June 21, 2014
What I like about writing is noticing the little moments in one’s life and other’s as well. What does appear to be insignificant, can be important if it’s framed in a certain fashion. The songwriting craft of say, someone like Ray Davies of The Kinks is his ability to place emphasis on the trivial and bring it out dramatically in his songs. It is interesting to compare his songs with Pete Townshend of The Who, because basically they share a country as well as a culture. Yet, Townshend focuses on the big statement, for instance, “My Generation, ” and Davies write “Waterloo Sunset.” A beautiful song that captures an intimate moment or a series of moments, which speak softly, but has a great deal of meaning to the listener. Both artists look at the world visually as well as thematic, with respect to class, culture, and how that individual is positioned in that world. The thing with Townshend is that he takes huge subject matters and presents it that sort of represents the everyday person. In a way, he’s like Wagner in capturing the immense emotional moment. Davies on the other hand is more of a sketch artist, or one who draws in pencil, and also deals with a group of people who belong to a specified location and of course a member of the class system of that neighborhood. The Who is international, and The Kinks are… British.
It is also interesting to read “Who I Am” by Townshend and Ray Davies “Americana.” The Pete book is very much grand in its scope of The Who’s history, but I found it lacking a certain amount of feeling or details of people around him at the time. On the other hand, Ray’s book is filled with insightful and detailed observations of the world around him. The Who is great, and Townshend is a fantastic songwriter, but Ray Davies strikes me more of a skillful artist to my liking. He’s in the same league as his fellow British writers such as Noel Coward, Alan Bennett, and perhaps Morrissey. Hearing The Kinks’ classic “Village Green Preservation Society,” one can practically smell the British town or countryside off the vinyl record. The observation of that world is pictorially clear, and you can taste the English tea and the seasons off that album. In something like “Tommy” or “Quadrophenia” one gets the huge scope of one’s life, but again, it lacks specific details.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m a huge Osamu Dazai fan, due to his attention to a specific environment, and when I read or listen to a Ray Davies song, I get the same charge out of it, as reading Dazai. I know my limits, and I will never be as good as those writers, but still, I try to reach up to the stars, and will settle for a rooftop at the very least. We all have choices to make, and it is important to engage into that precise choice. Commitment is very imperative, and to follow through that journey, wherever it may take us, is part of the adventure, and not fully the destination. I often admired (but not loved) the poetry of Paul Élaurd, due to its sweeping brush-strokes of a time that must have been difficult for him and the whole of Europe between the world wars and dealing with the Nazi occupation of France. Nevertheless, what was touching in his work was his intense, perhaps even obsessive, love for his wife, Nusch, who I know little about, but I do know that she served the poet as a muse of sorts. So yes, one gets the big picture of his work, but in the end I know a little about his inspiration. A poet can do many things, but for me, I like the poet who sees the world as it is mapped out, and put their stamp on that world as they see it. A lack of detail can make the work seem lazy, and it is difficult as a writer to fulfill that vision that is a clear picture of one’s subject matter, whatever that maybe.
I cannot make comments on the whole world, but perhaps if I focus on the little things around me, one can gather enough information, or even a feeling, that can somehow be of some interest to a reader. Then again, who knows?