We initially wrote “La Commune” for the participants in the thematic residency led by Althea Thauberger (which included us, who had just met) and for the participants in BRiC. With the help of Marc Losier and Matthew MacLellan, the song was performed publicly three times: once during a brief rehearsal/busking session on the streets of Banff, once at a group show presented by our residency at The Other Gallery, and once in the middle of an impromptu dance party, which had erupted yet again in one of our studios, during BRiC’s last night in town. We called ourselves “Roch Commune.”
Pop music is not generally written for such (if only temporary) locals. One usually aims to write for more than a handful of new friends. Successful pop music strives to be universal: She loves you yeah yeah yeah! But we wondered, in Banff, playfully and sincerely, what kinds of music might be written after a revolution. How would a global reclamation of the commons transform the point-to-multipoint structure of contemporary stardom and entertainment? Although we were indeed interested in grander narratives – like the end of exploitation and the cash nexus – we tried to reference phenomena that would resonate primarily with our immediate and temporarily place-bound audience (e.g. “those vista views”; “we share our rooms, except for a few”). “Authentic” commodities and performers (world music, tourist getaways, or Sarah Palin) are often marked by an aestheticization of the local, often for the purposes of profit-making, brand-building or violence (cf. David Harvey’s On the Condition of Postmodernity, 1989). We wondered, though, what it would mean to just write a fun song about the commons (with a doo-wop progression) for our neighbours in Banff, and give it to them.
Drawing on Ernst Bloch, Ruth Levitas defines utopia as a “desire for a better way of being” (8), and in “La Commune” we took a stab at expressing such a desire. But how does the song hold up outside the fleeting intentional community from which it came? As a utopian text, it probably fails; it is maybe too cheeky or romantic, perhaps because it was written at a time during which many of us felt, not desire, but utter satisfaction (The Banff Centre is a very comfortable, supportive and special place. We were singing a utopian text in an artistic/academic utopia!). Still, a synthesis of delights emerges from the act of singing to, for, and with other people, and “La Commune” was a component of such a machine (which is translatable) for a few moments in Banff. If the song is utopian, then, it is not because it illuminates a roadmap towards a better society, but, following Levitas, because it came out of a desire to be playful – better – with and for others, which is also worth something.
And yet, maybe we came closest to utopia that first time we rehearsed it – in the street, in the rain – for the strangers who kindly stopped to listen.
I saw you walkin’ alone,
Without a friend,
So sad and so blue,
At just about the end.
I reached out my hand,
An invitation to extend to La Commune.
I’ll see you soon in La Commune;
Under the moon in La Commune;
We share our rooms in La Commune,
Except for a few in La Commune.
You will have to work a little in our commune.
Got to take out the garbage and clean your room.
But there’ll be time for walkin’
And singing tunes under the moon.
Under the moon in our commune;
Those vista views in our commune;
I’ll be so true in our commune;
Nobody’s blue in La Commune.
Ah la da la etc.
If you find that you miss your family –
Your mom and your dad.
And if the absence of your former comforts
Makes you feel so bad.
Just remember, there are so many reasons
To be glad about La Commune.
Just throw balloons in La Commune;
Animals too in our commune;
With you in La Commune;
Under the moon in La Commune.
Harvey, David. The Conditions of Postmodernity. Cambridge: Blackwell, 1990. Print.
Levitas, Ruth. The Concept of Utopia. Great Britain: Simon & Schuster, 1990. Print.