Listen to this track by musical pilgrim and singer-songwriter Jim White, along with his guest in fellow pop scribe Aimee Mann. It’s “Static On The Radio”, a cut as taken from White’s 2004 record, Drill A Hole In That Substrate And Tell Me What You See.
Before he became a professional songwriter, Jim White was known by his birth name: Michael Davis Pratt. He had had a storied career in non-musical fields such as film school student, pro-surfer, preacher (he’d been in the Pentecostal church as a teen), and cabbie. He learned his instrument and his craft while laid up with a broken leg, watching game shows, and learning chord shapes. All the while, his gift for narrative was waiting to blossom, which eventually it certainly did in his songs, and in his prose fiction, too.
I think that mixture of writing disciplines on White’s part is what primarily feeds this song, which a series of vignettes that are decidedly nocturnal in nature and in execution. It’s almost a literal dark night of the soul kind of song. From where does it spring, and what does it say about White’s own experience, and maybe ours, too? Read more
I had a dream. Well, it felt like a nightmare at the time. I don’t know how old I was, but it was when we lived in the apartment in Port Credit on Park Street. So, I must have been 3 years old at most. It wasn’t a terribly eventful dream, but it was one of those dreams where a sense of the mysterious was lurking somewhere behind it, as if in the silence, something was about to happen that would be overwhelming, perhaps frightening. That’s how it felt at the time. But it was a dream that has stayed with me and I wonder now whether it felt so terrifying because I didn’t understand it then as a child. Perhaps I still don’t really understand it. But I remember it, and to me that makes it important. I was standing in the corridor just outside of our apartment, knocking on our door. I was locked out, and no one seemed to hear my knocking. It was dark, and I could only see two things. The grim outline of the door was one. And the other, far away down the corridor, farther away in my dream than the corridor possibly could have been in real life, was a burning point of blue light, keening through the darkness. It was the colour of the sky on a clear day, yet on fire too, an incandescent light like a distant, burning blue sun. There was something mysterious about that light, something ancient and all-encompassing. I knew that I wanted to get inside the safety of the apartment. I wanted to be contained by something, away from the endlessness which I sensed behind that light. I don’t remember anything after that, after the images in my mind made their mark, not even waking up from the dream.
This dream is roughly where my memory starts, and I now like to place it as being the starting gun to my life, which is as scary, mysterious, impenetrable, and important as that dream light was. I wonder about what it all means, if anything at all. I’ve often thought about it, whether that dream was my mind coming to grips with the burden of self-awareness, or whether the light in the dream was the common place of mysterious and spiritual origin from which everyone enters the world – a sort of “beforelife” as opposed to an afterlife – and I was actually remembering something that had actually happened to me. Perhaps it was just a random dream caused by a series of chemical reactions, signifying nothing beyond a scientific exposition of dreaming. I like to think though, that because my memory holds it, it must contain some sort of truth. I believe that it what memories are for in general – signposts to a greater truth. Maybe that truth is held inside every brain, waiting to be unlocked. Maybe it exists out there somewhere. Who can say? But I think over all, it is at least significant as the one of the first, if not the oldest, memory I’ve got. So, whatever else it might be, it’s mine.