Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Right back to the bards"

You discover them in sleeveless albums, forgotten songs, dusty tomes, dog-eared novels, late-night films. Astral Weeks' genes are scattered all over the cultural genome, in both anticipated and unexpected places, waiting to be uncovered by fervent, obsessed (and helpless?) listeners.

The following text was lifted from the preface (written by Anthony Burgess) to Modern Irish Short Stories, a 1980 anthology edited by Ben Forkner. This first passage helps listeners understand why Van Morrison was so skilled at world-building, how he could deftly construct a factual/fictitious Belfast from the bottom up.
It is the poetical element in the Irish which enables their writers to set up atmospheres in a few words ... Any of these stories you are about to read establishes places, season, historical moment with the minimum of words.
This second passage touches upon the Irish race's acute awareness of verbal tradition—a tradition Morrison carried on through his music.
When a word is used it carries not only its present meaning but a haze of harmonics derived from the long sounding of that word in the literature of the past ... Irish writers try to add to the literature they already know. They are serious craftsmen aware of the devotion to craft of their own predecessors, right back to the bards.
The third and final passage doesn't quite address the album's origins, but I included it anyway since it wonderfully speaks to the Astral Weeks listening experience. At least for me, anyway.
Each time you enter it you will be in the presence of Ireland, the most fantastic country in the world and perhaps the only country that can be regarded as a custodian of unchanging human truth.

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