by Aidan Chivers
‘Ubi caelum condidit umbra/Iuppiter, et rebus nox abstulit atra colorem’ (Aeneid 6.271-2)
– ‘When Jupiter has buried the heavens in shadow, and black night has stolen the colour from things’
Drawing on traditional Greco-Roman mythology in his assignment of a powerful deity to explain the grandeur of this natural process, Virgil beautifully and memorably captures the experience of twilight. Just after the sun has hurled its last and most impressive display of colour across the sky and has finally slipped below the horizon, dusk follows: the surroundings are still visible in their natural light but have been drained of their more vibrant colours and reduced to shadows, outlines, and monochrome shapes.
With the failing light comes the loss of the apparent clarity of day – yet also the loss of hundreds of distracting details which can pull you away from seeing the bigger picture. The sun’s presence has, since antiquity, been associated with reason and rationality, yet also with judgement and exposure. In the calming influence of twilight, greater intellectual and emotional freedom can flow.
A release of natural inhibition is perhaps an inevitable consequence. For Alex Turner of The Arctic Monkeys, the nights were mainly made for saying things that you can’t say tomorrow-day. Maybe they’re also a time for seeing, thinking and feeling things that will, and perhaps should, be lost in the dawn-dusk whirlwind that occupies most of our lives.
Some things are far clearer in Black & White. Like an old family photo which tells a familiar narrative that you can understand, this loss of excessive detail can bring about more subtle and more important revelations. You might lose the details and the beauty of colour, but sometimes it is only in the cool, colourless gleam of twilight that patterns emerge.