the more i listen to a crow looked at me, the less clear it becomes why, at first, we put so much stock into its classification. “not music”, some said – as though “music” were anything more than sound arranged into discernible structure; or, more to the extreme, any aural form earnestly deemed as such by artist or listener. of course, by that logic, claiming such an album to be anything other than music – or, perhaps, beyond music – makes it so. but, in my humble opinion (and its important to note here i don’t mean to be prescriptive in my assertions), one must seek to reject such frivolous claims: or, at the very least, know them to be controversial in subject. for, at its core, there’s little discernible musically in a crow looked at me that separates it so drastically from the rest of elverum’s stripped-down folk-fare.
then again, perhaps that’s dishonest. to avoid the importance of subject in its intermingling with form is reductive at best, and ruinous at worst. and on a crow looked at me, the two (that is, subject and form) step toes in the most beautiful, most uncomfortable of ways. elverum’s use of his wife’s instruments to arrange the album is one such example; the constant sampling of something resembling his wife’s ventilator is another. yet – and i say this with caution – subject (and perhaps, to a much lesser extent, form) shouldn’t have so much power so as to transform, or mutate, music into something other than what it is – that is, music.
“now this – this is music”, i've heard said, perhaps even uttered myself. when used in this sense, by “music” we often mean “good music” – and by “good music”, we often mean “music that is transformative and thus transcendant” – and by “transformative”, we often mean “music that has moved us to such great lengths”, as is sometimes the power of effective and affecting art. and finally, by “transcendant”, we often mean something more. something more than, and therefore beyond what it appears to be. and yet, nothing about the form of the music itself has changed. what is “art”, then – what is “poetry” or, indeed, what is “music” – is something reflective, as opposed objective: it is subject intermingling with form to bring about, or stir within us, emotional (spiritual, intellectual, ____) resonance. and yet, while this anti-label (“not music”) rings true on a subjective level – one emotional and misguided – questioning form as a result of its subject seems to me counter-intuitive. because by “not music”, we perhaps don’t mean “bad music”, but music so transcendant so as strip itself of all discernible musical features and take on a form entirely of its own.
i only wish this could be true.
and in this, i've taken a facetious claim at face-value – to my own discredit. but i think it’s worth discussing: and no, not for its “““philosophical””” merit (indeed, ***’s lame), but for its implications and their relevance to the album at hand. snox’s review was valuable for this reason; johnny’s for the converse. and i think the power of a crow looked at me finds itself – as perhaps most good art does – rooted in this (false) dichotomy. in its dance, the album’s subject matter is maybe more inextricable from its existence than most. maybe that’s because it finds itself dealing with themes that elverum’s follow-up now only accepts as universal; or maybe it’s because the album seeks to be (or more likely just is) as pure as it possibly can be. i don’t know, but i like the latter: barring markers that ground it within the realm of the discernible – the musical – (there are some things we don’t seem to be able to escape) – a crow looked at me takes a largely journalistic form, seeking to address geneviève, though perhaps falling more heavily on phil. and in doing so, the listener is made secondary to the artist as audience. i don’t think this is often the case. only in elverum’s decision to release this music do we become important in its process, and maybe that’s why it feels wrong: because, moreso than most albums, it isn’t (or wasn’t) for us.
is this why smile from the streets you hold was panned" how about speeding bullet 2 heaven" maybe so. which isn’t to say those were better albums, but i'm glad a crow looked at me’s been recognised for its merits in this way.
because it really is something special: the way in which it deals with its themes is perhaps the most thoughtful undertaking ive ever heard put to tape, and i mean that. perhaps its dangerous to expect any less a distance between the creation of art and its consumption, lest we become so voyeuristic we threaten an individual’s privacy. but packaged as it is, in the way that it is, a crow looked at me is a marvel in storytelling, and music-writing – if we can even call it that.