I just picked up the Collectors Edition of the classic Joy Division album Unknown Pleasures, which has been brilliantly remastered. I am reminded again of the transcendent power of bold and dynamic music. I first heard the album (on vinyl!) when I was about 15, and I was immediately drawn into a new universe. In many ways this is what great art or music does, it gives you a key to a magical place that opens your eyes to new possibilities.
I patiently waited all day for my household to become still and quiet (not an easy feat), and in the solitude of the night I put on my headphones and allowed myself to be taken away once again, brought back to that same place I visited so many years ago. I rediscovered an old friend, something that is both sacred and familiar.
In many ways, in our busy and "grown up" lives music is often relegated to background noise, something to hum along to while we do the dishes or as we run errands in our car. I make it a point now and then to give my music the time and space that it deserves, so a few nights a week I will sit back and actively listen whenever possible. To me this is a subversive act and I would highly recommend it.
I close my eyes and see bold new landscapes while I listen. I allow my mind to wander freely and I think about the people and places I associate with the music. In the case of this album I think about what it felt like to be first hit with this stark and visceral music that inspired me profoundly.
It is a haunting album and it takes me on a rare trip to that interior world where illusion is laid bare, and our essential solitude and inability to truly understand another person is exposed. This is expressed beautifully in the closing track I Remember Nothing;
Get weak all the time, may just pass the time,
Me in my own world, and you there beside,
The gaps are enormous, we stare from each side,
We were strangers for way too long.
To me this is actually quite life affirming, as to go to this place is to understand that our need for connection is vital and the absence thereof is devastating. Striving for this no matter how illusive true connection or understanding may be is an essential part of what it means to be human. This striving makes us truly alive.
This final song fades out gradually and towards the end there are slight dissonant noises, pipes clanging, perhaps glass breaking in the background. Thankfully, the inner fold of the CD case has the same black and white photo of a door that was on the original album sleeve. It is slightly ajar, offering a glimpse into something that is rare and magical. I am glad it is still there. I intend to enter in more frequently.