Last night I went to a concert I had been waiting to see for six years—the last time I saw Kings of Convenience I was six months pregnant, and it was, without a doubt, the best concert I’ve ever attended. Eirik and Erlend are a Norwegian duo I have been following since their first album came out in Australia in 2001; not by coincidence, I discovered them because I had just begun dating a Norwegian boy. The concert began with an interview by journalist and author Ørjan Nilsson, who released a book about the band last year, followed by a performance of the entire debut album that shared its name with the book, Quiet is the New Loud, and which contained the essence of their appeal: unassuming, profound songs that are at once relaxing and deeply passionate.
When the first notes of “Winning a Battle, Losing the War” crept into my ears, the tears began. Unbidden, as quiet as gentle rain, and connected to something deep within me that I had no will or need to control in that moment. Though I had been looking forward to the concert for weeks, I hadn’t allowed myself to remember what listening to these songs would mean. Because in the time between tickets going on sale and the time the music reached my ears, that Norwegian boy who took my hand all those years ago, for whom I left everything behind and moved across the world, and with whom I somehow managed to create the most perfect girl on earth, has let go of it forever. And there I was, surrounded by people listening with soft smiles to what is some of the most peaceful music one could imagine, and my heart was bleeding. Not breaking—that time is behind me now—but hurting. Because these songs were the soundtrack to the earliest days with that boy, a boy who became a man and a father in my presence, and who will now go his own way, as I will go mine.
Then, somewhere in the middle of the concert, came the song “Failure” whose lyrics reminded me: Failure is always the best way to learn.
And I am learning.
Over the time it has taken to accept the change in direction my life has taken, there are many things I have considered leaving behind, both tangible and not. Things like perfumes and jewellery that have strong memories attached, memories that are changed with new knowledge, tend to seem tainted now, and for a moment, the music felt the same way. In the hardest, most painful moment, I thought I should leave, and not listen to this album again, because it felt like an exercise in self-harm. Yet I remembered back to another time when things almost ended between us, and my roommate at the time—a biologist—told me not to throw away flowers I received while angry, because the flowers were still beautiful, had given their lives to bring beauty to mine, and it wasn’t their fault. And she was right then, as she is right now; my favourite perfume is still sweet, the silver and gold of earrings and necklaces still shines, and this music is still breathtaking and still bestows upon me a deep sense of calm. There is no reason to let those things be ruined now; after all, the early memories they bring back cannot be truly ruined by all that has passed since. I was happy then, and I have no wish to be bitter now.
So here I am, in the country that produced this music, that is my daughter’s home, and as such is mine for the foreseeable future. I don’t know what awaits me in this new life without the safety net of a native by my side. But I know I will move forward with both my heart and my memories intact. The memories will slowly fade to sepia behind me, but the things I love from my old life will come with me, and will, in time, gain new associations that have everything to do with strength, resolve, and eventually, happiness.
In the interview, the duo were asked why it takes so long for them to produce an album—it is a question all of their fans ask on a regular basis, to the point where many have assumed multiple times that the band no longer exists. Their answer spoke to the frustrated writer in me—a writer who hasn’t produced more than a couple of short stories so far this year: You need to have a lot of experiences to produce an album, and sometimes life isn’t very interesting. We need time to have experiences so we can write more songs.
I left the concert with peace in my heart, even though it is still heavy. This year has not been a good year, and I have not produced any new books for the first time in five years. But it has been a year of experiences, and there are certainly more to come. More experiences. More writing.
Kings of Convenience will be back in Oslo next summer, and I will be there to listen again. By then the clouds and rain will be long gone, the experiences will have become words, and my life will look very different.