I was practically raised on John Denver's music. I can remember hour-long drives to my grandparents farm in the Magaliesberg with a stretched, worn tape of his tunes playing on the crackly speakers of the old radio in what is now my car. The sheepskin seat covers released a cloying, musky odor in the heat, adn marshmallow pink-and-white cosmos, bobbing en-masse along the side of the road blended into a blur of hazy colour as the car whipped by.
I never liked his music as a child, and disliked it more when, as a self-conscious, confused pre-teen facing issues of a more adult nature than I should have had to at that age, a want-to-be beau who pursued me relentlessly and exhaustingly declared Annie's Song 'our song'. Nonetheless, my oppinion shifted somewhat when I encountered some of his later music, memorably, in a London underground on my first trip to the city. The work of a skilled musician shines, by moments, through the melancholy, and there is a real beauty to some of it.
Today, however, I was reminded yet again of what bothered me about him as a child. I have two lines of a song, the name of which I can't recall, circling through my brain, and the lyrics and monotonous melody are making me miserable. Its not that I don't appreciate the therapeutic value of creative expressions of mysery - there is a healing power in the arts that carries much of their value - but rather than being cathartic, this particluar piece acts masochistically, removing the band-aid of functionality that keeps me moving and exposing the raw flesh of insufficiently healed wounds. I am wallowing, struggling and unnecessarily fragile. Somehow, this feels like a missed opportunity: music being used for a purpose other than that which gives it value, and I resent what I perceive as its misuse.
Carol Drinkwater, in The Olive Harvest writes "There is an eastern philosophy, Chinese Buddhism, I think, that speculates upon the engagement of responsibility. When a butterfly flutters its wing in China, they say, the impact resounds around the universe.
I have always been very taken by such a possibility and have most easily been able to comprehend it, relate to it, through the complexity of music. Of course, I have never seen it precisely as an isolated act, not as in one card that sends a pack of cards tumbling or one independent note or chord. No, rather more as woven or accumulated consequence. A wing lifts or a note is emitted, then comes a run of sounds, of movements, of notes; others are brought into play, from a variety of agents or instruments. many resonate at once and, before we know it, we are listening to a symphony. One single wing flutters and its consequences release symphonies or, equally, a cacophony of cachinnating, barbaric sounds. the music of the universe: mellifluous, elegant, lyrical, or grating, off-key and discourdant" (Drinkwater, Carol. 2004 The Olive Harvest. Orion books, London. pg. 341)