by Tiana Feng
As we understand more of the musical language and culture, we learn to associations that have not necessarily been purposely prescribed by the original musician and it is difficult to predict the true intentions of the artist.
For instance we understand that it is a song has a very reflective mood. The artist is thinking about the past. Not only is this idea heard through the lyrics, but this is reflected in the repetitive piano chords as well as Chris O’Connor’s soft and non aggressive tone of voice. The melody also circles round and round imitating the artist’s continual obsession with the past. These musical factors reflecting the subject of the song may not have been planned but we make such associations from similar songs in the same genre.
Let’s take a song that is indie but far more known mainstream such as Calendar Girl by Stars. The song features the exact same features; the circling of melody. It also contains 3 very repetitive chords F, G and C. The mood is almost exactly the same in that it is about someone who is letting time pass by as they are reflecting on the past.
It is in our comparison and understanding of other music that we are able to understand something new because the notes themselves do not convey any emotion. For example the C, E and F do not mean anything by themselves until there is a song as “whole” of which they are part of. We can use spoken word as an analogy for this. For example there is nothing intrinsically catlike about the word cat or any of the letters of the word but we learn that the sound as a whole represents a feline house pet (Levitin 114). In music we do the same thing. Sequences of tones together, or certain forms and phrases can represent things but we can only understand this through actively listening to pieces and collecting a musical vocabulary just as we do in language.
This is why for my project I propose to take Primitive Radio God’s Standing Outside a Broken Phonebooth with Money in My Hand and propose a brand new performance of it that stretches these confines of musical expectation. I propose to turn this song into a digital collage like http://inbflat.net where each time you hear it, it is different and therefore the song cannot hold the same sort of expectations and feelings during each play. It also allows the song to maintain the unproduced raw quality found in indie music.
To propose a digital medium also gives the song a different role because in the days of social media the right and wrong things can go viral. In the next post I will take you further and explain how I would go about creating a digital collage and the meaning alterations a small change could impose on the original song.
Levitin, Daniel J. “This is Your Brain On Music”. London England: Penguin Books LTD, 1998.