Sad Sad Movie: A Reflection on the Music of Kevin Moore

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Melancholy (NOUN) — A feeling of pensive sadness, typically with no obvious cause:
‘an air of melancholy surrounded him’
‘he had an ability to convey a sense of deep melancholy and yearning through much of his work’
‘at the centre of his music lies a profound melancholy and nostalgia’ (Oxford)

Certain words mean more than others. They affect us in ways that we can’t always express in verbal reciprocation. Beauty and filth, woven in tapestries that are combinations of letters on a page, conjure in our minds both what the author intended and what the author could never have foreseen. We are individuals, with a vast plethora of individual experience, emotion, understanding, beliefs, and memory, and our response to a piece of art will be deeply individual. And yet our individuality manifests itself in community, for in our personal response we desire the understanding of others, and share our thoughts and impressions with them.

“What is the Absolute? Something that appears to us in fleeting experiences–say, through the gentle smile of a beautiful woman, or even through the warm caring smile of a person who may otherwise seem ugly and rude. In such miraculous but extremely fragile moments, another dimension transpires through our reality. As such, the Absolute is easily corroded; it slips all too easily through our fingers and must be handled as carefully as a butterfly.”  — Slavoj Žižek

Humanity’s relationship with art has been fraught with argument and conflict, as is much of our interaction. Art is a mode of communication, sometimes verbal, and sometimes not. Yet our understanding thereof is not diminished by the presence or absence of words; it is simply different. We express our experience of art in community through words, or through a reactionary piece of art, but the art itself is the most truly experienced and understood in the individual. A verbal description does not suffice to capture the beauty of the Sagrada Familia, nor do pictures replicate a physical participation.

“What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music . . . And people flock around the poet and say: ‘Sing again soon’ – that is, ‘May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful.’” — Søren Kierkegaard

Music exists in dichotomy; it is strongly personal yet deeply collective. We care so much about how a particular combination of notes affects us that we actively attempt to convince others that they ought to feel the same. Some music can move a room of individuals to dance with no reserve; some music is best understood by oneself, brought to tears by a haunting, inexplicable beauty. It is a language in and of itself, and it speaks to us in a way no other form of art can.

“Shadows of shadows passing. It is now 1831, and as always I am absorbed with a delicate thought. It is how poetry has indefinite sensations, to which end music is an essential. Since the comprehension of sweet sound is our most indefinite conception, music, when combined with a pleasurable idea, is poetry. Music without the idea is simply music. Without music or an intriguing idea, colour becomes pallor, man becomes carcass, home becomes catacomb, and the dead are but for a moment motionless.” — Edgar Allan Poe

I desire music to affect me. I want to be moved in my active participation with music, and to come out of my engagement altered. Whether that reality manifests itself in an excitement, a contentment, or a deep sense of sadness I care not; I simply care that it does something to me. However, I often find myself gravitating towards the melancholy, towards a deliberate immersion in an ineffable depression. This tendency is inexplicable even to myself, but I am drawn to unhappiness in art by an irresistible force of will. Perhaps it reminds me that I am small. It may connect me, for a moment, to the realization of my own mortality. It is clear that I am unable to articulate what it is that connects me so deeply with sorrow, but it is equally as clear that I am deeply connected.

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.” — Victor Hugo

To this end, the work of Kevin Moore has satisfied this odd desire. Immersed in his music, I feel a calm despondency, as though I recognized the existence of sadness and would embrace it but for the numbness of my senses. Moore’s compositions envelope the listener in a calm state of melancholic heartbreak, inviting them into a world where depression and apathetic existentialism walk hand in hand through a perpetual twilight hue. Throaty and emotive, Moore’s voice softly sings of loves lost, buried in the past but not forgotten — never forgotten. Shifting moods and dynamics pull welcoming ears across the calm waves of music, as intimate as a puddle and as vast and empty as the ocean. In his music is a contented detachment, a relaxed understanding of the incongruity of life with no desire for its change, a simple acceptance of melancholy as a part of that existence.

“Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain.” — G.K. Chesterton

There is great joy to be had in the world, and great sadness. To try and exist in a happy medium I do not believe is the answer to this; rather, we need a deeper love and a deeper hate. “We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre’s castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return to at evening.” (Chesterton) But knowing this, I think allowing oneself to slip into states of periodic disengagement reveals a certain perspective on life and existence, one that is impossible to articulate, but is an experience that can be shared by all.

 

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