Aus dem Geiste der Musik

July 20th, 2015

Another in a series of posts that I wrote over the winter of 2014 and am just getting around to posting or deleting. -Nate


Why transit? A question I must answer before I find the will to finish my thesis. Why Transit! An exclamation at the oblivion of the very question.

But deeper: why transport?

I’ll rule out some trivial replies.

Have I yet ruled out all modern motives? I’ll add two elders.

Let me posit a more confident alternative, this more Freudian, or better, Dionysian: that what arrests me is the corporeal power and speed, transcendent of our form but bequeathed of our minds, the heavy, lunging, muscular dynamism that urges our economy superfluity, that beats a swift rhythm on our liminal moments between here and there.

There is something terrible and ecstatic in our collective machinations, something not really expressed since it’s common evocation in art deco. Many of these works evoke power, grace, and hope; in them, man transcends nature and reaches toward the gods, stretches across the planet, taking what is his with the authority so unlawfully delegated by Prometheus.

Art Deco TransportDominance. The feeling of man transcendent. And there is a rhythm to transit, to certain kinds of transportation.

A rhythm to what has come to be diminished as a ‘lifestyle-of-urbanity’; a taste. Rather: a need.

And may I proffer a strong position? I should suggest that perhaps ‘our’ (post)modern inclination toward ubiquitous synthetic rocking beat is a substitute for, a prosthetic for, this sensitivity to organic, rhythmic affair, to the slower beat of vital communalism.

I rarely listen to contemporary music. I mostly find it contrived, expressive of emotions that I like to think myself to have transcended. I know this much: cars do not have rhythm, and it has been seen necessary to fit them with a stereo for that reason. Neither do planes have rhythm, with their relatively conventional and anonymous quietude. Trains and buses have rhythm, trains more than buses. Trains may even approximate a rock or dance beat with their clacking double beat as two paired wheelsets traverse seam between railties. And if the train itself has rhythm, it’s precession has voice!1

What could be more natural than that?

Show 1 footnote

  1. As anyone living near the CSX yard should well know! God, how I miss falling asleep to those tones.

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