Something I find myself doing a lot recently when I am overwhelmed or annoyed at something seemingly trivial is repeating the phrase, “This is water.” Focusing on this phrase, David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech to graduates of Kenyon College in 2005 stressed not the lofty ideals of greatness and hard work, but the imperatives of using imagination in moments of routine or triviality or bullshit. Please go listen to the whole thing since paraphrasing it is sort of ironic, but the idea of exerting agency over moments that have no inherent meaning is key, and something that is likely worth practicing.
After watching Air Waves music video for her lovely “Fantasy”, I could not help thinking back to Foster Wallace’s speech. In the video we see songwriter Nicole Schneit following the legendary author’s advice and finding the whimsical moments in quotidian behaviors. As Schneit mellifluously repeats the idea of “fantasy” throughout her song, adding harmonies gradually, we see her engage in would-be boring errands and tasks: getting up, eating breakfast, going to the mattress store to find new furniture. But instead of looking like a drone, she finds ways to make the time move without being victimized by it.
In the press release about her new album, Schneit explains the motivation behind naming her forthcoming album Parting Glances. “From people puking, making out, screaming, crying, laughing, dancing, grooming, etc…We encounter each other in the thick of our complex lives by simply looking at each other all the time. These glances are mundane and fleeting but also powerfully intimate.” This is an extremely compelling idea that we often take for granted since we are subjected to other people’s routines every day. It is important to take a step back, as Schneit has done, and notice that this is water.
Air Waves’ Parting Glances is out on September 18 via Western Vinyl.