Friday, December 13, 2013

Fluid interpretations

Van Morrison, talking to Los Angeles Times columnist Randy Lewis about Astral Weeks: "The songs are works of fiction that will inherently have a different meaning for different people. People take from it whatever their disposition to take from it is."

Different meanings for different people ... For me, interpretation of Astral Weeks is fluid; what a track signifies or suggests oftentimes changes after repeated listens. "Astral Weeks" presently feels like it's about making peace—both with yourself and with the past. Morrison opens by singing, "If I ventured in the slipstream." His voice is confident and full and slightly tender. When he sings these words a second time, at the track's 3:36 mark, Morrison sounds noticeably different. His voice is slightly higher; he draws out the syllable "stream," putting emphasis on the long e sound. He is desperate, agitated, a touch world-weary.

The first "If I ventured in the slipstream" feels rehearsed—it conjures images of Morrison standing in front of a mirror, fine-tuning a prepared speech for a bygone love, testing words out loud. The second feels like a release: Fortune has presented him with an opportunity to finally deliver his words to the intended recipient; the emotional weight from carrying them is lightened. An eternity has elapsed since he bid her farewell, yet some essence of their love remains. But this isn't about pursuing a reconciliation or even a reckoning. Morrison's breathy allusions to rebirth ("In another time / in another place") make his intentions clear. He is asking his bygone love this: If given another go-round on this here spinning rock, would they try again?

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