Nick Cave on Music, Thriller, and the Relationship Between Vulnerability and Freedom – The Marginalian

Nick Cave on Music, Mystery, and the Relationship Between Vulnerability and Freedom

“No matter inspiration is,” the Polish poet Wisława Szymborska noticed in her excellent Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “it’s born from a steady ‘I don’t know.’” And but, with our reflex for teleological pondering — that infantile seize at “I do know!” — we habitually reduce ourselves off from the thriller that homes probably the most artistic, and subsequently probably the most susceptible and alive, a part of our personal souls, forgetting what Carl Sagan’s ghost so poetically reminds us: that “the universe will all the time be a lot richer than our capability to know it.”

Nothing restores our porousness and receptivity to that richness extra readily than music — the backdoor of consciousness, by way of which one thing transcendent slips previous all of our reasoned reservations, all of our guardedness and confusion, at releasing us from the solitary confinement of the self and restoring us to ourselves, reminding us that we’re all the time half-opaque to ourselves and this opacity shimmers with chance.

Certainly one of William Blake’s work for The E book of Job, 1806. (Accessible as a print.)

These questions — the facility of music, the facility of porousness — animate Nick Cave, whom I see as a form of sculptor of the spirit, turning the uncooked supplies of life — a life that has not been simple — into one thing of transcendent magnificence.

In Religion, Hope and Carnage (public library) — his lengthy and luscious dialog with Seán O’Hagan — he considers how music components the veil between the identified world and the thriller of being:

I feel music, out of all that we are able to do, a minimum of artistically, is the nice indicator that one thing else is occurring, one thing unexplained, as a result of it permits us to expertise real moments of transcendence.


I feel there may be extra happening than we are able to see or perceive, and we have to discover a technique to lean into the thriller of issues — the impossibility of issues — and recognise the evident worth in doing that, and summon the braveness it requires to not all the time shrink again into the identified thoughts.

In a passage evocative of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s contour of the perimeters of consciousness, he considers that “not possible” place the place transcendence lives — “a semi-conscious place, a twilight place, a distracted place, a spot of give up” — the place the place his useless son additionally lives, and the life-deep sorrow of the loss, and the portal to magnificence the loss unlatched in his artistic spirit:

There may be one other place that may be summoned by way of follow that’s not the creativeness, however extra a secondary positioning of your thoughts with regard to religious issues… It’s a form of liminal state of consciousness, earlier than dreaming, earlier than imagining, that’s linked to the spirit itself. It’s an “not possible realm” the place glimpses of the preternatural essence of issues discover their voice. Arthur lives there. Inside that house, it feels a reduction to belief in sure glimpses of one thing else, one thing different, one thing past.

Certainly one of Arthur Rackham’s uncommon 1917 illustrations for the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. (Accessible as a print.)

That otherness, that beyondness, is what we generally name thriller — the realm of expertise inaccessible to our analytical minds, unaccountable by purpose, and but a stratum of actuality we contact past doubt in these uncommon transcendent moments, as palpable as a lover’s hand, as alive as prayer.

Nick displays on the supreme portal our species has devised for accessing that realm:

Of all issues, music can raise us nearer to the sacred.


[Music] has the flexibility to steer us, if solely quickly, right into a sacred realm. Music performs into the craving many people instinctively have — you recognize, the God-shaped gap. It’s the artwork type that may most successfully fill that gap, as a result of it makes us really feel much less alone, existentially. It makes us really feel spiritually linked. Some music may even lead us to a spot the place a basic religious shift of consciousness can occur. At finest, it could conjure a sacred house.

In that sacred house, we get to see the world extra complete — not artificially, not as a reasonably delusion, however with better constancy to the deeper actuality. He weighs the sturdy salvation to be present in that house:

The luminous and stunning fantastic thing about the on a regular basis is one thing I attempt to stay alert to, if solely as an antidote to the continual cynicism and disenchantment that appears to encompass all the pieces, as of late. It tells me that, regardless of how debased or corrupt we’re advised humanity is and the way degraded the world has grow to be, it simply retains on being stunning.

However as a result of there aren’t any absolutes in magnificence, all the pieces we expertise as stunning is a projection of one thing we lengthy for — a fragmentary success of our existential longing, or what C.S. Lewis known as “the factor itself.” Each artist makes what they make out of the uncooked materials of longing, aware of it in various levels, codified in varied varieties. Nick considers his:

All my songs are written from a spot of religious craving, as a result of that’s the place that I completely inhabit. To me, personally, this place feels charged, artistic and filled with potential.


Songs have the capability to be revealing, acutely so. There may be a lot they will train us about ourselves. They’re little harmful bombs of fact.

Altarpiece by the Swedish artist and mystic Hilma af Klint, 1907. (Accessible as a print and as stationery playing cards.)

Self-revelation is probably the most vulnerable-making factor of which human beings are succesful, and but in that vulnerability we discover our deepest freedom. Echoing Bob Dylan’s insistence that “you have to be susceptible to be delicate to actuality,” he provides:

My expertise of making music and writing songs is discovering huge energy by way of vulnerability. You’re being open to no matter occurs, together with failure and disgrace. There’s definitely a vulnerability to that, and an unimaginable freedom… To be really susceptible is to exist adjoining to break down or obliteration. In that place we are able to really feel terribly alive and receptive to all kinds of issues, creatively and spiritually… It’s a nuanced place that feels each harmful and teeming with potential. It’s the place the place the massive shifts can occur. The extra time you spend there, the much less nervous you grow to be of how you may be perceived or judged, and that’s in the end the place the liberty is.

Religion, Hope and Carnage is a pleasure in its wide-roaming entirety. Complement these fragments with the poetic physicist and pianist Alan Lightman on music as a language for the exhilaration of being alive and different excellent writers, from Whitman and Woolf to Kurt Vonnegut and Oliver Sacks, on the singular energy of music, then revisit Nick Cave on songwriting, the treatment for despair, and artwork as an instrument of self-forgiveness.

I am Christian Nnakuzierem Alozie (Kris Kuzie Alozie). A native of Eziama Nneato in Umunneochi LGA, Abia State, Nigeria. I am an inspirational writer and a motivational speaker. And above all, a lover of charity.

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