Saturday, April 08, 2006

soothing the savage beast

This post began with a question framed by infinitesimal: What is your theme song?

I responded that my theme song, if I had one, would change daily. Music, you see, depends upon my mood from minute to minute. So on the way home from work today, I reached into my cd case, went through all the cd's a couple of times, and decided to revisit a group I haven't listened to for quite some time -- the Cranberries. I turned up the volume and allowed the music to wash over me, seep into me...make me feel. Yes, music makes many people feel -- happy, sad, angry. But music goes far beyond mere feeling for me.

I was a young adult the first time I heard the phrase 'music soothes the savage beast.' And immediately, that had a meaning for me that it likely doesn't have for everyone. Because I recognized, even as a child, that there was something about me, something that not many would understand. I couldn't have put it into words then, and may not still explain it in a way that is understandable. But when I heard that phrase, I knew -- I knew that it meant something. Because, you see, I knew that I had one of those savage beasts inside me. It mostly sleeps, dormant, but occasionally wakes and makes itself known. Those are the times when I feel the sadness, so deep down inside that it doesn't seem quite real. When it wakes even more, I feel the sadness well up and escape. It was awake today -- mildly so -- hence the choice of the Cranberries.

I think it's entirely possible that everyone has a savage beast of their own, but it never awakens in most. In some, it wakes seldom, and when it does wake, it is not for long. In others, it is awake more than it is asleep. People often call us 'tortured souls,' but I've never thought that an adequate description. Why does the savage beast awaken? I don't know. It could be a lived experience, a biological reaction, or a memory. In me, when it awakens, there is something that speaks to it, calms it, and sends it back to sleep -- music. Not all music, though. No, there are certain kinds of music that speak to my beast. Sara McLachlan speaks to it, and early Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan. The Cranberries. Clannad. Celtic music. Soundtracks from movies like Legends of the Fall. The Pas de Deux from the Nutcracker. A couple of songs from the Phantom of the Opera. Loreena McKennit. And of course, Billie Holiday. My god, how Billie speaks to my beast. There are others as well, that quiet my beast.

For some, it is written words that speak to their beast, quiet their beast. Stories, or poetry. Poetry doesn't speak much to my beast. My beast is logical and concrete, while poetry tends toward the abstract. Poetry is wasted on my beast. Ahhh, but music. Sweet, sweet music. My beast lies softly, gently, quietly, when the music is right.

There was once one exception to poetry. In a college course on literature, we were reading Dylan Thomas. His words alone didn't speak to my beast deeply, but in a more surface way. But one day, the professor pulled out a record (yes, an actual record album) and put it on one of those older record players that used to be used in schools. And I heard a voice speak to me, a deep voice, a voice full of his beast. I don't often hear someone's beast in their voice, but think about it -- this was Dylan Thomas, one of the troubled souls. Did his savage beast ever sleep? At that moment, his beast's voice and words spoke so deeply to my own dear, sweet savage beast that I was held spellbound, breathless, entranced. My god, how my beast slept after that!

So when my savage beast awakens, I soothe its soul with the sweetest sounds. Music to my ears. And my savage beast sleeps again. My beast awakens more now than it did years ago. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it is because I have moved away from music in my daily life, relying on the telly for company. Perhaps it is time to get back to the music that keeps the beast silent inside.



infinitesimal said...

This is an interesting little site. It has no bearing on this post, but check it out. Gmail will reccommend sites based on words in your emails (creepy but interesting)

So I went here and found it to be something I thought you might like.

I thought you might enjoy the psychological aspect of it. Maybe not, but I thought I would offer it up for your inspection.

Hey, do a search for "Supreme Greens" they are a salad in a capsule... all natural. I am referring to your recent post about going up a size. We are the same size now. I joined Curves it is weird, but it really really works.

The first time I took the Supreme Grens, I lost about seven pounds real quickly.. It make you want to drink a lot of water, it flushes out the system.
I love 'em!! helps with heartburn too.

Anyways I was thinking about you last night.
About the
who had to

He seemed like a pussy to me anyway.
But I had to say it. You're my girl don't want nobody hurting your feelings, specially not some dried up crusty ol' pussy like him.

He probably picks his nose and eats it, or smells his own farts or something equally gross.

AND I bet he still reads you too, secretly wishing he had nuts enough to tell you that he ran from his own feelings and that you did nothing wrong.

Picking, eating, farting, and reading your blog in the dark....

I do not know the story at all so I will stop.

Just wanted to stop in and chat.
Have a bright cheery day Wonder Woman.

When do I get to read your dissertation?

Cala Lily said...

I guess I qualify as a "tortured soul." Not a group I aspired to join. I didn't mean to sign up. But I have the beast. Or perhaps the beast has me.

It rises in me more often than not, and like you, I often soothe it with music. Different music for different manifestations of the beast. Often Billie Holiday, which I think is how we found each other in the first place. Billie's beast was incredibly articulate. That was her gift and also her curse. Funny how often it works that way.

I often don't think much of human beings as a species. We're wreckless and selfish and greedy. We're petty and small minded and mean. But we have one spiritually redeeming quality: we make music.

And if there are gods, or if there is a God, I suspect that music is the only reason they that haven't ended us as an experiment in biology.

I'm thinking of you in this time of sadness. Holding you in the arms of my mind. Whispering that it's going to be okay.

And lately, in my own dark night of the soul, I've been clinging to a song by Patti Griffin called "You Are Not Alone." And I know that I'm not. And neither are you Spring. You are not alone.

velvet acid tongue said...

savage beast. yes ... i have one of those. i think my theme song today would have to be some heavy metal, angry song ... you know something by a group called 'rage against the machine' ... like 'wake up' ...

the world appears to be sleeping most of the time. it's sickening. i'm glad to hear someone else has a savage beast.

i had to change my blog and my handle ... thanks to ... well, lets not go there.

hi, anyway

Cassandra said...

Beautiful post, and one I do deeply identify with. Since my divorce began, after years of fighting in family court, I could't listen to music I love. I ended up listening to the Red Army Chorus--songs of the Great Patriotic War (WWII). I still listen to them. It's an endless reminder that I will never give up and will not let aggression beat me down. Symbolic? Yes! Deeply personal, too.

Yet, I would make peace in a heartbeat if I could. I think that means a lot to my daughter. It means a lot to me.

So, I do identify with what you have said, and I understand it. It is so true.

May everything work out for you!

Spring said...

infinitesimal, you are too damned funny! I'll check out the greens. I can't typically take diet aids because most specifically say not to if you have thyroid disease (which I do). And the rest all have caffeine, which makes me quite ill. Sux, but there it is. I'll check out the site. And, I emailed you.

lily, no, none of us asks for a savage beast, nor truly wants ours to wake up. And I think those whose beast never sleeps, like billie and dylan...yeah, it's a curse and a blessing. At least mine sleeps as much as its awake. And you right, none of us is really alone...good to remember.

Hey there miss velvet acid tongue! I like that name. Glad you stopped in and let me know you were still alive and kicking! When I was younger, my beast preferred what was called 'hard rock.' That was before the term heavy metal had been coined. Now, it likes the music deep, slow and soulful.

cassandra, thanks so much for your comments, and for sharing your story!