A lamentation or three

Toward the Light…

Today I finally got around to installing Wimp, the extremely legal music streaming service from Norway, on a Linux computer. I had it on my smartphone, but the interface is like an old aunt’s attic where just one look makes you decide to search for something later, if at all. The PC interface is better, mainly by virtue of having more space for the clutter.

And then I found that my only playlist on Wimp was now empty. All music by Knut Avenstroup Haugen was gone, without a trace and without a goodbye.

Knut Avenstroup Haugen is a Norwegian composer, in fact he lived for a while in Kristiansand, the city where I work. He is of the classical (non-crazy) school, making actual music rather than the sound of factory machines or kitchen utensils. And he made the sound track for the online game Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures. The game is too evil for me to play in this late stretch of my life, although it certainly showcased the power of the personal computer for gaming. Some of the songs however are in a class of their own. Or at least they are to me.  Three of the songs from the Cimmeria part of the game are lamentations, similar to the classical lamentations once popular in church music, but more direct, more raw, closer to the barbarian dirge which they represent in the game.

Now I probably differ from every one of my readers in my love for a good lamentation. There are few things that can so certainly perk me up if I feel a bit below the top. In all fairness, I used to be immune to sadness for many years and even now rarely feels its touch, even after having recovered it through the mystery of meditation. So this may work entirely opposite in people given to depression. In fact, I suspect it would. But for me, a good lamentation fills me with the joy of beauty. And these are my favorites: ‘Ere The World Crumbles‘, Ascending Cimmeria, and especially Memories of Cimmeria.

They were gone, just like that. Now that is lamentable. I notice that they are also gone from one of the two parent companies of Wimp.no, Platekompaniet. So there seems to be some disagreement, perhaps, between the composer (or the artists, or the publisher) and this particular music chain.

The thought struck me, of course, that maybe Haugen had converted to the One True Faith and retracted all his worldly music. This is the kind of thinking that is never really far from my mind, I guess. Although I have yet to retract all of my worldly entries from my journal.

But the fact that I am right now playing his music on the Swedish competitor, Spotify, kind of goes against the conversion theory.  So I have sent a mail to Wimp and asked for an explanation. Being that they are Norwegian (and labor is extremely expensive in Norway compared to the less successful nations, such as yours) I don’t really expect an answer. Consequently, I don’t really expect to continue to subscribe to Wimp beyond the last month I have already paid for.


Now, a few more words about lamentations. As I said, they may be a bit unnerving for the depressed, and I certainly don’t recommend them for the suicidal, for the precise reason that I love them:  To me, the essential beauty of the lamentation is that it lifts the soul toward Heaven. This was presumably why the genre was originally conceived. The primordial dirge may have been just the senseless keening of the bereaved, but it probably evolved even at the dawn of history – if not before – into a religious function.

After all, by the faith of the earlier ages, at the time of death the soul was evicted from the body, but rarely had much idea of what to do next, nor was it usually motivated to move on. People tended to die young, and often senselessly or brutally, in the midst of their attachment to the material world. Their immaterial part, the soul or spirit or shade or whatever people thought it was, therefore was thought to hang around for at least a while after their demise.

This is where the advanced dirge / early lamentation comes in. As the confused and frustrated soul attends its own wake, probably trying in vain to communicate with its family, the ceremonial singers (and instrument players, if available) begins performing this hair-raisingly beautiful song. The soul is touched by its beauty, and lifted on the power of the music and the implicit prayer, it begins to forget the trivial attachments of the world and rise toward the Light. This, then, is the function of the lamentation: To lift the spirits of all who participate, accompanying the soul of the deceased for a ways on its journey toward the blessed afterlife, whatever that might be in that particular culture.

Or perhaps that’s just me. I am not exactly your average human, I guess even when it comes to music…


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