Mad for Sadness.

I had a nice chat with kittynitro the other day about opinions being like assholes and the expressing of personal taste regarding music and performance. We both share a trait of knowing what we like and reveling in it, though I would say she’s probably a bit more open-minded than I, and perhaps a bit less vehement in expressing distaste for things that simply don’t float her boat, so to speak. I’ve been accused on more than one occasion of being too judgmental or opinionated about what I like and don’t like, but I’ve been trying very hard in the past few years to temper that with a broader view, especially in lieu of other’s tastes and feelings. I’m not insensitive, but I will certainly make a sour face when I hear that someone eagerly enjoys listening to Hootie and the Blowfish.

Not that she does. Because really, I’d have to eviscerate her. And she’s wonderful, so I’d hate to have to do that.

But it got me thinking, this conversation. It came out that much of the music that I listen to is very depressing. Too depressing, in fact. To the point that it would emotionally affect certain others were they to engage with a similar catalogue of music. It’s not that it is bad music, but just too dark. All this, but I am not in the least a depressed person. In fact, I consider myself just the opposite – but certainly emotionally driven in every regard. And in noting this, I started thinking about why I have no time for happy, bouncy music. Why smooth R&B, most dance beats, and the majority of the pop genre create ire within me and fail to allow me to engage with them. Why clever, intellectual bands make me cringe and optimistic pap about shaking your booty feeds my hate for the world.

Well, it isn’t really that bad, but I just don’t care to have it around me. There are plenty of exceptions – it’s not a broad fiat, but of course there is generalization involved. I enjoy a wide range of music from all genres, but yes: the majority that I listen to is quite dark and emotion-tickling. I like it that way, but I imagine it can get a bit heavy for some. My interest in literature is not sad in the slightest, however, nor is the symbology with which I choose to surround myself. But I like my music dark, yessir.

And a few days later, I was blissfully scanning the new issue of McSweeney’s The Believer whereupon I was treated to a lovely little article praising the healing power of depressing literature and performance. This delightful piece, written by William Giraldi, extols the nurturing quality of ‘Intelligent Suffering’ as conjured by relevant, artistic displays that soothe and bolster members of an affected audience.

Excerpts from ‘Let There Be Darkness’:

“Though I felt bereaved, drained, and in-over-my-head, this was, I figured, intelligent suffering. There was a wisdom and a resonance in these characters and situations, and aside from being completely absorbed into the dramas, saddened like never before, I felt as if I was learning something invaluable about the defeat and triumph of the human spirit. This was no cheap soap opera manipulation or gaudy sitcom bathos; this was the most noble kind of sorrow…this was something I could no doubt use in my life, if I could only stop bawling long enough to see straight.”

“Every piercing line of poetry and every songful sentence of prose becomes a piece of armor to fortify the soul against the horror of being alive, to aid the human animal in his ridiculous war against the stipulations of existence. If some feel that [it] is nourishment, it is to me more befittingly battle gear.”

“Such sorrow is not merely depressing, as many people like to pretend – it is wholly constructive. Once the fog cleared I could begin the process of betterment, of taking into my own life the wisdom from fictional struggles now indelibly embedded in my heart and mind.”

[Source: The Believer, Vol. 2: No. 10, October 2004 (San Francisco, McSweeney’s Publishing), 17-29]

These are good notes that support just a few of the reasons that I enjoy darkness – and reality – in my music: it helps me understand myself better, and helps me heal the things that need healing. It soothes and comforts, and it touches me in a place that happy music does not reach. Quite simply, sad music makes me happy, and I wouldn’t be me without it.

Postscript: If you don’t believe in the power and wonder of The Believer, just check out this little exclusive gem, and then go subscribe. I bring you:

The Passion of the Morrissey

15 Responses to “Mad for Sadness.”

  1. fraulein_doktor Says:
    November 1st, 2004 at 6:02 pm

    I fully understand you, sweetie. I've the same passion for a particular kind of music and literature, as you know 😉
    I had a discussion as well with one of my classmate, about the fact that I adore Dead Can Dance, Diamanda Galas and similar and she asked me how the hell I wasn't depressed all the time. I tried to explain her my point of view, but I decided to stop, when she started talking about the wonderous uplifting powers of Robbie Williams(puke)'s music….
    Apart from that…hope you're doing fine and I really miss you.

