5 December 2005
I bought a song off of iTunes yesterday, and in the first twenty-six hours that I've owned it, I’ve played it thirty-nine times. I don’t think that I’ll ever get tired of it.
How’d I find out about the song? I read a blog post about a commercial for a Bravia, a new Sony flat screen television, and that post mentioned how beautiful the commercial was. I watch the video, and it really is amazing; if it weren’t a commercial, it’d be a touching little music video, maybe even a work of art. And, as good as the visual aspects of the video are, the song is even better. Heartbreaking and delicate and pretty, but mostly heartbreaking. Just a guy and an acoustic guitar, and it’s heartbreaking.
So the song’s completely kicked my ass and I want to find out more about the song and its singer. On the website, there’s a link to a short interview with the singer, Jose Gonzalez. In the interview, he immediately states that his version is a cover of the original, which was written and recorded by The Knife for their album, Deep Cuts.
I figure that the original is also going to be great, so I decide to get them both from iTunes, but, after easily finding and then placing the Gonzalez version in my shopping cart, I can’t find The Knife’s version. I download the Gonzalez and start listening to it immediately, and then use alternative sources to find a copy of the original. Using these alternative sources, in a few minutes I find and download the original.
How to say this delicately? The Knife version wasn’t very good. It’s all synthy in that kind of obvious and tired way that a lot of songs are nowadays, and the lead singer, the female half of a Swedish sister and brother duo, doesn’t have a very strong voice. It’s a complete disappointment, and, honestly, I don’t see how Gonzalez found that there was a great song buried in the original.
I was reminded of a day that I spent in a marina at Moss Landing in March or April of 1995. I studied photography for a long time while I was in Fresno. By the time that I completed my first grad degree, I had taken more photography courses than poetry workshops, and the best part of my photography courses was the field studies. Each semester, we’d caravan out to a different location for four or five days and spend the daylight hours exposing film.
But back to Moss Landing. It was pouring rain and we were getting soaked and most of us kept our cameras inside of freezer bags, with only the front of the lens poking out. Toward the back of the marina, there was a section full of abandoned boats in various states of disrepair, and when, from a distance, I first saw that section I thought that I’d get some great compositions onto film. I was working with two cameras, one loaded with color film and the other with B&W, so I thought that I’d be working that area for a while.
I get out to the abandoned boats and try to set up a few shots, but I’m just not seeing very many possibilities for good compositions. I struggle for a while, but I end up thinking to myself that there’s nothing there. I did get one decent shot of the front half of a boat. The paint on the boat was chipped, there was a winch with a rusty chain wrapped around it, and the sky in the background was dark and cloudy. But that was all that I got.
We get back to Fresno, and then all of us are printing like mad. There are eight enlargers in the darkroom, and we all have our regular weekly two-hour blocks, but we’re in there every spare minute that we can get (I, personally, was spending twenty hours a week in there; I must have been the lightest Mexican ever.) and then bringing mounted final prints to class so that we can talk about them.
One of my classmates (it may have been Poppy or Woody or April [who was really good], but it’s been over a decade since I sat in that classroom, and I can't be sure exactly who it was anymore) starts bringing in lovely composition after lovely composition from the section of the marina that I thought didn’t contain too many good compositions. Where I had seen only disorder and wasted hours and wasted film, one of my classmates had, again and again, found beauty.
That’s what, in my mind, Gonzalez has done with his cover of The Knife’s Heartbeats. He’s found the heart of the song, it’s most essential and potentially beautiful aspects, and he’s used his craft and his art and his love of music to make a song that I’ve now played sixty-three times in twenty-eight hours.