Wenders, Rilke And A Dead Fish

by Andrew Patterson

Last night, I went to my friend S’s to watch a film. We hadn’t spent much time together in the last month, so before we got to watching, we played catch up. As usual, this means talking as much about listening habits as it does personal life (what other form of life is there?).

We’d been corresponding via e-mail and S had expressed a concern for a stagnation in his musical interests, particularly for 2011, with year-end lists looming on the annual horizon. For him, nothing was ‘new’. Understandably; he was listening to The Fall and  This Heat when I was in tiny trousers. I sent him some links to records that I thought sounded new and exciting this year (which I’ll get to in my year-end round up) and a really enthusiastic message about Nap Eyes, a four-piece from Halifax that just put their first recordings up on Bandcamp. I’d asked S if he’d listened to them yet, but he said he hadn’t gotten around to it.

It’s not often that I become totally hooked on a record, but listening to Nap Eyes has become as essential as eating to me these past few weeks; at least twice daily. Their playing is perfectly loose and jangly, like the first Modern Lovers record. The real addiction, however, lies in the words. Singer Nigel Chapman’s surreal poetry flows out of him as if uncontrolled; at times sharply acerbic, at times tender and earnest. He’s a rare sight around town, so I thought I’d e-mail him to thank him for his beautiful work. I also asked if he would clarify the one phrase that, to my ears, was not discernible on the tape.

Along with a very heartfelt response, Nigel confirmed my suspicions that the first line of “Every Game Is A Game Of Stalemate” ended with the name ‘Rilke’.

I became curious about Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke:

Being unfamiliar with his work, and with my desk already stacked with reading material, I vowed to spend time with his work in the near future.

And so… I feel I’m loosing focus: S and I watched a film.

We watched Wim Wenders’ absolutely stunning Wings Of Desire. I’d never seen it before, but the opening monologue struck me as familiar. Throughout the film, these phrases return in various forms:

“When the child was a child, it was the time of these questions.

Why am I me, and why not you?

Why am I here, and why not there?

When did time begin, and where does space end?

Isn’t life under the sun just a dream?

Isn’t what I see, hear, and smell just the mirage of a world before the world?

Does evil actually exist, and are there people who are really evil?

How can it be that I, who am I, wasn’t before I was, and that sometime I, the one I am, no longer will be the one I am?”

These meditations are the fodder for one of the best singles from 2009, Dirty Projectors‘ ‘Stillness Is The Move’:

Still we go deeper…

When I got home after the film, I looked up the lyrics to the Dirty Projectors’ lyrics and e-mailed them to S. With the film still so fresh in my brain, I decided to get some context to it.

A cursory glance at the Wikipedia article told me that Wenders used the works of Rilke as a fodder for Wings Of Desire.

And at this point, we come kinda-sorta full circle in a strange way.

It seems that, as I want the world to know about Nap Eyes, so the world wants me to know about Rilke.

( I am not a huge fan of Nick Cave but Wenders’ use of his music in relation to the theme of serendipity in the film was of great fascination to me.)