The wind drives clouds across a black canopy punctuated by stars. The breeze coming in through my living room window stings like winter, tastes like spring, and smells like summer. Trees dotting the horizon across the river are still dead, so the lights from my distant neighbors stutter inconstant through dancing branches. This is rural to the extreme, but the song that best encapsulates how I feel is called “Suburbia” by Matthew Good:
It’s not the lyrics. When I actually focus on those, this song is about something entirely different for me. But the music reminds me of all the things I describe above in a multitude of contexts. It’s a two-way phenomenon too. Sometimes I see, feel, or hear something and it reminds me of the song. Sometimes I hear the song and it reminds me of something I saw, felt, or heard in my past. “Suburbia” reminds me of the years I spent in nearby towns during the transitions between seasons. It reminds me of the subtle scent of cow shit, which you acquire an appreciation of when you come from the north country. It reminds me of the sun setting on distant bodies of water, and the fascination with nature my friends and I could afford when we were younger. It also reminds me of the nights my friends spent driving along the back roads in Gouverneur, or walking through the graveyards, picking up the plastic Virgin Mary statues that other kids our age scattered about. There was something incredibly tranquil about that.
What I’m getting at–by taking the longest route possible apparently–is that it’s weird how sounds, smells, sights, etc., accumulate connotations. It’s something we seem to just ride with. It’s part of what keeps life interesting. You throw on a CD or in today’s case an MP3, and it can take you in one hundred different directions. They say our taste buds change every time we eat something, I think the same can be said of any input we encounter. It changes our senses and perspectives.
The whole chain of thoughts also gets me thinking about how a single experience, consisting of all senses and a combination of emotions, can never be conveyed through art or any form of expression. Multimedia will never be able to emulate human experience, not in the foreseeable future anyway. Boil it down to a series of 1’s and 0’s. The code won’t mean shit to me. Every stimuli carries with it a vast array of connotations. You splice those together with other senses, emotional connotations of sensory input, the words we try to formulate to express that sensory input and emotional output . . . then the connotations of those words . . . The only equation I can come up with is that all of this = isolation. We’re completely alone in this world and all we can hope for are shallow intimations of full connection. But I think that’s the curse and blessing that drives artists forward. We’re hoping to find that perfect phrase that encapsulates a particular human experience or the perfect image that encapsulates how we feel about something. At best I think we find a means of expression that speaks to us as creators and viewers, but it likely speaks to the creator and the audience in a different way.
Worst case scenario, we continue to strive towards forging connections with others. How can that be a bad thing? Art is a win/win situation. Once you consider the inevitable element of loss and futility inherent in creation, you can begin to accept the blessing of ambiguity that expression affords us.