Aural Fixations, the Rumpus Mixtape #1: Pastoral


Pastoral. For a long time we’ve thought of that simply as pastures, poetry about streams and paintings of lush, lime green grass. Cows. Works by Virgil. A certain longing for the countryside. Shepherds. Hills rather than towns.

Yes all of that is pastoral, but the notion runs deeper.

Pastoral is about a certain longing, but not necessarily for the country. It’s about a longing for space – maybe internal, maybe external, maybe both – a patch of sky among the bricks and mortar. The space of quiet to form our thoughts, to articulate our own imaginations. The space to be unfettered, free of our projected selves, our images. The notion of pastoral is as much a yearning for weightlessness as it is about clear, cool streams in the meadow. It’s a yearning for the clear, cool streams of our internal sensibilities. It’s about truth and honesty and what endures. It’s pre-war not pre-fab. It’s as much about a lack of grittiness among much grit as it is about anything else. We all want to see the stars, even on a dark night of the soul or a light polluted evening among the urban thicket. Tilt your head, close your eyes. The stars are there, forming the great constellations. These songs might help you find them:

Where We Go”
Go With Me

Waitin’ for a Train”
Jimmie Rodgers
Waitin’ for a Train

Astral Weeks”
Van Morrison
Astral Weeks

On This Side”
Tiny Vipers
Hands Across the Void

Lay My Love” (Live)
Poi Dog Pondering
Liquid White Light (Live)

Simon & Garfunkel
The Best of Simon & Garfunkel

No Nostalgia”
Alright You Restless

The National
High Violet

Melissa Ferrick
The Other Side

Stars Fell on Alabama” (1957 Stereo Version)
Billie Holiday
Songs for Distingué Lovers

Open Air”
Robert Deeble
Earthside Down

Wildwood Flower”
The Carter Family
RCA Country Legends: The Carter Family

Lost Coastlines”
Okkervil River
The Stand Ins

I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town
Ruth Brown
Ms. B’s Blues: Essential Recordings

sparrow” (outro)
safe words
hollow leg

Anna March’s writing appears regularly in Salon and here at the Rumpus and her work has been widely published including in The New York Times' Modern Love Column, New York Magazine, VQR, Hip Mama and Tin House. Her essay collection, Feminist Killjoy, and novel, The Diary of Suzanne Frank, are both forthcoming and she is at work on two new books. She teaches writing workshops, mentors writers, is active in promoting literary community and is the co-founder of LITFOLKS in LA and DC. She lives in Rehoboth Beach and Los Angeles. Sometimes she has pink hair. Follow her on Twitter @ANNAMARCH or learn more about her at ANNAMARCH.COM. More from this author →