By The Landlord
“Love recognises no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou
“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” Isaac Newton
“We are going to build a wall …” Donald Trump
Do walls have ears? Can your ears find walls? In his brilliant study of our evolution, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari points out that so much about modern life is perpetuated by myth – fabrications of the mind that enable the co-operation, but also management of large numbers of people, and for certain people to hold on that power. “Most sociopolitical hierarchies lack a logical or biological basis – they are nothing but the perpetuation of chance events supported by myths,” he says. He explains that this ability to perpetuate myths came less through the agricultural or industrial revolutions, but a much more significant one - the cognitive evolution. With that, he says, “Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the one hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became ever more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google.”
And so, when it comes down to it, a limited company, a larger corporation, an economy, a state and a monetary system, all depend on an agreed form suspended disbelief. Yet stepping away from this indisputable, if existential fact, of course walls, fences, national borders, frontiers and other forms of barrier aren’t solely in our imagination, and do exist in physical form, but their significance depends entirely on the psychological block they impose. National borders often have no natural barriers, only manmade ones, and even if they do, as with a United Kingdom surrounded by sea, anyone who travels a bit beyond it or from elsewhere soon discovers there is fundamentally little or no difference in the people that inhabit that island than the differences and shared qualities of other nations.
So it boils down to this. Between Donald Trump “promising” to build a Mexican wall, or a crowd of people in a stadium doing a Mexican wave, which is preferable? And on this momentous day of the EU referendum, gambled upon by a UK Conservative party worried about losing votes to a xenophobic little Englander and squabble over power between privileged ex-members of the Oxford University Bullingdon Club, let us look at the facts and think beyond the extraordinary level of hatred, poverty of political debate that’s been going on. And that such vitriolic debate was potentially the cause of an MP being killed last week for her liberal pro-EU views. This really is serious. But ironically, for me, one of the few moments of public sagacity actually came recently from a man less known for saying anything interesting other than with his feet. “We’re better of facing the world’s problems together,” said David Beckham. My position is unambiguous, but whatever people vote, that’s a good goal, I reckon.
But now let’s get on with the songs. Whether in title, lyrics, or context, your songs might cross any kind of border, national or otherwise. They might breach many kinds of walls, from the garden fence of a neighbour to the great one of China, or Berlin and all that that has meant to so many people:
So your song suggestions might deal with barriers and borders in a serious political way, or break down the subject in a bold, humorous style, as the graffiti great Banksy has done in Palestine, as shown above. Or your walls might be in the mystical imagination, songs about fantastical walls, such as the one built to keep out the walking dead in Game of Thrones. This piece of 3D graffiti creating an image of it on London street still amazes me
Prison walls are a highly potent subject in song. Prison walls can break you down, or take you to a difference place. But on a lighter note, to join this in the context of one of my favourite films, and in a song, let’s enjoy a scene from Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law, featuring Tom Waits, Roberto Benigni and sax player John Lurie.
"I scream, you scream ... " Perhaps that’s also song that could have fitted last week’s scream topic. Certainly walls of a prison can send you a bit crazy, so what type of ice cream were they screaming for? Wall's’? (Ed: note to self … pun section).
Equally potent are the bedroom walls of the teenage imagination, trapped in adolescence, sexual yearning, ambition, frustration, seeking relief in the dreamy walls of pop star posters.
This topic is largely about physical barriers, borders and thresholds, but if you discover something about imagined ones, this may be considered if this week’s guru allows. Psychological barriers and enclosures don’t necessarily have to be negative. Author Neil Gaiman likes creative limitations to help focus his work: “It's a wonderful thing, as a writer, to be given parameters and walls and barriers.” And equally Nick Cave said in his illuminating film 20,000 Days On Earth, that he finds writing far easier when given a subject to write about. So sometimes walls can indeed help your ears:
Who is this week’s border control officer, wall watcher and sound judgement barrier breaker? I am delighted to say we have yet another bar guest making their Song Bar guru debut – the highly ear-pleasing and a very paragon of superb song nominators: ParaMhor. Put your songs in comments below, and ParaMhor will, after a period of unavoidable fence-sitting, of course, will then choose which songs can cross to the playlist side. Deadline is called sometime on Monday. Now have your passports at the ready and press play …
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.