by Jennifer Johnson
The Hour of Transition
In any given day, there exists several different hours of transition. Some of these passages are experienced by many of us humans as routine aspects of living in modern society. For example, the hour of waking shifts me from a caffeine-deprived and wondrously perfect dreamy state, to the sputtering confusion of waking--a state of stupor, starvation and preparing myself to tackle the chores of the day. This passage from sleep to alertness is exemplified in my mind by chaos, beating to the likes of Chemlab's "Codeine, Glue, and You," Love and Rockets' "Ball of Confusion," or to the tweaked inebriation of Butthole Surfers' "Hurdy-Gurdy Man."
The mental transitions throughout the hours of grinding through the mundane tasks of work are those where rebellion runs rampant in my mind. These personal wars are initially fought with music such as Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name" ("Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me.") But, as the caffeine courses through my veins and squelches the grumpy edginess of my morning battle fields, my mood eventually transforms to the daily meter of my professional labor as exemplified by Devo's "Working in a Coal Mine." Much later when I am worn down--and after experiencing an "in-house drive-by" or two as per Rage Against the Machine's "Bullet in the Head"--in abject agitation and depression decide I am ready to kiss the job goodbye, at least for the day.
I next transition from the workplace into what I refer to as "my life," where it is best to simply look forward rather than retrospectively. Otherwise, stark realizations creep into my psyche about how conflicted my daily existence is with what really provides meaning in my life--"...this position I've held / it pays my way, but it corrodes my soul" as so aptly crooned by Morrissey in The Smiths' "Frankly, Mister Shankly." In those hours after work, I let loose my mind, relax, eat, be with my partner Steve and friends, and take in the music of whatever satiates my mood, be it W.A. Mozart, Pitschshifter, Tori Amos, The Cure, or Ministry. The evening is my favorite time of day; sleepy and tranquil, it eases my mind and satiates my spirit. The evening is a time where I need to be outside to catch the last rays of the waning day, a time when I breathe in the evening air, and feel very happy and alive.
Although the day is riddled with transitional undulations, I consider most of these daily transitions as rather meaningless and ephemeral occurrences--transient flickers of nothingness that simply exist as a part of the annoying, unfortunately essential, process that society has imposed upon us in order to live comfortably in a materialistic and money-driven world. Personally, aside from evening, I consider these routine daily transitions remarkably meaningless in the grand scale of my life.
However, there are certain late hours of the day and early hours of morning, where my guard is down, and the psychological, emotional and corporal aspects of myself merge into an abruptly powerful and open transitional state--one where raw thoughts, emotions and images shake my body and inundate my brain. This is my hour of creativity; my hour of demons, and angels; my hour of intense loss and mourning; and my hour of revelation and elation. This is an hour of utmost clarity and being.
In this hour I realize my dichotomous existence. In this hour I am the most vulnerable, as well as the most powerful. Coincidentally, and concordant with my biological circadian rhythm that primes me, this hour is the midnight hour. I find this is appropriate as this is the hour of the day of synchrony, where the old day transitions to the new--the hour of both the past and the future. The end of the day can be analogized with death, whereas the new with rejuvenation. This hour is one of severance of the confines of rational thought that impedes my daytime mind toward transcendence.
During the midnight hour, the thoughts in my head simultaneously "Fade Away, and Radiate" (Blondie). At times I feel intense sadness and a fear of death, and the power surrounding it, simultaneously entrenched with a glorious and realization of exuberant life. This experience is especially manifested by Dmitri Shostakovich's "String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110." Shostakovich was an artist who experienced extreme inner pain, where his music was censored in his homeland of Communist Russia, and where he was not allowed to write "formalistic" music--that is, music easily understood by the masses. He wrote "Quartet No. 8" as a powerful treatise "dedicated to victims of fascism and war." The piece emphasizes not only the stark reality of death and diabolic reality of war exemplified in demonic shrieking and laughing violins, but also beautifully offers a miraculous glimmer of hope in humanity--hence, ensnaring the heart of the midnight hour in absolute perfection.
Similarly, during this hour demons can slowly and deeply creep into my spine, as exemplified by Foetus Inc.'s "Diabolus in Musica," based on the tritone, which was banned during medieval times because it was thought to summon Satan. Other times, darkness and light creep into my brain in different ways, and the midnight hour is time to purge those thoughts or to metamorphose them into a powerful essence of life. This feeling is reminiscent of hope, of positive and forward movement as sung by Laurie Anderson in "White Lilly" ("Days go by / endlessly pulling you into the future"). Other powerful emotions that churn in my mind during this hour emphasize the bleakness of human existence. Songs such as The Cure's "Disintegration," Bauhaus' "Hollow Hills," or "Silent Hedges," and Laurie Anderson's "Late Show" could be considered music for such an experience. Although somewhat influenced by my former stark Existentialist outlook on humanity and life, I use these feelings and music that enforces them as a means to experience emotional bleakness. In experiencing such emotional devastation I find that I can overcome it and truly experience the lusciousness of life. In this transition, such lusciousness amongst other things is experienced with music such as Love and Rocket's "Lift," or "Radiant" by Mentallo and the Fixer, or the sickly happy "Just like Heaven" by the Cure, My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, or Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.
However, if I were forced to select a musical piece that singularly captures the essence of the midnight hour, I would choose "Night on Bald Mountain" by Modest Petrovitch Moussorgsky. In its day, 1898, "Night on Bald Mountain" was described as "as hideous a thing as we have ever heard...an orgy of ugliness and abomination." This piece is often described as a menagerie of demons that are out raising hell during the pagan celebration of the spirits: Halloween. Several scenes transpire and whirl throughout--the devil's hell-fire winds scorch the land and dark spirits swirl, the black mass is given full force, and the revelry of witches dancing entice the demons to mischief. The midnight hour is the hour where the ghostly eve of Halloween transitions to All Saints Day, where the spirits disperse and a new day brings Earthly peace.
"String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110" Dmitri Shostakovich