The Beautiful Days – How I Got Into the Swans

I’d like to take you on a journey through my past and into the realm where no time or space exists. Lets visit a realm of energy, music and passion. This is the realm I go to when I visit the land of the Swans. It is a dark realm in each of us; you can only visit it, if you are willing to face yourself, face me and see the dark and the light without prejudice and with overall equanimity.

I want to show you the very beginnings of my journey into the music of Michael Gira and the Swans. I want to share some of my first pivotal experiences and explain what revelations this brought about.

I started listening to the Swans at around the age of 19. I was exploring some old interviews with Maynard James Keenan from Tool; when I found an interview on JJJ Australian radio. This was an interview where they explore the songs which the particular artist found inspiration. Two of the songs were from the Swans: Time is Money (bastard) and Coward.

I found both of these songs stirred deep dark feelings inside me. They were unlike anything I had ever experienced before. My first inclination was to dislike it, because it wasn’t what I was used to thinking of as music and it scared me; but I became intensely curious, so I decided to buy every album of the Swans I could find, so I could explore this all in much greater depth.

When I got ahold of the albums, my exploration first gravitated towards their compilation album called Various Failures. The songs on this album were more melodic and upbeat, which I found easier to enjoy and relate to, since I had not yet developed my taste for their more exotic work from the earlier, darker, years. At that time period, playing the older, more dark and depressing albums, was like opening pandora’s box to me. I seldom did it for very long and when I would listen to a full album with my full attention, I would inevitably have an enlightening experience.

The first such experience I can remember, is while I was still living at home. I was probably around 18-19 years old at the time. I was at that point in my life where the lie that everything is, started to be made manifest in my perception. I started to realize that the world we are in today, tends to transform everything and everyone into meaningless corporatized crap. Even the so-called alternatives were often as meaningless as that which they purport to replace.

Having this reality dawn upon me was most unsettling indeed, as I had spent years thinking that things were, not necessarily great, but well enough in the world. I was beginning to realize what a tub of filth the world had become over the preceding decades. This was the rotten, empty, forsaken world I was emerging into, in which I would spend the rest of my life.

During one evening, when I was at home alone and had a particularly depressed feeling come over me, I decided to play a live album called The Swans are Dead and take a nice long bath. Little did I know that this experience would be remembered years down the road as a turning point in my relation to this world.

I turned on the music and I just let go, as much as I was capable at the time. I let the emotions it would evoke in me flow as I gave it the full attention of virtually every aspect of my being. The performance started with the song Feel Happiness, which was slow and then gradually layered on this new reality, adding layer upon layer as the moments progressed. I still remember the first lyrics of the performance and how it reverberated in me.

I’m truly sorry,
for what I never did,
but I forgive you, too;
for your indifference.
You’re a lonely child,
laid open to the world,
and when I looked in your eyes
I saw myself there too,
So please forgive me now,
for what we never had,
Although its useless to say,
I wish you happiness.
I wish you happiness,
I wish you happiness,
happiness…

I felt as if it said everything my soul was yearning to say; but had kept bottled up inside for so long, unable to express, unable to really understand or acknowledge. It is difficult to describe with words how powerful that was, especially in the context of experiences I was having. In fact, words and descriptive language could not do it justice; it simply must be fully experienced in ones own life, to be understood.

Even to this day, almost 10 years later, I still find this song and the album in which it is contained, to be one of the most powerful tools for understanding and accepting the great depths of emotions I often feel, deep underneath it all; beneath the facade of personality I must wear each day in order to make my way in this godforsaken world.

After I got a couple of songs into the album, I found myself surrendering completely. I simply gave in and let the music carry me to realms I had never visited. It was a tour de force of everything I was needing to face in my life and in my very being.

It’s was kind of like sex in a way; but it lasted much longer, involved my entire being through and through, and didn’t end in an energy drain. More specifically, I’d say it is like tantric sex with a partner who really knows themselves, the kind of sex where you savor the experience and are truly present at every moment; not letting it drain you by letting go to a climax.

This kind of experience is like a transfer of energy and awareness and since it doesn’t happen in a blip, like a climactic experience, it is able to transfer much more for a sustained period of time.

