Saturday, 17 August 2013

David vs Roger

I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan. I love everything about the Floyd - the music, the writing, the aesthetics, etc. Most people who are fans of Pink Floyd, I would surmise, when asked who makes the band would probably answer that Roger Waters did most of the song-writing so he makes Pink Floyd. No doubt about it: Waters wrote many of the classics.

But I would say that the center actually is David Gilmour post Syd Barrett.

There is an episode in The Big Bang Theory where the Sheldon character realizes that he is not and never was the center of the group. Now, Sheldon has a big ego that is directly inverse proportional to his social graces. Like Waters, he thinks that everything that he thinks about or says is an "acquired taste", and, as such, excellent by virtue of it requiring a long-winded explanation to be understood (best if he does the explaining).

The Leonard character (Sheldon's long-suffering room-mate) is a bit more easy-going. He knows that the different characters together make the group work. He just has the creative spontaneity and comfortableness in his skin to allow others to contribute. Where Sheldon is a mono-cultural field Leonard is a pasture.

The chemistry works.

Where Waters' writing has a tendency towards cold and dark interiority, Gilmour's writing tends to substantive literary use of psychological states. Waters has always been stuck on insanity and navel-gazing; Gilmour (with the help of his wife) looks at the effects and consequences of life lived in a relationship.

Even their choice of words for album titles are different: The Wall; The Division Bell.

The Wall is a place of loneliness and alienation; The Division Bell is a reference to the bells of British parliamentary tradition that ring when the members are called in to vote on an issue.

There is a song in the Momentary Lapse of Reason album where Gilmour's first fruits of lyric writing after Waters tried to break up the band shine through brilliantly: Sorrow, says Gilmour, was a poem before he wrote the music for it. It is said that he "appropriated" the opening lines of Sorrow from John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, but in my own ignorance (though Steinbeck is one of the authors I greatly admire) I've always thought the lyrics a prophetic allusion to the first Gulf War (written about 4 years before Hussein invaded Kuwait):

The sweet smell of a great sorrow lies over the land
Plumes of smoke rise and merge into the leaden sky:
A man lies and dreams of green fields and rivers,
But awakes to a morning with no reason for waking
 
He's haunted by the memory of a lost paradise
In his youth or a dream, he can't be precise
He's chained forever to a world that's departed
It's not enough, it's not enough
 
His blood has frozen & curdled with fright
His knees have trembled & given way in the night
His hand has weakened at the moment of truth
His step has faltered
 
One world, one soul
Time pass, the river rolls
 
It's not enough it's not enough
His hand has faltered
.... .... ......
And he talks to the river of lost love and dedication
And silent replies that swirl invitation
Flow dark and troubled to an oily sea
A grim intimation of what is to be
 
There's an unceasing wind that blows through this night
And there's dust in my eyes, that blinds my sight
And silence that speaks so much louder that words,
Of promises broken

The lyrical treatment is human; contemplative of human experience, the inarticulable longing we all feel for the idealized past brought about by the vertigo-inducing uncertainty of the present and the as-yet unrealized possibilities and hope of the future (Tom Joad doesn't know what he's going to in the end of The Grapes of Wrath but he feels he has to go into that uncertainty in light of certain continued persecution - and to protect his family):

The differences between Waters and Gilmour is also best captured in a quote (also from The Grapes of Wrath):

This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning—from "I" to "we". If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into "I", and cuts you off forever from the "we". (Chapter 14, p. 158)

Like, wow.

Jay

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