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Music to Grieve To
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So the Anthem theme continues and this week we’re off to Camden, North London to reflect on the bittersweet nature of life. The track’s been on my listening list since early October and yet last week it reached out and grabbed me and I started paying attention.

I love it when that happens - there’s never any rhyme or reason to it - you can listen to the same track ten times and not be moved and then on the eleventh - suddenly you have it on repeat as you fall deeper & deeper in love.

It’s one of those songs that doesn’t seem to make sense but you instinctively know that it means something - from the familial opening with it’s juxtaposition of tenderness and gasoline to the hook that ends up haunting you for the rest of the day:

I've lost so much more than I thought I'd gain, from everyone and everything

And that’s the thing isn’t it - about life - loss is ever present - and it’s not just the loss of classic grief - of a loved one, a relationship, a job etc - loss marks the end of the season, the year, your childhood, or even as Marco the singer and lyricist says - your innocence.

So how do we handle these constant transitions - how do we balance our hope for the future with the attachment of our disappearing past? Well - you listen to Alarm Bells by Iridesce - you put it on repeat until you know it well enough to sing the beautifully constructed melody of the hook at the top of your lungs - again - and again - until you’re empty, and - if the catharsis works and the recent past has indeed faded, maybe now you’ll get to feel home.

Here’s a little more insight into where the track came from:

The heart of the song came out just under two years ago now, between Christmas Day and New Year’s 2017. The end of year time has always been an odd one for us as writers, mainly because I think its generally an odd time for most people because of it being an anniversary. It’s one of those periods where the cyclical nature of life gets brought into sharp relief, bringing with it a lot of superficial positivity - a sense of beginning again, wiping the slate clean - but one that’s always met with a heavier, more sombre undertone of ageing and reassessment. I think I was definitely feeling that within myself, being 20 at the time; the realisation of the loss of innocence, the juxtaposition between our idealism in life with the smothering forward tug of time & reality - I was definitely in that twilight place.

I’d been having all this in my head as I was walking home from a night out, and didn’t know how to make sense of any of it, so as we often do I thought about what the lyric would be, what words would most succinctly but accurately encapsulate the whole mess of thoughts / emotions - that’s when the chorus line “I’ve lost so much more than I thought I’d gain, from everyone and everything” came out. When it did I remember shrugging to myself a bit, thinking it was maybe a little naked and not figurative enough - in retrospect though I think its nakedness is exactly why it works in the song but at the time, with no music and melody, it just felt a bit bland.

The song really only happened when our bassist Thomas sent me a small voice memo later that night of a piano piece he’d been playing around with - it was 3 A.M. by that point but i remember clicking on it and hearing those opening piano chords, and realised there was something too special there to not jump on, so I got on the piano and figured it out and the rest of the lyric just poured out. Those opening chords held enough in them to trigger the rest of the song, and it all happened in one go - the neighbours weren’t too pleased though.

That’s how it all started in any case - it’s a song about the bittersweetness of life, the tug of war between the optimism for the future you’re always hoping to hold onto and the inevitable succumbing to time and its reframing of things.
— Marco - Iridesce

You can learn more about Iridesce here:

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About the Curator - Andrew McCluskey

The first visual memory I have is that of the white upright piano in Singapore, Hell and the dark forces lived at the bottom, Heaven and the Angels at the top. They would play battles through my fingers and I was hooked.

After my dad died I was very sad - I couldn't play for a while and when I did, the music that came out reflected my grieving state.  I wrote an album of solo piano music called Music to Grieve to - from which the idea of the Music to community originated.  

If you'd like to know more you should read Nicole's fabulous article on why listening to sad music can make you feel better.