When the album was all over, I felt like I had really connected with something mysterious and amazing. I felt the deepest depths of depression, met with my shadow self, gained a renewed understanding and learned something of who I really am underneath it all. After all of this, I felt a great elation. I was now far more aware of aspects of myself that I had little experience in knowing and understanding.

I realized that, while this is a dark and distorted world and I live a dark and distorted life, it isn’t something to be afraid of or upset about; nor is it something to avoid. No, it is something to relish and experience to the fullest; because life can teach us many things, whether those lessons are from the dark or light aspects of our being.

If there is darkness, it is there for a reason; it isn’t just happenstance that things are the way they are. If we let ourselves have those experiences and don’t avoid them, despite the fact that they may not be pleasant, we will ennoble ourselves on a very deep level indeed. It is often the darker lessons, involving our shadow selves, that teaches us the most and helps us to make greatest leaps in our edification.

Even if you are a relatively unevolved life form, living in a primitive society like the western world of today, populated by spiritually blind — though technologically savvy — imbeciles, your life can still be just as rich, interesting and enlightening as if you lived in Shangri-La. Your life will just be enlightening in a different way; because there are different sets of lessons to learn in each kind of world. One advantage of living in a dark, unevolved world, such as ours, is that the potential for growth is truly remarkable.

When, when we were young
We had no history
So nothing to lose

Meant we could choose
Choose what we wanted then
Without any fear
Or thought of revenge

But then you grew old
And I lost my ambition
So I gained an addiction
To drink and depression

(They are mine
My only true friends
And I’ll keep them with me
Until the very end)

I’d choose not to remember
But I miss your arrogance
And I need your intelligence
And your hate for authority

But now you’re gone
I read it today
They found you in Spain
Face down in the Street

With a bottle in your hand
And a wild smile on your face
And a knife in your back
You died in a foreign land

And they found my letter
Rolled up in your pocket
Where I said I’d kill myself
If she left me again

So now she’s gone
And you’re both in my mind
I’ve got one thing to say
Before I am drunk again:

God damn the sun
God damn the sun
God damn anyone
That says a kind word

God damn the sun
God damn the sun
God damn the light it shines
And this world it shows

God damn the sun

Some of the greatest beauty you will ever experience in this life is bittersweet. It is sorrow coupled with understanding and acceptance of who you really are at this stage in your evolution. It is the source of all good art, music and poetry.

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7 thoughts on “The Beautiful Days – How I Got Into the Swans”

  1. Thanks so much for writing this. Various Failures was a lifesaver for me in 2008, for reasons similar to the ones you describe here. Soon after I found Swans are Dead, and Feel Happiness was for a long time the only track to which I’d listen. Something so True and Beautiful in Gira’s confessions and rage. Something I too hadn’t known I needed to articulate until I heard his music.

    This past September I went to Montreal to see Gira and the newly reformed Swans – it was wonderful. Though I wish he would’ve played Blind.

  2. In all the years I’ve come to appreciate the deeper meaning and revelations derived from listening to real music (by real I reference artists that don’t belong to the commercial genre) – music that speaks to me a beautiful melody, its the first time to come across the Swans.

    Merkaba lyrics (was your blog written in 2007?) and your outlook to spirituality and life really drew me to read more of your recent stuff. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. MB,As you surely know by now, i don't give a pile of dogshit for AFGH/Irq or any other nation.Our country is becoming a chocolate mess and we are focusing on elective wars ,when our lives are unpiaelvng.Peorle deny that the wars effect the economy,but i just don't buy that.B/c the Japs were evil, wicked, mean and nasty that does not excuse our non-military bombing targets. This is reminiscent of Sand Creek.jim

  4. Ma proprio la lentezza (presunta) di iLiad nel voltare pagina oppure la non reozlloimuninaritne dello schermo incarnano il concetto rivoluzionario di iLiad. No,non si tratta dell’ennesimo gadget tecnologico tutto lampi di luce, radiazioni e velocità! E’ un oggetto cui abbandonarsi, un libro.

  5. Wow. He just yesterday posted a long post about his lawyer and how without her free speech in Kansas City would be dead like he was going to win in court. Doesn’t that take the cake? Guess maybe I have good reason not to believe anything he writes.

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