The contemporary American author George Saunders penned an essay about Wilco’s “One Sunday Morning” for an online feature that The New York Times Magazine published today titled “25 Songs That Tell Us Where Music Is Going.” Wilco’s track is included alongside Rihanna’s “Consideration,” Justin Bieber’s “Sorry,” Sun Kil Moon’s “I Watched The Film,” Vince Staples’ “’06,” The Social Experiment’s “Sunday Candy,” and many more. Saunders’ piece on “One Sunday Morning” is fairly brief, but in it he contemplates what a song should do for a listener. Here’s a sample of the introduction:
How does a song work? What does it actually do? It doesn’t instruct, exactly, or teach, necessarily. A song, I’d say, causes the listener to assume a certain stance. Through some intersection of melody/lyrics/arrangement, it causes a shadow-being within us to get a certain expression on its face and fall into a certain posture. (Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up,” for example, would cause my 1970s teenage self to assume a, well, Thor-like posture: stoic, windswept, capable of enduring any hardship while, you know, holding my head up.)
In my favorite songs, this stance-causation is essentially moral-ethical — it makes me feel more able to go out and live. In the current bombastic and frightening political moment, I find myself listening obsessively to Wilco’s 12-minute opus, “One Sunday Morning,” which induces in me, reliably, a suite of feelings I might describe as patient quiet-mindedness + firm resolve to love better, and serves as an antidote to the harshness of the moment; a reminder that, with enough patience and fellow-feeling, things can sometimes prove workable between people, even if they disagree.
You can read the piece in its entirety here.