Dear Dirty America


Who’s the Saddest Composer of Them All?

May 09
18:30 2012
Los Angeles

Sometime long ago, maybe in 1995 or 97, when the Internet was relatively new, and websites were clunkily cast in fat primitive bands of primary colors, I asked AltaVista a very serious question. I was only a kid then, but I had an old, heavy soul.

“What is the saddest music in the world?” I asked the electronic Oracle. The answer I received stuck with me for over a decade before I actually looked into it. I clicked on the first website of the list. I don’t remember the name of the site, or if it specialized in music, but it did have an all black background with unskillful graphics (and maybe even those impressive whipping flames beside the name, like so many sites from that era.)

John Dowland. The bold letters, written in white, never left my mind. The saddest music ever made, the website boasted. I forgot about Dowland for many years, until file sharing became easy. Dowland’s name popped into my head one afternoon. I downloaded a folder filled with all of Dowland’s works recorded by a modern day singer. Unlike TuPac being brought back at Coachella for satiation of our Spectacle Society, Dowland will not be so impressively resurrected, but his music does remain, and today’s artists can recapture the glory and beauty of that time.

Dowland lived when Shakespeare did. Early modern England. A fantastic time of plague in the summer, and finicky kings and queens battling Protestantism with Catholicism. But Falstaff was on stage. And Dowland, presumably, played his lute while supine, so the trees and birds could bear witness to his music. Maybe Dowland hung out in pubs and pinched his sisters (if he had any) on their bottoms, but I doubt it. He seemed earnest and otherworldly. Far beyond his localized culture. He wrote melancholy songs.

I could try to castrate Katy Perry all day long with this blog, but far more worthwhile would be to enlighten its readers and drifters with what is, and has been, wholesome on this planet. I know this blog isn’t called Dear Delightful America, but by re-introducing God’s human gifts scattered throughout the ages, the current dirtiness of the Empire appears that much more lackluster and decrepit in contrast.

At least it certainly does to me. Here is Alfred Deller, singing “Flow My Tears”, originally composed by Dowland. An interesting side note: Philip K Dick, everybody’s favorite visionary, wrote a novel called, “Flow my tears, the policeman said”. In the story, a policeman is obsessed with Dowland’s music and listens to it as he cruises his flying cop car over the polluted, post-post-modern city.

And now, the music:

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