Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Limbo Diaries. 13. The Falling Man


TJ: I missed a recent TV documentary on 'The Falling Man', about the efforts to identify a man captured on film, falling to his death from World Trade Centre on 9/11/2001. Since its publication, the now iconic photo, taken by Richard Drew, has been invested with all sorts of meaning. Many think that the image should be airbrushed from history, that to view it was voyeuristic. Others see it as a symbol, a new flag for a now outward looking America. There seems to be a calm about the man's descent that defies the horrors that surround him, he's caught in a brief moment of apparent grace. Of course, the shots before and after that frame tell the true tale of this prelude to extinction; he hurtles at 130mph, limbs akimbo, to his certain demise. I googled 'The Falling Man' and came upon a piece written by Tom Junod that had appeared in Esquire magazine about the shot. I was struck by the idea of this being the falling man's last will. He could accept the fate thrust upon him by the terrorists, or he could choose to control his own destiny, albeit a limited choice, but still an empowering moment; not suicide, but choosing your own time of departure. Is there not a dignity in that, and should we not recognise that dignity? To look away would seem to deny the fact that he made a choice, should we not honour him by bearing witness? I wrestled with the subject, I didn't want to jump on the wailing 9/11 bandwagon, but there was something in the way that people reacted to the photo that intrigued me. Eventually it came to me that we all wanted to see his face, his expression, to know how he felt, to wonder if we would have done the same. There but for the grace of God indeed...he is us! I then heard an interview with a man who had spoken with his wife on a cell phone just before she had jumped. He was talking about her making the ultimate choice, that he knew she was thinking of him and their children as she leapt and, how for her, it was a kind of homecoming. She was able to breathe fresh air and, for one last moment, be under a beautiful blue sky. He said something like "to be out of the smoke and into fresh air...she must have felt like she was flying". It seemed like an endorsement of the human spirit too profound to ignore, so I put pen to paper.
I didn't want the song to be too musical, too artful, it just didn't seem appropriate, so we agreed to keep it stripped to its original acoustic strum. Marcus then added a double bass and a wurlitzer that help shape the chords. We might add some dobro around the vocal, but that's it.

MC: It was strange when Trev came in with ‘The Falling Man’ as I’d recently been working with Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris. They’ve done a duets album and one of the songs on the album is called ‘If This is Goodbye’. Upon first listening thought it was just a goodbye love song but it was in fact about 9/11 and the last phone calls people made when they found themselves trapped after the impact of the plane. It was a very emotional song to play and was still fresh in my mind when we started ‘The Falling Man.’
The guitar and vocals were recorded as above and the double bass was recorded in the control room with rhode classic through the Joe Meek VC1Q with a touch of compression.

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