Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fish and Bird

So I'm still a bit haunted by that Island of Dolls in Mexico. Since that trip I can't seem to get a particular song out of my head. The song is "Fish and Bird" from the album Alice
by Tom Waits.
Originally this music was created for Robert Wilson's opera of the same name. It is the Alice in Wonderland story, which to me, has always been a bit disturbing anyway. It is sinister, to be certain, but it also about madness, loneliness, and the struggle of separate worlds trying to meet.

The Isla de las Munecas relates to this tale in a variety of ways but first let me explain my interpretation of that haunting place. It is the saddest yet simultaneously sweetest place I have ever been. To recap the story, this is a place that young girl drowns and years later is inhabited by a hermit, who senses her ghost. He proceeds to appease her spirit by collecting dolls for years and years, which he hangs up all over the island.

When I was on the island I couldn't help feeling that this whole island was an act of love....not out of fear. It seemed to me that the hermit, Don Julian had a psychological relationship with this spirit (real or imagined it doesn't really matter). His life was devoted to someone that he had never met, at least, not in the traditional sense. Nonetheless he creates this strange realm for her to play. There is a relationship between he and this ghost. Perhaps, being reclusive, this was an easier relationship for him to deal with. Decades they were together on this island and who knows what conversations existed between the two. It is a sad relationship in that it is world separated by vast distances...the distance between the living and the dead. I have no opinion whether the little girl's ghost is real or me it doesn't matter. She was real enough to Don Julian. Back to the song that keeps going through my head...."Fish and Bird". I know that Tom Waits is not everyone's cup of tea but he has been a huge inspiration to my work, in particular, Black Rider
(another theatrical collaboration with Robert Wilson.. a Faustian tale). Some people can't get beyond his harsh vocals, but for me it is heightens the carnival/alice-in-wonderland/maddening/heartfelt, aspect of his songs. Here are the lyrics to Fish and Bird:

They bought a round for the sailor
And they heard his tale
Of a world that was so far away
And a song that we'd never heard
A song of a little bird
That fell in love with a whale

He said, 'You cannot live in the ocean'
And she said to him
'You never can live in the sky'
But the ocean is filled with tears
And the sea turns into a mirror
There's a whale in the moon when it's clear
And a bird on the tide

Please don't cry
Let me dry your eyes

So tell me that you will wait for me
Hold me in your arms
I promise we never will part
I'll never sail back to the time
But I'll always pretend you're mine
Though I know that we both must part
You can live in my heart

Please don't cry
Let me dry your eyes

And tell me that you will wait for me
Hold me in your arms
I promise we never will part
I'll never sail back to the time
But I'll always pretend that you're mine
I know that we both must part
You can live in my heart

I have to say, I do know a little something about relationships that span vast distances, so it could be that I'm easily touched by these types of tales.


Anthroid_X said...

Wow Michael. As you might know, i am a huge fan of Waits and he is an influence in a lot of my work. This song has particular significance for me. In fact, i am actually working on a sculpture that is based off the line

"But the ocean is filled with tears
And the sea turns into a mirror
There's a whale in the moon when it's clear
And a bird on the tide"

I actually got a rush when i read your post. I love when stuff like this happens between artists!

galen dara said...

tom waits is brilliant.
and your working through the connections between this island and it's hermit, and alice and wonderland, and tom's music...
ditto what Anthroid_X said. it gave me a rush.


Stacey said...

Yes that is a good interpretation of Doll Island, one of the sweetest places I have ever been.........stace

Sam Marshall said...

What a fascinating, enchanting story. Love it.

Chris said...

okay, my last comment was snotty and snarky and all the sn words one may think of. But this. this made me cry. this is crushingly haunting for me, for some reason. (btw, al in won is my favorite book)
this post hypnotized me. i love it. thanks for sharing the story, the thoughts and feelings, the music, the lyric. it's all stunning.

HeartFire said...

Your posts, pix and videos on Doll Island are great, recently saw a documentary on travel channel about it. What a haunting place and story! Looking forward to seeing you in my second workshop with you at AF! Delorse

Anonymous said...

I have to say that it is has been a long time since I visited your blog. I think the last time was when you published my "guru deMeng" story that I had left on either Ursula or Megan's blog, never thinking that you would read it!
So it was a little unnerving to find that the first post I saw upon returning to your blog after such a long period featured alice in wonderland. Alice and I are linked... a bit like you and metal bits and bobs. I go with Alice and she goes with me. She fills my bookshelves and never ceases to delight. And reading your blog entry just made me realise that she is a source of inspiration to many artists. Long live alice!

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael, I was on Ebay today and ran across this collection of vintage Alice in Wonderland illustrations. Thought you might be interested. Hope your Tsawwassen class goes well! It's an interesting building you'll be in, if you are at the Longhouse.

here's the link:

Rose in Point Roberts

Sue McGettigan said...

No-one taps into life like Tom Waits - whenever I'm totally homesick and melancholy I blast Tome Waits '3 sheets to the wind in Copenhagen (Waltzing Matilda)' - the kiddos just roll their eyes and say 'there she goes, it's a Tom Waits day' :) I always find his music inspiring, love to hear that others do too.

Linda S. Wingerter said...

Searching for others' thoughts about "Fish & Bird" brought me here where I learned about your work and Doll Island for the first time. Wonderful.