Friday, January 18, 2008

I've been captivated by the Air France theme music, audible when on hold with the reservations desk or, more invasively, and more strikingly, in the cabins of their aircraft as you board or at the end, when you've just awoken from the thud of the landing gear upon the runway, when you've had a night of wine and cramped reverie, you've had just about enough and you're abstractedly gathering your luggage, which may have shifted during the flight, so be cautious, and you're preparing to deplane to a Jetway or down the passerelle to a waiting tandem bus in the cold, white morning. It's a strikingly melancholy song, slow, sung by a woman in an aching voice. It's got lyrics like "away with the sea" and "the miles that lie between us." This whole musico-mass-transportational experience, with the deep, vague sadness, the fractured beauty, and the instructions to fasten your seatbelt, or perhaps the jetlag as the case may be, it's enough to send you into a formidable state of dissociative intoxication. The willingness of this enormous corporation to use such a heartrending piece of music may well be French; it reminds me of years ago when I was in Paris and there was some kind of film festival going on. All it amounted to was something like a Euro off admission on Tuesdays or whatever; it was just an initiative to get people into theaters, smudgy with the fingerprints of bureaucrats from the chamber of commerce. But there was a little video and a theme song they played before every movie that played in every theater in the city that week. It was a montage of city scenes, I believe, but what was striking was the music. It was a song sung in harmony by young male and female voices, and its melody followed a cascade of minor chords. The lyrics were something like - translated into English - "The city of Paris invites you to the festival of cinema." But the melody was grippingly moving, and I wanted to cry every time I heard it.

I saw a beautiful, young woman on the subway platform at 72nd Street today, earnestly masking-taping a flier to a pole. I have to see what it says, I thought. I craned my head and perceived just these words, on the left side of the page beside her gloved hand: