Thursday, 30 May 2013

An example of a silent apostasy : R.E.M.


I haven't seen the video to the song "Losing my religion" by R.E.M. until very recently. I knew the lyrics of this song, but I always thought that it was a song about a “presence” constantly accompanying the singer, although he doesn't define it clearly enough. At some point, I saw in this song an echo of the "silent apostasy" denounced by John-Paul II, but not necessarily a song where the singer was completely detached from this "transcendental presence", but instead, somebody who was trying to keep up with God.

video




Many have remarked the affirmative (not positive!) character of the music, accentuated by the mandolin riff, the melodic shape of the ostinato - re, mi, re, la, la - finishing on the tonic, or the fact that the song doesn't move further away from the A minor boundaries.

Something similar happens with the aesthetics of the video, directed by Tarsem Singh, staging a selection of Caravaggio paintings (Ecce homo, the Incredulity of St Thomas, the Entombment or the not so innocent choice of Saint Sebastian martyrdom) all that, mixed up with Soviet-Tarkovsky aesthetics and with pseudo Hindu deities. There is a very interesting study on this video an the paintings evoked at the Hebrew blog Songandart which explores the connections between plastic arts and music videos. Why did he chose Caravaggio? Maybe because of the catechistic character of his painting. What about the Soviet aesthetics? Perhaps they were thinking of religion being "the opium of people". Concerning the Hindu deities, I imagine they were trying to set up a connection between Hinduism and some kind New Age religion. 

Some time ago musicians from Major scaled had the idea of giving this song a more positive "glow" by digitally altering the original from A minor to A major. I wouldn't say R.E.M. song became "Recovering my religion" but maybe fighting against a hostile environment in order to keep it.

What I suggest is the equivalent of what Major scaled did to this song : to turn the music in a major key; to abandon a conception of religion as a system (whether rigid or not), to be opened to transcendence, to the "otherness", to a personal relationship with the One that has created us.

video

Life is bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no, I've said too much
I set it up

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour
I'm choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool

Oh no, I've said too much
I set it up

Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around

Now I've said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream, try, cry, why, try
That was just a dream, just a dream, just a dream
Dream.



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