The idea of creating a gesamtkunstwerk, a synthesis of the arts, is not something new. Classical composer Richard Wagner envisioned his operas as a meeting between music, literature and the visual expression of painting; since Wagner, many artists have tried to unite the different artistic languages into a total work of art.
While some artists, like Wagner, find their way into the gesamtkunstwerk through a grand philosophical idea, guitarist Moss Freed developed his concept through a natural, creative process. As he was driving in car, listening to the masters from a recent recording session, all sorts of images and emotions popped up into his head, and then the idea came to him:
"Wouldn't it be a fascinating and exciting exercise to ask authors to write actual stories based on the individual tracks? I was curious to see if there was a difference between my thoughts and feelings when composing and those conjured in the listener."
Freed enlisted six very special listeners, six top authors, who responded to the music by writing poems and stories. The final result, that can be heard, seen and felt on What Do You See When You Close Your Eyes is nothing short of breathtaking. This has to the most beautiful work that has come out yet from Oliver Weindling's progressive UK Babel label. The music comes in a hardback book, printed on glossy, high quality paper and is stunningly illustrated. This is a work which has an immediate tactile quality that supports the merging of words, sounds and images.
The music is just as diverse and deep as the stories. It is carried by shifting melodic patterns of jazz, post-rock and funky grooves, and the complex mood of the music is expressed through the authors' words. If there's one thing that these six works share, it is an emotional ambiguity that comes across in various ways; whether it is the ambiguity of creating your own little world of joy while shutting yourself out from the world in Naomi Alderman's story "The Bubble," entering the room of the church with awe and estrangement in Colum McCann's "Anniversary" or sorting out the riddles of communication in Lawrence Norfolk's "Caravans," these stories all share a belief in artistic language as something that is able to say something that cannot be communicated in everyday language.
Perhaps, this is the greatest revelation in Freed's work: It shows how much visual art, music and literature have in common. It is a way of communicating beyond the restrictions of everyday language, beyond the clear-cut definitions of black and white. All true art is a transgression of its own limitations; the desire to visualize what's not there, to hear what cannot be heard, and to communicate what cannot be said, art is alsoand this is importantthe ambition of transgressing the limitations inherent in generic conventions.
Music longs to become words and images and images want to be music and words and the words themselves are looking for the music of pronunciation and the image they can express in the mind's eye. This is what Freed and his collaborators convey so beautifully in What Do You See When You Close Your Eyes, and this is what makes it an essential release..
Track Listing: Introduction; The Bubble; Anniversary; What Do You See When You Close
Your Eyes; Caravans; Freud and Jung Ride the Tunnel of Love; The Angel;
Postscript: Lose Ourselves.
Personnel: Moss Freed: guitar, backing vocals; Ruth Gollar: bass, backing vocals;
Alice Zawadzki: violin, vocals; Marek Dorcik: drums; Shabaka Hutchings:
bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; Naomi Alderman: words; Colum McCann:
words; James Miller: words; Lawrence Norfolk: words; Joe Dunthorne:
words; Hanan al-Shaykh: words.