NIGHT and WATER…… are a pair.
Both were inspired by the dream-like, stark-beautiful landscape of Musandam, a rocky enclave of Oman that sits on the northern-most tip of the Arabian peninsula, separated from the rest of the mainland by the United Arab Emirates.
Where WATER…… was set in the day, NIGHT was, as its title suggests, set in the night.
After a day of exploring the fjords, my friends and I were exhausted. We certainly didn’t think we’d return that evening to one of the secluded beaches sheltered within a fjord.
We had returned for a spot of skinny-dipping, and as we all dove into the salty water, hooting with delight, we discovered, much to our surprise, that the water was phosphorescent.
We kicked our legs and flapped our arms, watching the water all around us glow an electric blue, as though someone – a merman or sea spirit — was directing blue swirls of sheer energy up from the liquid depths.
I later found out that the phosphorescence was due to billions of microscopic, bioluminescent plankton, “activated” through motion.
As it was, I thought there must be some magic in the air. Certainly, we were all enraptured by the experience; and this memory was etched in my mind, and continues to be one of the most vivid ever.
Swimming in the cool, blazing-blue water, I indulged in some epic magic realism…
I imagined ourselves marooned on Prospero’s fabled island, in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Certainly the landscape around me – the towering cliffs and the glowing beach and water – could have come straight out of the play.
In the distance lay the wreck of our sunken ship… All around us the sea and its creatures had come alive.
Sea turtles rose from the waters, flapping their fins and causing streaks of blue light through the waves. They came ashore in the dark of the night, heavy with eggs, eager to lay.
Meanwhile, the sand itself started to boil over as thousands of fiddler crabs emerged from their nests to mate, crawling towards the swirling, churning water with a singular sense of purpose.
In this vision of a magical landscape, Ariel himself – Prospero’s airy sprite – appears to sing, his song echoing through the night breeze…
* * *
NIGHT happens to be my favourite song on THE FACTS OF LIFE, because it encapsulates my lifelong pursuit of (and best approaches and approximates) the sublime and the sensual… at least in the music I’ve written.
It delves into electronica and dance, two genres which, to my mind, are best able to transport the listener into the realm of the sublime and the sensual.
There is a hint of Japanese-ness in the lone(ly) shakuhachi. Admittedly, I was also much inspired by Japanese Noh Theatre and its eloquent, stark, sparseness.
Where WATER…… was laden with Melancholy, NIGHT is suffused with Wonder.
Everything is possible, on this stelliferous night – this night strewn with stars – when the lovers make love on a secluded beach bursting with life.
Our protagonist laughs with abandon, unable to decide if this is a dream or reality. All he knows is that he is so rapturously happy, so consummately happy that he can’t speak. The universe itself seems to stand still, even as it is brims with movement.
In the course of the night (and the song), our protagonist and his lover metamorphose, transform into mer-people, slip into the sea-on-blue-fire and dive deeper and deeper into the depths to explore the wonders below.
The song incorporates, as its bridge, “Ariel’s Song,” my most favourite verse from my most favourite play of all time – Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
It is the only instance in the album where I use another’s words. But then, these are the best words in the English lexicon, in my view. And as such, the bridge in NIGHT is, by my own reckoning, not only the highest point of the song, but of the entire album.
Best enjoyed with headphones.
The night is too dark for us to swim in the bay / Out there only sea creatures play. / The stars are too bright for us to lift our eyes above / Down here there is only earth. / The sea is not sea, it is ablaze with blue fire / Turtles climb ashore from this pyre. / By the thousands they come from the dark and the deep / To lay their eggs at our feet.
I don’t know if I am awake… / I laugh and I laugh but I can’t speak… / For wonder.
The night is too dark for us to swim in the bay / Out there only sea spirits play. / The wind is so strong it’ll keep us from prying eyes / As we make love under the skies. / The sand is not sand, it’s a boiling ocean / Fiddler crabs emerge from the bottom. / By the thousands they come, dancing their dance / As we lie chest to chest, hands to hands.
I don’t know if I am awake / Or am I sleeping? Am I dreaming? / I laugh and I laugh but I can’t speak… / For wonder!
[FROM SHAKESPEARE’S THE TEMPEST, Act I Scene II] “Full fathom five thy father lies; / Of his bones are coral made; / Those are pearls that were his eyes: / Nothing of him that doth fade / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange. / Sea nymphs hourly ring his knell / Hark! now I hear them – Ding-dong bell.”
I don’t know if I am awake… / I laugh and I laugh but I can’t speak…
I don’t know if I am awake / Or am I sleeping? Am I dreaming? / I laugh and I laugh but I can’t speak… / For wonder.
© 2010 / 2019 Kennie Ting. All Rights Reserved.