Born of sound

Having thrown out some general context in the past couple posts, I want to move on now to making more specific comments on No Line On The Horizon.

As has been pointed out already, it seems clear to me that "the sound" is one central metaphor. We have three "let me in the sound" requests, as well as "I found grace inside a/the sound" and "people born of sound," all of which have an essentialist, palpable ring (especially if you want to argue for a vague John 3 echo in the last one.) Along with these, there are more evocations of sound per se as granting some kind of mysterious access to the ultimate: "hear the universe," "roar on the other side of silence," and "the rhythm of my soul... that yearns to be released from control." And don't forget this album's ineffable soundscapes themselves, such as the one that begins "Unknown Caller." Because of all that, I am more inclined to understand "sound" in NLOTH as pointing to mystical communion with God now, rather than as looking forward to songs sung by others in heaven.

While we also get several specific mentions of people themselves vocalizing ("Sing your heart out," "I was born to sing for you," "listen for me, I'll be shouting") it's the sense of sound as sacred essence that intrigues me here, as if Pop's "looking for a sound that's gonna drown out the world" quest has been fulfilled in a sound-baptism by immersion on NLOTH.

So I think I'd like to at least play with a distinction. I'm certainly not positing a major disconnect, but I'm wondering if we could say that the "sound" metaphor represents something of a shift? Previously, have U2's evocations of eschatological fullness not tended more towards the apophatic? Their work has often reached, yearning, to that ecstatic limit, and then there are no words for what is coming. "I try to sing this... but." "You know I believe it, but I still haven't found..." with "what I'm looking for" left unspoken. "Mysterious Ways" (at least live): You can hear it, and see the celebration, but the lyrics are over by then. In fact, at a lot of these foretaste moments in U2 there is only inarticulate vocalization. And for the quintessential example, as glorious a moment of fulfillment as it is, the song is called "Where the Streets Have No Name," and they traditionally blind us at all its high points. (Any fans of Pseudo-Dionysius and his dazzling darkness out there?)

As a side comment: If you buy the idea, it would be interesting to discuss whether this instinct for apophaticism at the spiritual apex is part of what has made U2 so accessible to secular listeners.

In my next post, I'll share some thoughts about why this more immersive and less apophatic "sound" metaphor might have come to the fore, and either then or later I'll get to how I see it tying in with the settled Sitz-im-leben I mentioned earlier.

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