  2. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 5th, 2004 at 2:28 am

    All is well, A; I miss you very much, as well.
    I know that you're on the same music trip as I, even moreso, to some extent!
    You excited about your Italian visitor from afar?

  3. spiffington Says:
    November 1st, 2004 at 6:21 pm

    And I too as you know tend to dwell on the more complicated and darker side of things when it comes to stories, music and poetry. Not that it makes me sad either, afterall I don't think a walking cartoon could be deemed sad do you? It just affects me that's all and that's why we do it. Because it moves us. That doesn't mean we are all terminally depressed!
    Having said that, I do like some of the stuff you would deem *dross* too but only a little. Cos everyone, even cartoons, need to get that silly kiddy smile now and again 😉

  4. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 5th, 2004 at 2:29 am

    Hell, you *create* it!
    Can't wait for those copies…

  5. thistlelurid Says:
    November 2nd, 2004 at 2:20 am

    the constant barrage of "feel goodness" forced down our esophs
    on a daily basis makes most people think that feeling anything
    but "happy happy joy joy" is a bad thing…..its okay to be dark or
    blue…or scared even…bowie's "outside" is one of my all time
    fav albums…not only because its GOOD…but is scares the hell
    out of me as well…a huge magical kick in the ol imagination…
    I like mentally/emotionally wrestling with myself and nothing sparks
    that in me more than darker media….of ALL kinds…
    a little melancholia, a little sadness….dark is good! fahgettaboutit.

  6. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 5th, 2004 at 2:36 am

    To darker media! *raises glass*
    You said it, sister. I think just *feeling* is what I'm after, and poppy pap consistently brings me a non-reaction.
    And I just have no time for that.

  7. angledge Says:
    November 2nd, 2004 at 4:58 am

    sad music only, my @ss!!
    You listen to Scissor Sisters!

  8. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 5th, 2004 at 2:30 am

    Re: sad music only, my @ss!!
    DOOD! They are SO dark!
    *puts on the black, sparkly feather boa*

  9. angledge Says:
    November 5th, 2004 at 8:53 am

    feathers boas are thimply FABULOUS
    I was wearing a feather boa today. With my new T-shirt from the Army/Navy surplus store. Photos are not forthcoming, sadly.

  10. Anonymous Says:
    November 2nd, 2004 at 6:30 am

    Happy Sad Songs
    "Quite simply, sad music makes me happy, and I wouldn’t be me without it."
    I like my music the way I like my chocolate, DARK, baby!

  11. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 5th, 2004 at 2:31 am

    Re: Happy Sad Songs
    And your coffee, and your men?

  12. dr_beep Says:
    November 2nd, 2004 at 10:05 am

    You have always been very opinionated, but you have also always been pretty good at remembering they are opinions. There is such a huge difference between "I don't like that" and "That is bad" and it's so easy to use the latter rather than the former. Differences in taste are good things, they are what keep everything from turning into a giant mass of grey pudding without purpose or desire wobbling it's way slowly through the infinite void.
    The mass may or may not have millions of lidless eyes peering blankly into nothing, I will leave that to your own imagination.

  13. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 5th, 2004 at 2:34 am

    I need to tell you again how much I love you. You continually crack my shit up.
    Thanks for recognizing and pointing out this difference, which is an important one to note.

  14. kittynitro Says:
    November 8th, 2004 at 3:25 am

    Okay… To be fair, I didn't say that I dislike the sad and dark side of entertainment, my dear. My favorite musicians are Nick Cave and Tom Waits, for chrissakes. But while I love those two to the bottom of my guts, I recognize that all music is mood music, and sometimes I'm simply not in the mood. I have a tough enough time wrangling my emotions without adding fuel to the fire in the form of external influence. Plus, cleaning the house to St Etienne is just easier than trying to dust to Joy Division.

  15. FunkyPlaid Says:
    November 9th, 2004 at 6:00 am

    Oh, absolutely. I'm sorry I didn't make it clear that you are a part-time self-hater. 🙂
    I love your taste and your breadth of interest, and I found our conversation extremely interesting. I mean, that's why I posted this. Sometimes I can't see past my own shroud…
    Dusting to St. Etienne? Kill me now. Unless you're dusting MY house.

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