In recent years, Nick Cave has always been up to something or another, and has released music at a fairly prolific clip. But he’s really been up to a lot this year. He and Warren Ellis released the great Carnage, he was cast as a forest in a Shakespeare production, he announced he’d be teaming up with Andrew Dominik once more for a live Carnage and Ghosteen film, he began rolling out B-Sides And Rarities Part II, he announced a new memoir focusing on the years after his son’s death, and apparently he’s playing H.G. Wells in a Benedict Cumberbatch movie. Somehow, in the midst of all that, he also has time for small, powerful moments like “Shyness.
“Shyness” is a new spoken word track Cave released today. It’s the text of a Red Hand Files letter set to music. (This is not the first time a Red Hand File letter prompted new music — it also happened with “Grief” earlier this year.) The fan questions were “What is shyness?” and “What was your first date with your wife like?” These things dovetail for Cave, with him first meditating on shyness, and how some things slip through life because of it, but how he and his wife meeting was one moment where he broke through that wall. It’s a pretty meditation, and you can hear it below.
And here’s the whole text of Cave’s letter/spoken word piece:
Shyness is the tentative sound of the orchestra tuning up before the symphony begins. It is a beautiful, fractured piece of music in itself. It is the orchestra attempting to find its shared intent and is over all too quickly if you ask me.
In some circumstances shyness never finds its harmonic agreement and the situation will never be in tune. Yet shyness is a gift that can also be the sometimes crippling, often overpowering, intuition that the next thing life presents is potentially momentous, be it beautiful or devastating, where an exchanged few words or a gesture is a gateway to a new and unknown world. From these intimations of excruciating clarity, we can fall through our shyness into moments of earth-shaking significance, and our lives can change completely.
My wife, Susie, has a hummingbird shyness. In social situations she displays herself for a magical, weightless moment then darts away. It is as if she is so acutely tuned into the inherent discomfort of others, whether they display it or not, that the situation becomes overwhelming. She is a rare thing, an exhibitionist that hates to be seen.
My initial dinner ‘date’ with Susie was an awkward and hesitant affair because we both intuited, on some deep level, that we stood at the threshold of another life that would stretch on indefinitely into the future. We did not know what that life would be, and it was undeclared between us, but our mutual shyness was the orchestra tuning up, with its flutters and discords, as it tried to find its shared melodic objective. In the end, I did what was a potentially life-deranging act and lunged hideously and impulsively through the membrane of our mutual shyness, grabbed my future wife and kissed her. She responded in kind and our shyness dropped away and, well, the symphony began. Shyness became the firewall through which we walked to a strange and different world, and here we are, together.