reality is overrated.
“filtration, as anyone with sunglasses knows, gives magic to the world”
i took a train journey a few months ago from london back home to brighton late in the evening. the city was bathed in darkness and artificial lighting, the carriage half full of a typical mish-mash of passengers: commuters getting the late train home, teenagers chatting on mobiles, tourists chattering excitedly in a variety of languages. it was raining. there was nothing unusual about the journey in short, it was just a everyday trip home.
but it was remarkable how different the journey became as soon as i put my headphones on. the music, selecting tracks on a random pattern, varied between garage, ‘post-rock’ dirges, experimental electronica and what i’m told is called ‘new wave grindcore’. the highly varied strains, directions and flavours of the music gave the scene both inside and outside the train different associations and narratives. in almost every case, these colourations of the scene made it far more resonant and interesting than the actual auditory reality of the carriage: snatches of conversation, rain on the windows and - overpoweringly - the dull roar of the train itself: the engine, the wind, the clattering of the wheels over the tracks.
with the rain-streaked windows acting as a cinematic frame for the scrolling cityscape outside, the view took on differing aspects depending on the soundtrack. gazing out on the darkened city, the skittering cacophany of melt banana became surprisingly inert, whereas the serene bliptronica of cornelius turned the urban environment outside into a landscape of gently rolling, angular hills, the heavens miniaturised and fallen to earth, a huddle of rectilinear robot penguins huddled together for warmth in the long antarctic night. the effect on the view inside the train was equally transformative too, in another way, but one example suffices to illustrate the point.
none of these images are true or real. they’re more than that, the filtration provided by the music magically transforms them into something much richer than reality itself provides, which is a train heading towards brighton on a rainy spring evening. the imagined - filtered, virtual - image gives much more, as long as its honest imagination. do i really think the buildings of london are a huddle of penguins? of course not, but its not a dishonest vision. the filtrative power of the cornelius track combined with the view, the weather and my state of mind combined momentarily to transform it in that way. it will almost certainly never appear so again, but for a couple of minutes south-east london was transported to the south pole and made greater than the sum of its parts.