Tuesday, March 17, 2009

U2's "No Line": 4 motifs-part 4: walk by sound, not by faith

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"The heavenly motions are nothing but a continous song for several voices (perceived by the intellect, not the ear), a music which, through discordant tensions, sincopes an cadenzas as it were (as men employ them in imitation of those natural discords) progresses towards certain pre-designed quasi six-voiced clasuras, and then sets landmarks in the immeasurable flow of time."
-Johannes Kepler, "Harmnice Mundi," 1619

"particles defy time and space..so does music"
-Joseph Ege
"Time is irrelevant, its not linear."
"Let me in the sound, God.."
-U2, "No Line on the Horizon" 2009

The many references to sound on this album have been noticed, here is a great summary from St. Beth:

As has been pointed out already, it seems clear to me that "the sound" is one central metaphor. We have three "let me in the sound" requests, as well as "I found grace inside a/the sound" and "people born of sound," all of which have an essentialist, palpable ring (especially if you want to argue for a vague John 3 echo in the last one.) Along with these, there are more evocations of sound per se as granting some kind of mysterious access to the ultimate: "hear the universe," "roar on the other side of silence," and "the rhythm of my soul... that yearns to be released from control." And don't forget this album's ineffable soundscapes themselves, such as the one that begins "Unknown Caller." Because of all that, I am more inclined to understand "sound" in NLOTH as pointing to mystical communion with God now, rather than as looking forward to songs sung by others in heaven.

While we also get several specific mentions of people themselves vocalizing ("Sing your heart out," "I was born to sing for you," "listen for me, I'll be shouting") it's the sense of sound as sacred essence that intrigues me here, as if Pop's "looking for a sound that's gonna drown out the world" quest has been fulfilled in a sound-baptism by immersion on NLOTH...

Many, including my badself, have connected the dots to Sound Theory/String Theory/God.

"The universe at base," Sweet suggests, "is sound."

"particles defy time and space..so does music"
-Joseph Eger, "Einstein's Violin: A Conductor's Notes on Music, Physics and Social Change,"
p. 39, 214.

This is not just cute Bono-isms, and clever ideas...it is the stuff Nobel Prizes are made of:

"The music of the spheres," is an amazing line from a classic hymn, but also sound physics.
Dazzle yourself with Nobel-Prize winner Frank Wilczek's "Longing for the Harmonies: Themes and Vibrations From Modern Physics. Soundtrack it to U2.


But I want to pick up a line in "Moment of Surrender" that may not be obviously connected to the sound motif.

It's about sight and seeing.
So it must connect synesthesiastically.

How obvious is that.

"We walk by faith, not by sight."

Does that mean we walk by blind faith?
Well, yes.

But robbed of sight, we can call upon an even more fundemantal and "sound" sense:

sound; hearing.

Pure synesthesia to walk by sound.

And watch...I mean, listen, to what Jason Stellman picks up here:

Following Scripture, Reformed theology has always placed great emphasis on the ear over the eye. The gospel is called by Paul "the word of faith," a message that produces belief "by hearing the Word of Christ." The opposite of faith, of course, is not doubt but sight. A person is most faithless, therefore, not when disbelief is mingled with his belief, but when he demands to see, to experience, to feel the truth before he'll believe it. "We walk by faith," says Paul, "and not by sight."

Go ahead and roll your eyes, but I maintain that Bono understands this.

...his theme is prevalent on their new release, No Line on the Horizon, as well. In the song "Moment of Surrender" Bono sings:

At the moment of surrender,
I folded to my knees;
I did not notice the passers-by,
And they did not notice me.

At the moment of surrender,
Of vision over visibility,
I did not notice the passers-by,
And they did not notice me.
True surrender, in other words, can only happen with "visibility" is relinquished.
-Jason Stellman

Bono has discussed the "vision over visibility" line:

"Moment" includes a phrase that's close to sacred for Bono: "vision over visibility". ...Bono: "It's like Martin Luther King's speech - the moment when you see the place, but you can't see yet how to get there."
-Rolling Stone
This is another angle on
"By faith, Abraham left home, completely clueless about where he was going'
. Heb 11.8"

We have "no compass; no map," but "uncertainty can be a guiding light" (As Bono sang in Zooropa). The catch is this holy uncertainty of the faithwalk is caught by pleading with God, the Source of all Sound, to be let into the sound. The Sound of the Spheres, the Sound of Music, the sound we were borne of.

The one who has ears to hear, let them hear.

Or at least read another Pulitzer Prize-winner, Douglas Hofstadter's classic,
"Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid."

At bare minimum, hear a soundbyte from it
and souncheck and soundtrack it to U2.

Tha author finds nothing less than an "eternal braid" or "strange loop" in Bach's music,
which is both linear and nonlinear, as well as suggests that "time is irrelevant":

"Bach wrote in the margin of his 'Canon por Tonos,'
'As the modulation (sound) rises, so may the King's glory.'
To emphasize this canon's potentially infinite aspect, I like to call this 'The Ever-Rising Canon.'
..And perhaps to experience that sense of wonder and awe is more satisfying than having an answer...at least for awhile."
-p.10, 548

1 comment:

Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!