A man is on the treadmill in the gym for the next 25 minutes, so I'm filling in the time with this.
At the Saturday night milonga, the dj played a most extraordinary song:
Goran Bregovic's "Hop Hop Hop." Here is a photo of Goran Bregovic, both because Goran is one of my favourite names and because I think he's cute - not sexy cute, but cute as a button.
Now, I had never heard this piece of music before in my life (nor heard of this person), and it would not be inaccurate to say that it was as if a little explosion went off in my head when it came on. WHAT an awesome song. She played it as a milonga, but as you can hear from the clip, it really isn't a milonga; it's a kind of giant dixieland-jazz-gypsy-folk-music-ersatz-milonga-jamboree (for God's sake, it even has a balalaika in it!), and it's so unexpected in its melange of styles that it made me laugh. But also, listen to that beat (supplied by a tuba, I'm guessing)! What a demand to get up and wiggle your person!
It is a truth that must be universally acknowledged that I, frankly, like to shake my ass. When people find this out about me I always point out to them that I have quite a bit to shake, so it's only fair compensation. Leaving largeness aside, however, it's still true that my favourite songs are those with very musical melodies or bits of melody, songs where the music really pushes you instinctively to react to it. I think here not just of the magical "Temptation," written about with such devotion earlier in this blog, or "Por una Cabeza," loved because of its sobbing violins and dramatically announced chorus, but also Depeche Mode's "Strangelove" (ohmyGod, that's a great song) Arctic Monkeys' "Fluorescent Adolescent," and The Divine Comedy's (also-discussed) "Tonight We Fly," among countless others. Those are songs that seem written specifically to call up a delighted (either fiercely or happily delighted) demand to dance in the body, and to dance in a specific way: in order to dance correctly to "Hop Hop Hop" you have to wiggle either your shoulders or your butt around (by which I mean, in a circle) just a little bit, to capture the the rolling beat lurking underneath; in order to dance correctly to "Strangelove" you have to hold yourself tight and come down harder than you normally would; in order to dance correctly to "Fluorescent Adolescent" you have to hold yourself very loosely and let the foolishness of the music fling you about extravagantly.
The thing is, though, I find that all music is like this: you can hear it telling you to speed up or slow down, to dance happily or unhappily, to stand close or far away (and if to stand close, to stand close as if you were melting into the other person, or simply to stand close so as to create one balanced unit), to contain yourself a little or to let yourself go. That's part of what I meant when I said all those months ago that music tells you secrets.
Which is why I find it so interesting that some people cannot hear the music at all. When the Bregovic song came on I was dancing with someone whose only response to it was, "This is weird; I don't know how to dance to this." Okay, now that I think about it, those remarks suggest that he could hear the music - but only in a kind of rudimentary way. And (God love him; it's not his fault) dancing to it with him was tooth-grindingly irritating, because there was I, wanting to get into the song and wiggle a bit, and there was he, plodding along stolidly, so I had to hold in all my desire with a kind of iron fist of determination (which is what it took). And I did that unkind thing you sometimes do (you know you sometimes do it) where you look over the shoulder of someone who's doing something in a way you don't like, find someone you know, and look at them, thinking, I know I'd be enjoying this way more if I were doing it with you (not that you necessarily would). Which of course meant I wasn't really with him, which of course threw him off even more, which of course made the experience less pleasant.
Just to rip the seal off the confessional altogether, though, I've danced with this guy before, and he genuinely seems unable to feel the music in any way. He can count a beat, but if the beat speeds up or slows down he loses it, or if it's hidden under a lot of colour or melody he can't find it at all. For a long time, too, he couldn't tell when the end of a song was coming; he couldn't feel it coming (I found that fascinating, because it made me think about how one does know). And, interestingly, his dancing reflects this blankness to the music: it's quite strong, rather heavy, without a delicate touch. Now, I doubt I'm a butterfly of delicacy on the tango floor, floating about and picking up every nuance of the tune, but I'd like to think that I've got a feel for the music -- and I certainly do feel it.
So it's curious to me both in life and on the dance floor, this difference, and this inability. How does music sound to you, if it doesn't enter your body and pulse along your veins? Why do you bother with it, if the best of it doesn't make you feel slightly stoned with pleasure, as if you've moved out of your container whilst still being in it? And what's your reaction to it?
I mean, what do you think inside when some songs start to play, if you don't think, "Oh, yes, please: this!"?
If you leave aside words of love and loving compliments, I think my favourite phrase IN THE WORLD is,"Do you want to dance?" I've had it said to me relatively few times, but in widely different venues: at a birthday party, at a wedding, at clubs, at the milongae, and (most delightfully) in someone's room. And without fail it has induced acquiescence and instant happiness - yes, I do want to dance. I do want that music running through me, thank you. So how odd to be someone who doesn't feel that, or even just doesn't care.
All of which relates in some strange way to a thought I had yesterday: there are some people you just want to kiss all the time - not kiss in a romantic way, necessarily, and not kiss on the lips, but just people who are so lovely (or, if the kissing is romantic, so delicious-looking) that you'd like to rest your lips against them as often as possible. And there are some people you just know you never want to kiss; it would be strange and uncomfortable to put your lips on them. Just so, I suppose, there are people who are alive to music, and there are people who can't hear it at all.