In high school, I started and maintained a playlist called “Music to Slit Your Wrists To.” I wasn’t considering suicide, or even begging for attention (actually, the name came from a throwaway line from Uptown Girls), I just felt like it was the best way to describe the way that I heard the music. There wasn’t any rhyme, reason, or style associated with these choices. They ranged from the sacred, Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze” from BWV 208 (The “Hunting” Cantata, to the profane, Geto Boy’s “Damn, it Feels Good to be a Gangsta;” from the intense, Xiu Xiu’s “I Luv the Valley OH!” to the chill, Weekend Player’s “Jericho.” The only commonality between these songs were the emotional and physiological arousal they caused in me, and the fact that it was plausible that these songs could be the last thing played before somebody killed themselves.
This is a not-so-very-good clip of Music for 18 Musicians. The section I am talking about below starts at about 1:22.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that arousal. It’s been coming back with my recent obsession with Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. Although I love the whole work, sections I and VI have a repeating figure in the strings that almost make me catatonic. To me, it feels like an arrival into a state of being or place. It’s different from the adrenaline rush I get when I perform, or when I hear live music or high energy pump up music. I think that this is why most of the songs on my playlist have fairly moderate tempi and dynamic range. It’s not a head rush. It’s more like sinking into a place that’s both vast and weirdly sacred. This isn’t making a whole lot of sense because I’m describing a subjective experience, but these are the words that are coming to mind.
I know this video has been up here before, but I shit you not, this song makes me question my own existence.
Music to Slit Your Wrists To