Collapse Board manifesto: The Pervert
by Lewis G. Parker
The reasons I care about music so much are essentially unknown to me.
It would take a good deal of psychoanalysis — one of the few wholly indulgent and self-worshipping hobbies I’m yet to experiment with — to really explain why I’m more interested in Neil Young’s back catalogue than, say, fine wines or buggering nine-year-olds. So I can only offer a few wild guesses, based on my experiences of self-reflection during the times I have taken LSD — a pretty good shrink, if you ask me.
The first reason music is such a winner for me compared with, say, examining bacteria through a microscope, is that I can do lots of other things while listening to music. There are so many things you can do while listening to music, it doesn’t really take up any of your time since you can always be doing other things while experiencing it. In this short life of ours, and in the absence (I calculate) of a higher being, that’s more important than a lot of people would give the medium credit for. Here are just some of the things you can do while listening to music: dancing, eating, walking, sexual activities, making fart noises with a hand cupped under the arm (in time with, or in addition to, the rhythms of the music), riding a bus, fixing a bicycle, attempting suicide.
People who write about music are lying if they tell you that when listening to music they intend to write about, they do nothing else. It’s impossible, because music only occupies one of the senses unless it’s so loud you can feel it. That still leaves at least three other senses you’re using while listening to music, most important of which is sight. Looking at things while listening to music is very pleasant, as is looking at nothing. For me, they are both preferred to doing these things in silence. Here are just some of the things I like to look at while listening to music: countryside, tall buildings, words on a page or screen, medieval churches, small dogs, images of nine-year-olds being buggered.
I like listening to music and looking at images and smelling things because I am not content with my own sense of self. If I was a Buddhist, or if I could achieve a similar non-denominational state of contentment, I could happily sit in silence and feel the breeze of an open window tickle my skin, not feeling the pain of the lotus position or the hunger inflicted by my meagre diet. But I cannot, so I look to others for guidance to help me through.
Sometimes I look for guidance in the work of writers, other times television philosophers who summarise the works of much greater but more-difficult-to-read philosophers, other times musicians. Most of the time though, it’s musicians because they tend to act in a way that’s more consistent with how I live my life. While I dig some philosophers like Foucault, for example, I can’t help but thinking he should have spent more time taking acid and less time worrying about Hegelian dialectics. As with my favourite philosophers, the musicians I like tend to have a similar disregard for things like shopping malls, parking meters and conservative politics. They tend to be similarly confused by the complexity of the universe, yet don’t offer up easy answers. They may not fill me with knowledge about particles and dark matter (unless the musician is Andrew Bird), but they do express universal human emotions that are also esoteric, based on their own experience of the world. When Daniel Johnston sings about the devil world rising, I don’t necessarily see the same demons he does, but I think I know how it feels to feel those demons if they were to appear to me, as they clearly do to him.
Other people will hear Daniel Johnston sing about the devil and not like it because they don’t feel such a kinship with people who are mentally ill and experiencing delusions. That’s cool, they can get their kicks elsewhere — for example, skydiving. But there’s a great scene in the movie Searching For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus where this old guy from the American south explains what the blues is all about. He says the blues is sung and appreciated best by people on the edges of society. He says the kind of people who sing and listen to the blues (including in its many new forms) have a lot in common with criminals and religious fanatics, because they’re living on the fringes, looking for answers outside of the shopping mall and television set. I think that’s a pretty good explanation as to why I like music, although it scares me to think that I have so much in common with someone like Charles Manson or MC Hammer (in his new role as televangelist rather than when he had talking shoes).
It’s this insecurity with my place in the world that leads me to hang on to culture like a bible, because it’s the best articulation of my own feelings that I know of, along with what I write myself. And the primary reason I write about music is that I can’t play music. That’s why 99% of people who write about it do what they do. If they could be fucking Jenna Jameson up the arse, they would be doing it instead of watching someone else do it, which is what those of us who can’t play music are limited to. We have to channel our experiences into the body and soul of another human, since they are expressing our desires. When that other person — whether it’s Bob Dylan or Ron Jeremy — sings or groans, we pretend for one moment that we are them, and if they’re really good performers, we will become them, and feel what they feel, for a few minutes. The only difference is that I can enjoy Bob Dylan’s work while riding the bus.