For Mr. Mojo Rising

On the occasion of Jim Morrison’s 65th birthday, I find myself reflecting greatly on the impact of his words set to the music of the Doors. No other band nor singer has ever so provocatively suggested the potential of this sonic art form to communicate truths through melodies and rhythmic lyricism. There is a profoundness innate in the work of the Doors. There is a melodramatic search for truth in Jim Morrison. There resides the sense that the man took his audiences along for his sojourns from the alienation of the cold industrialism and consumerism that tyrannically defined souls. Opposed to the wisdom of the return, Morrison was an open destiny that ended tragically. In the end, no other band, no other lead singer understood better that music was a bacchanalian ritual whose purpose was to reinvigorate the myths of the ages and the archetypes ever present in our unconscious minds like Jim Morrison and the Doors. On this day, ruminating over the musical legacy of his work, only one emotion dominates; gratitude.

*Here is a philosophical musing of mine about music itself and of course, of the song, Light My Fire:

“Music is the unconscious exercise in metaphysics in which the mind does not know that it is philosophising.” ~ Schopenhauer

“How does it come about that the rhythms and melodies, although only sounds, resemble states of the soul?” ~ Aristotle

For philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, music was the highest of all the arts. He made the distinction that unlike poetry or painting, music was as direct an objectification/copy of the whole will as the world itself. More poetically, Schopenhauer noted that other arts spoke only to the shadows of things whereas music spoke to the essence.

If music is the revealer of the essence/will to a great mind like Schopenhauer, what specifically can be learned from its rhythmic and melodious pedagogy? For Schopenhauer, bass was analogous to the inorganic nature from which everything in the world arises from. Melody, on the other hand, was akin to unrestrained freedom. Friedrich Nietzsche, another philosopher who appraised music as revelatory, used the juxtaposition of Greek deities to explain the marriage. For Nietzche, music was the marriage of Apollonian and Dionysian impulses. Apollo represents the disciplined restraint that is the rhythm section whereas Dionysus represents the ecstatic freedom of melody. It must be noted that the Dionysian impulse can not be without the disciplined restraint of the Apollonian impulse. Therefore, just as Schopenhauer makes the analogy that bass is like the foundation from which everything in the world arises from, including freedom, so to is the Apollonian impulse the foundation from which the unrestrained freedom of Dionysus arises and conversely could not exist without.

For me, this understanding elevates my experience of music. One of my favorite songs is “Light My Fire” by the Doors. Just as the verse, the bridge section is simple and for that reason, rythmically hypnotic. It is from this disciplined rhythm section that organist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger exchange respective solo sections. To apply Schopenhauer’s insights, the solos, birthed from disciplined rhythms, are pure expressions of freedom. Such a freedom, interestingly enough, is not seen as commercially viable by the music corporations and radio formats that gutted the solo sections of “Light My Fire,” for commercial radio play. Telling, isn’t it?

To continue with the song, Jim Morrison sings Robby Krieger’s poetry about a love that has yet to be. It is, essentially, a song of deprivation and wanting. Accordingly, the overall mood of the song is not flowery; rather it has a dark erotic feel to it. My aesthetic understanding of the song, with Schopenhauer’s concepts in mind, speaks to both base and elevated manifestations of this desire. The simple and hypnotic rhythms of both the verse and bridge sections are the peristaltic motions in play in the universe. In terms of desire, this simple peristaltic rhythm is that of the most elementary procreative motions. This base, of course, is the foundation for the freedom that the solos represent. These correlate with the higher, more emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically driven desires of our species.

As the solo section concludes, three against four cross rhythms bring the song back to the verse section. This spastic section of the song is simultaneously the orgiastic conclusion of both the melodious and rhythmic sounds in play during the bridge section. Drummer John Densmore remarked how he later found out that three against fours are the same patterns that send practioners of Vodou into trance/possession. Interestingly, in this state, practitioners of Vodou understand trance/possession as the “mounting” of the particular spirit upon the individual. The three against four part of the “Light My Fire served the same purpose and was arranged for unconsciously and instinctively by the musicians of The Doors.

Which brings us back to this:

“Music is the unconscious exercise in metaphysics in which the mind does not know that it is philosophising.” ~ Schopenhauer


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