10 February 2011

End of the World

Not long ago I was simply minding my own business at the computer table. But we all know, thanks to the Internet, that to mind our own businesses is not quite the same as it used to be; we may find ourselves instantly under barrage. This was exactly what happened: a new “tweet” arrived. In what I like to think of as the same manner we open mysterious doors (pushing them open, not often mindful of the consequences), I clicked and clicked, and finally I arrived on a YouTube video.

Mr. Matt Alber was singing “End of the World”.

I wish I didn’t have to talk about music in writing, or I wish I was knowledgeable enough in music to be able to talk about it in writing. If I say that Mr. Alber’s music is “beautiful”, you may think I'm just being agreeable, that I'm just exaggerating, which most people on the Internet are prone to doing. But I don’t exaggerate. No one has asked me for my opinion, besides.

Few pieces of music have touched me in this way. I mean I like to sing and play guitar, but there's an infinite number of things I know I am definitely not capable of. One of these things is the beauty of “End of the World”. It is a perfectly wonderful song.

You can go ahead and watch it on YouTube, but, in my case, it was listening to it that made me grab a Kleenex. (You can also press the Play button, in which case I shall claim no right whatsoever to the embedded audio content.)

“End of the World” was written on a bank statement envelope about seven years ago on San Francisco bus rides. Mr. Alber was working at the time as a performer in the musical revue, Beach Blanket Babylon. “Somehow,” he said, “that crumpled envelope made it to a piano at the theater before I had to be upstairs getting into costume.”

I wrote to a friend in New York about this discovery right after making it, keenly aware that I’d be listening to the song over and over, and watching the video over and over, probably until I had myself spent or I had expended it out of my system. But songs don’t seem to work that way. Or they don’t let us work that way.

“It’s such a shame,” I said to my friend, “Mr. Alber would be the complete package, except that he kind of looks rough on the eyes.” Ah, it's true all right: the Internet makes us prone to exaggeration, or sometimes bold-faced lying.

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