Saturday, September 11, 2004

Discreet Music

There aren’t many ambient sounds more evocative of a highly particular kind of nostalgia for me then that of children playing. It excites a distinct set of associations to place. My parents, for example, have lived for over 30 years in a house that sits roughly 100 yards from an elementary school playground (separated by a thin layer of woods, itself an influential part of my early landscape) and the ambient wash of children playing on its gravel playground is intimately intertwined with my ideas of home. Along with my siblings, I also attended this school.

On John Cale’s new one, HoboSapiens, he drops some whimsy into the final track, Set Me Free. It’s just for a moment, about two thirds of the way into the song- a nice instrumental stretch where Cale’s pining cello and a complimentarily winsome guitar seem to drop by the corner of a school playground. My own particular reaction to this often-used contrivance (and in Cale’s song, it’s both discreet and sensitive rather then some gooey sentimentalized good) taps into something substantially rooted in my own experience and oh,man- how it endures and resonates!

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