Tuesday, September 23, 2008

'That Wild Mercury Sound': Tangled Up in Bob Again | The New York Observer:

"I always hear other instruments, how they should sound. The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the Blonde on Blonde album. It's that thin, that wild mercury sound. It's metallic and bright gold with whatever that conjures up. That's my particular sound. I haven't been able to succeed in getting it all the time. Mostly I've been driving at a combination of guitar, harmonica and organ, but now I find myself going into territory that has more percussion in it and [pause] rhythms of the soul."

Me: "Was that wild mercury sound in 'I Want You'?"

Dylan: "Yeah, it was in 'I Want You,' it was in the album before that too …."

Me: " Highway 61 Revisited ?"

Dylan: "Yeah. Also in Bringing It Back Home . That's the sound I've always heard."

The sound he's "always heard": It suggests a kind of visionary experience (well, auditory vision, if you will)–a Muse-like musical visitation , almost, that came to him as sound rather than song.

What I'd forgotten, what I rediscovered rereading the interview, was that Mr. Dylan goes on to elaborate upon that sound, to give it a local habitation and a name. And to describe it with the kind of synesthesia characteristic of visionary experiences. Synesthesia because he begins by defining that sound he was searching for as a kind of light :

"It was the sound of the streets," he said. "That ethereal twilight light, you know. It's the sound of the street with the sunrays, the light shining down at a particular time, on a particular type of building. A particular type of people on a particular type of street. It's an outdoor sound that drifts even into open windows …. The sound of bells and distant railroad trains and arguments in apartments and the clinking of silverware and knives and forks … usually it's the crack of dawn. Music filters out to me in the crack of dawn."

11:23 PM