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Last Words: The Marvelous And The Mundane

Last Words: The Marvelous And The Mundane

Words by
Photos by
Davíð Þorsteinsson

Published June 19, 2018

One recent morning, as I was walking my daughter to daycare, I had, as you do, a fierce philosophical debate with myself about why I don’t listen to music anymore. (In two different voices, of course.) While my daughter was trying to shatter my glasses by throwing them as hard as she could on the trash-ridden sidewalk—this was taking place in New York—I reached the conclusion that my current relationship with music has much to do with how I generally view the world. I seem to divide stuff into two categories: the mundane (almost everything), and the marvellous (what makes life so wonderful).

So, as a hopeless—or, rather, hopeful—romantic, I’m always seeking out the magical. Nice phrases in books, a smart person to talk to, a new flavour in my food. Something rare, something marvellous.

When things become ubiquitous, however, thanks to capitalism, they sort of lose that magical spark. They become available to us everywhere, in diluted form, which, in the case of music, means carrying it all in your pocket at all times. All the albums ever recorded are there—except they’re not really albums anymore. They’re just sounds. And, since it’s always there—something you simply switch on like the heat in your apartment—you can always listen to it …later. It’s not marvellous, not something to seek out. It’s mundane.

And the poet in me wants serendipity. Magical scarcity. Struggle. A physical trip to the record store. A happy find in a friend’s place: an old record on the shelves. I admit this; this is who I am.

A lot of people seem to be listening to music all the time these days: as they commute, work, exercise, party, have sex, fall asleep … I, however, conduct my life in total silence. This text—I didn’t listen to anything as I wrote it, except the steady breathing of my sleeping daughter next to me. And then there’s the glittering melody of sunlight outside my window; I guess I listened to that, too.


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