Insomnia is almost a certain symptom of depression (or maniacal fit). When sadness (or euphoria...) continues for too long, you transmute into a nocturnal flower or animal. You imperceptibly get involved in some kind of a secret life which is a bit scary to the others and to yourself at first, but to which you get adapted very soon - a kind of life, as absorbed in itself as woven from subtle connections to the environment too. You discover that many things, which were important for you before now become absolute nonsense while other things, which you haven't noticed, turn out to be important . First awakes your need for comfort in that new world without shapes and contours; your desire to specify every single detail from the mise-en-scene; and every movement of your body, for fear of running into some obstacle. There is a certain amount of cowardice in such a behavior. Perhaps this is the cowardice of the blind. Or the cowardice of someone who is sick of looking and who has intentionally closed his eyes. Absorbed completely in your inner transformation and in the related to it inconveniences, you tell the others with a smile on your face but not without a certain amount of cruelty "Would you leave me alone, please!"
The world at night - unknown or completely unknowable. A hell or an artificially created paradise? How do you get into it - after holding an Evening Worship Service or a Black Mass? Monteverdi or Duo Matmos? Music for a whole flock or only for your reflection in the mirror? Vespertine, Nosferatu, Lucifer - so many interlaced allusions! There is something eerie in this! You change physically if you don't see the sun for months on end and the only light you see is the dying out firework above the upper floors or the morning salute above the bay.
I got Vespertine at the end of winter over the Internet thanks to a friend who suffered insomnia just like me and it was in a period when all our mutual friends were going through some emotional crises. Maybe the crisis was the reason, which prevented me from browsing all the available resources on Vespertine, but simply let me sink into the music. I needed urgently some kind of a cocoon to hide in, though it was a virtual one. I wanted to run away from the others even if it had to be in the depths of my own claustrophobic inferno. The last thing I was interested in were details such as for example what was the dress that Bjork wore on October, 16 2001 in Chicago’s Civic Opera House. Or for who she moans in Cocoon and whether he feels uncomfortable because of this and whether she cares a shit about that. I didn't want to know who does the sweet Bjork think she is, when she struts under the baroque vaults of Saint Chapel, covered with beads and a swan with broken neck over her shoulder. I also didn't worry if something so intimate as Vespertine needed such a pompous еxtravagance. The truth was that Vespertine turned to be something personal for me. And for many people too. At one and the same time.
through the warmthest cord of care
The mysterious beginning of 'Hidden Place' with the chirping Matmos-beats and the cherub's choir in the distance gets you straight into this paradise of night life, which unites all of us, as we are sitting in our bedrooms, illuminated by the luminophor, wrapped up in blankets, with a cup of coffee on the lap. Yes, we are starting the "day" with adding a new entry into our weblog (or peeking into someone else's), with an e-mail check, and ICQ-ing. The Darkness closes its circle around us just to open us to the others:
X has posted "you've been flirting again" (2) under a photo of blood-stained razor blades... (X is a homosexual). Someone (may be me) has replied to him: "I am a boy in a girlish body, but I love men and I can't and I can't and I c..."
Y writes: "This aggression is utterly unexpected!" (Y studies psychology). Z replies: "You should expect the unexpected".
U who has just broken up with his great love enters an Arabian chat-channel to type there in native Cyrillic: MUM. PEACE. I LOVE SADDAM.
He loves her but should he ask her for permission to do this?
She loves him but does it concern him?
if you leave it alone
anyway it’s not up to you
In the middle of the night romantic dramas acquire supernatural beauty. Trivial melodies, too. 'Pagan Poetry' with its dramatic staccato leaves me with the impression of popular music and hissing and jumping over beats cheap vinyl. And all this - to end up quite unexpectedly with unaccompanied monotonous chanting with rhythm close to speech, but not a ceremonial one - rather mad with passion: "I love him I love him I love him..." And a choir that replies: "She loves him she loves him...". Perhaps it is bad that I blaspheme like this: What has Bjork's Vespertine to do with Vespers? Bjork herself claims that only the possibility of singing without a microphone made her choose Saint Chapel as a point of her promotional tour and not some sudden fit of religiousness.* Indeed it's worth the effort of singing in front of an audience of 500 people as if you are at home in your bathroom while trying not to look at the razor blades on the shell. And also it is true that catholic mass came from pagan music. As well as it is true that electric sound (especially that of Matmos) is far more mystical than any other and that it can sound at times just like the fluttering of bats under Gothic vaults. It is also true that after 'Pagan Poetry' the tiny music box of Frosty literally freezes you and this impression is not only mine. Followed by the crisping snow and the steaming breath of 'Aurora' it sounds almost painfully. When you have hurt somebody you want to take his hands in yours after that and warm him with your breath. Only to knock him out in a minute with the perversion ‘An Echo A Stain’...
love you till then
The Gregorian singing rely on the echo-effect in the worship spaces. The Ambrosian, Galician and Old-roman singing - too. And [God, forgive me!] this effect is well known to the creatures of the darkness and to the primitive humans who dwelled in caves during the Paleolithic Age. In darkness the sounds become visible and the echo is the only thing which allows you to find your way, to go round obstacles, to chase your victim carelessly and mercilessly at the same time. You go down deeper and deeper to subzero temperatures and overpressures where a single "ah!" falls from your mouth in the shape of a crystal even before it can be heard.
The absence of one thing makes the other things look strangely. It is a bit scary when we are speaking of absence of light. The only thing you may rely on in such cases is the echo of your own voice, (or your pulse, or your breathing). In a cave, cathedral or in your own bathroom - does it matter? Paganism, baroque or cyber-baroque - who cares! The solitude, that you've been striving for almost instinctively after you've listened to Vespertine and which you continue to strive for deliberately long after that, becomes your natural state.
It is three in the morning now. It's time for me to fill the bath-tub. He must have already written: "If you were as cool as me, you'd:
My answer would be:
"If you are so cool as I am, you must have a bath in the darkness with your old rubber duckling in the water, while outside the town is waking up and the people go to work...
In the dark the pupils open wide, in a state of coma they remain open. When loneliness continues for too long the body, as I said, changes. Open up your eyes and look around, someone would say. Turn on the light or at least take off your sunglasses by night. Look and there would be no need to change? And how exactly you want to change - to go crazy or to go blind?
I'm ready to wound myself but not going back.
Sitting at her home in London, Bjork speaks of her new and quite contradictory state like of a kind of a beautiful seclusion, something between "me and myself".
Sitting at our homes, provoked into seeking our own limits we know - it can be quite dangerous.
* all refferences below are from a David Toop interview with Bjork in London, 2002: <http://unit.bjork.com/specials/vespertine/pictures/vespbio>
© Raina Markova, 2003