Music That Feeds The Soul

A short story by Haruki Murakami, from the book Murakami Radio.

I watched Wim Wender’s film “Buena Vista Social Club.” You probably know about it already, but it’s a documentary that follows the American musician Ry Cooter as he brings together a group of once famous traditional Cuban musicians, records an album with them, and gains enough traction to go on an international tour. I loved the music. The charming personalities of all the musicians pulled me right in.

I went to see the documentary the day after I had moved. Carrying hundreds of boxes (including 6,000 old record albums) left my body feeling like a sack of potatoes. I plopped down onto the movie theater seat and sank in, remaining in that slumped position for the entire film. Have you ever been so exhausted that you don’t notice it while you’re up and about, but as soon as you sit down it overwhelms you?

I dozed off for the first hour. I was so exhausted, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open. I really was enjoying the movie, but my body couldn’t resist the sweet temptation of the cozy chair. I had a number of short dreams. They were all over the place and didn’t make any sense. And with each passing dream I felt like my fatigue was going away little by little, Cuban music filling my ears with comforting sounds. So yeah, I missed parts of the movie, but I left the theater having dreamt countless times and I felt, like they’d say about a used record album, “like new.” I hadn’t watched the movie so much as experienced it with my entire body. Its sounds seeped into me and nourished my soul. I don’t want to oversell it, but it was incredible.

This is the kind of movie you have to see in the theater, sitting in a plush seat surrounded by darkness and music. If you see it on video it won’t have the same effect.

Jim Jarmusch’s “Year Of The Horse” about Neil Young is another music documentary that focuses on a concert and holds a special charm. Both documentaries were shot on small consumer grade cameras rather than professional production equipment. But what they lack in picture quality they make up for with rich audio. Tons of over-polished music videos have come out in recent years and sometimes I feel myself getting apathetic. But then I get my hands on a film that truly serves a purpose, and that makes me a more demanding audience member again. That’s how I felt watching Wender’s and Jarmusch’s music documentaries.