Ghost Consciousness

1 02 2011

It lurks without you knowing it is there, until you feel it; in the aisles at the record store, while flipping through channels on the radio, when staying up way past bedtime sampling music online for that sound that you know in your marrow must be out there but haven’t found yet. I call it the ghost consciousness, because you can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s probably different for everyone; we all have different tastes. (Although, there are times I believe when we share the feeling. Like 9/11, where, separate from the tragedy and the horror, a sense of foundation was ripped out from underneath us and a feeling beyond loss took its place, an enigmatic shadow gathering here, dissipating there, only to rush in again, shaking constitutions; an wretched, aching cavity.)

The ghost consciousness is rampant in music (and the arts in general) because of all the artists who seem to take their bow before they reach their fullest potential. Rock and roll has been notorious for this since its inception (Buddy Holly, Richie Valens) and reached a critical mass in the late 60s and early 70s with drugs and alcohol playing a key role. But we shall never forget the classical genius of Mozart, succumbing at an early age, and the spontaneous wizardry of Charlie Parker, who gave his life away to heroin.

In light of more recent times, Kurt Cobain cannot be left out of the discussion. Whether you liked Nirvana or despised them, Kurt’s exit left an undeniable and ever-present hole, and I am not talking about the band that released a record that same week. That Nirvana changed the world is irrefutable; they didn’t just happen to be in the right place at the right time, they WERE the right place at the right time. And as fans scrambled to ease the pain with something as visceral and indicting and bone jarring and beautiful (they never would), a dark misty gloom settled over all of rock and roll. The entire notion of alternative music would forever be haunted by Kurt’s absence and by the decay of the wonder of what delights he would have served our ears.

All the tragedy aside, I do believe we are fortunate to have been left with what gifts these artists did give us. And there are many who will say that there is nothing else: this is what they made, and that’s it. But for fans, it’s not that easy. We love to watch our favorite acts evolve, and thus evolve with them. They enrich our lives, and when they are gone, not only are we robbed of hearing their next masterpiece, there is a part of us that never gets to be realized, a voice that will forever be silent. And that is the ghost that hangs over our heads when we desperately search but never find.