Monday, September 28, 2015

Illuminations 9/28

It’s weird when song lyrics really get to you. On one hand you want tell everyone about the beautiful gem you found, but on the other you don’t want to sound like the kid who says, “oh my god! ‘Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars?’ Did you hear that? Hayley Williams and B.o.B. totally get me. I really could use a wish right now too,” every chance they can. We get it. You posted those lyrics as your Facebook status yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. I’m pretty sure they were your AIM status for the past month. (I’m sorry, 2010.)

Personally I don’t force lyrics down people’s throats. Instead, I passive-aggressively play the song on repeat and sing along to the one part of the song I want people to hear, which is arguably more annoying but don’t think about that too much. Most of the time I don’t think they catch on to what I’m trying to do anyway.

Recently I’ve been really caught up on the album “As It Were” by Marietta, particularly the song “Are You Afraid Of God? No, But I’m Afraid of You,” and even more particularly the ending gang vocal section where they’re screaming, 
“am I imaginary, or is my voice not loud enough?”

Marietta - Are You Afraid of God? No, But I'm Afraid of You
I don’t know if it’s the isolation of the vocals, or if it’s the desperateness in all the voices, or if it’s the magnitude of emotion jammed into that moment, but they really get to me every time I hear them. They start off obfuscated by the preceding vocals and explode into a cry as if they had just surpassed the threshold  of the container holding them in. Like letting out tears, the sonic direction of those lyrics create a visceral experience out of an arguably simple phrase.

That’s the interesting thing about music. Nothing of what I said, had anything to do with the words themselves. (Albeit, I do have a personal response to those words, but then I’d be going into a rant about who I am and no one wants that.) There’s so much that can be drawn out of a couple of seconds in a song without even touching a word. I’m pretty sure a lot of us are accustomed to picking through poetry, and I’d say music is no different. 

What is music anyway? Or I guess the better question would be, considering music can encompass instrumental composition, which is a different ball game, what are songs? Some would say poetry with musical accompaniment. Consider this song:

Old Gray - Show Me How You Self Destruct

It’s basically spoken word over a sparse guitar riff and moving violin line. Because the instrumentation is very simple, it’s easy to pick up the big change that happens in the song that really defines the piece. The first half of the song is relatively bright, with its major key and play on harmonics (those are the bell sounds the guitar makes), but then a change happens at around the <0:27> mark where the key becomes minor and the guitar stops playing harmonics for the most part. That change elicits a negative response from the listener and adds to the experience of the song. Looking into the lyrics and a description by the vocalist, the song is about “chasing something you can never get again,” in his case, opiates, “ and continuing to do so against your will.” The music adds to this by placing two very similar instrumental sections with different emotions attached to them. I want. I shouldn’t. I want against my will. There’s a dissonance between those phrases that the music inhabits.

I said I wouldn’t go into the technical parts of music, but I did lightly. I’m sorry. For something simpler, I’d consider this song:

Watermedown - Exposure

What’s really nice about this song is that what it does is very simple. Looking at the second verse, at around the <0:19> mark, screaming vocals are layered under the main, clean vocal track. The screaming track is so subtle that, without thinking about it, you could miss it, but the addition of it adds to how those lines should feel. A better example would be the line at the <1:29> mark,

“I’ve never wanted any more than for someone to understand me.”

The vocals in that part juxtapose each other in a great way. The clean vocal track slowly becomes defeated as it goes down that line, and at its lowest point the screaming track bursts in with a passion that felt lost in the clean track. The juxtaposition between the two vocal tracks create a dilemma for the listener, asking them how they feel about the lines and possibly how they feel about themselves. Are they hopeful? Or have they given up? If you try singing along, see where you fit in.


I'm sorry all of these songs are pretty big bummers. Here's a song to chill out to:

Clara C - Quesadilla

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