad-music.html?_r=0
I think I like sad songs because I feel a kinship with sorrow, not more so than joy, and so it’s like a recognition, a mirror, an ‘oh yeah, I’m a human creature and this is what we all go through’ more of an empathy and understanding than a “perceived feeling”. It’s kind of a fine line…empathy is different than perception. I think it’s very important that we know who we are. It would be great to plow through these days unaffected by anything and everything….or would it? I don’t enjoy the blank faced, plugged in, screen fixated zombies I sometimes see in the street because it speaks volumes of the things they’re avoiding (themselves, each other, sorrow). It’s easy to sink into oneself and get lost though and perhaps people feel “happy” songs communicate more directly to the audience. Perhaps misery is in such an abundance that it’s the last thing anyone wants to be confronted with. It’s hard to tell someone to embrace their sorrow because it says as much about them as their joy, but I think that’s what some good sad songs do. So don’t overindulge in your own sorrow but don’t avoid it!! heh. Thanks for reading people, I’m going to Puglia and will resume the blog in a coupla weeks (perhaps with a Tarantella)!
Here’s a sad one:
Here’s a triumphant sort of sorrow:
Here’s a cover of a Willie Nelson classic: