FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When Music’s the Character

Music tends to be a very difficult thing to describe. If a record is really successful, no discussion should be necessary, it should be totally capable of standing alone. At best, critics and commentators can draw attention to the power of a record, or the depth of emotion in a song, but should never try to capture essence of the music in another medium.

Hollywood has a habit of breaking this rule. Movies like Ray, or Walk the Line do a decent job of telling an artist’s story, but fail miserably when trying to capture the music-making process. The polished aesthetic of a Hollywood movie can’t possibly hope to communicate the factors that went into Ray Charles writing “Drown in My Own Tears”.

However, one Hollywood movie captured the other side of this equation perfectly. It’s a movie called High Fidelity which stars John Cusack as a neurotic record store owner and fully accredited music nerd. It’s a romantic comedy where Cusack goes through his top five breakups, describing what went wrong and what he learned (or didn’t learn) from each one.

The presence of music in this movie isn’t so much a theme as a character. Like when Rob (John Cusack), is calling his ex-girlfriends trying to figure out what happened and the persona behind Bruce Springsteen’s records gives him advice. Or later on, while trying to cope with being alone, Rob organizes his record collection auto-biographically. There’s a great image of him sitting on the floor surrounded by towers of vinyl, piecing together the story of his life through the records he owns. The movie isn’t saturated with music references, but it’s always there. It informs and advises like a friend.

The reason that High Fidelity gets away with all of this is that it isn’t trying to explain how or why music works. There’s no attempt to figure out why Marvin Gaye made the music he did. Instead, it focuses on how the music Marvin Gaye made affects us. High Fidelity takes the perspective of an audience member, of an appreciator instead of a critic. Rather than celebrate an artist of a movement, this movie celebrates music itself and the power it has over us.

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: lorenzowolff@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

LORENZO WOLFF is a musician living in New York. He can be reached at: lorenzowolff@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail