Simon and Garfunkel’s “Live from New York City, 1967” continues to be the most enjoyable textbook.

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit.
Blessed is the lamb whose blood flows.
Blessed are the sat upon, Spat upon, Ratted on,
O Lord, Why have you forsaken me?
I got no place to go,
I’ve walked around Soho for the last night or so.
Ah, but it doesn’t matter, no.

Blessed is the land and the kingdom.
Blessed is the man whose soul belongs to.
Blessed are the meth drinkers, Pot sellers, Illusion dwellers.
O Lord, Why have you forsaken me?
My words trickle down, like a wound
That I have no intention to heal.

Blessed are the stained glass, window pane glass.
Blessed is the church service makes me nervous
Blessed are the penny rookers, Cheap hookers, Groovy lookers.
O Lord, Why have you forsaken me?
I have tended my own garden
Much too long.”

~Blessed 
Simon and Garfunkel, Live from New York City, 1967

From the off-kilter opening notes to the harmonies and dynamics, from the biblical undertones to the dirty city setting, this song perfectly captures aloneness. It’s dark and brooding from the instrumentation right off the bat, then, listening closely, you realize it’s critical, angry, not inward but outwardly. An aggressive emotional to voice so delicately, in a song that is ultimately patient.  

The transitions are really smooth, I like 60s folk for this reason. That’s all in structure. And how refreshing to hear acoustic dynamics, stripped down and unafraid to be extreme, after all the laptop-stuff we’re bombarded with.

I can’t help but feel like music with an intermediary, a laptop or record player or whatever, has less of a connection than an instrument. Don’t tell me “the laptop is the instrument,” because I’m pretty sure those samples sound – gasp! – like instruments that someone else could play. Or something too distorted to be on an actual instrument, and these sounds, I think, do not have the same emotional transcendental tendencies as an actual instrument.

(Here I am thinking of “Yellow Scream,” that guy who screams and paints. I feel like that guy sometimes. Did it make a difference in the end result, all that screaming? Maybe. Maybe not. Art.) 

I know I’m still totally harping on this record, but it is a perfect example of how performance, a concert, should tell a story, open up some doors into a time and place and cultural and mood. It’s clear in the reactions. I am sure this art is still practiced, I do not know how much it plays into our mainstream anymore (if it ever truly did?). What I do know is so much of our stories are already shared, via you, lovely Interwebz, that I don’t know how in-demand such in person experiences are. Maybe I just need to go to a Fleet Foxes show, they might have this aspect down.

Sing to me about burning churches, about citywide loneliness, give me something completely stripped down and unadorned except for the story, don’t decorate to distract, but only to enhance where enhancement deemed necessary.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyDJFMojIoA

“A church is burningThe flames rise higher
Like hands that are praying
They grow in the sky
Like hands that are praying
The fire ascends
You can burn down my churches
But I shall be free

Three hooded men through the back roads did creep
Torches in their hands while the village lies asleep
Down to the church where, just hours before
Voices were singing, and
Hands were meeting, and
Saying, “I won’t be a slave anymore”

A church is burning
The flames rise higher
Like hands that are praying
They glow in the sky

Like hands that are praying
The fire ascends
You can burn down my churches
But I shall be free

Three hooded men, their hands lit the spark
And they faded in the night, they vanished in the dark
And in the cold light of morning, there was nothing that remained
But the ashes of a Bible and a can of kerosene

A church is burning
The flames rise higher
Like hands that are praying
They glow in the sky
Like hands that are prayin’
The fire ascends
You can burn down my churches
But I shall be free

A church is more than just timber and stone
And freedom is a dark road when you’re walking it aloneBut the future is now, and it’s time to take a stand
So the lost bells of freedom can ring out in my land

A church is burning
The flames rise higher
Like hands that are praying
They glow in the sky
Like hands that are praying
The fire ascends
You can burn down my churches
But I shall be free”

~The Church is Burning
Simon and Garfunkel, Live from New York City, 1967


PS: In today’s branded-to-the-nines times, there is no escaping the trends. Just last night I played Passion Pit on those kind of awkward but awesome digital jukeboxes, and I think I interrupted someone else’s choices, because Bro immediately walked over and said “What’s this Apple commercial shit?” and I laughed and put on metric. This was useless aside.