Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Music as Poetry

In a discussion with R recently, it came up that a lot of pop music is not interesting music, although the lyrics may be unearthly. I agree wholeheartedly with this conviction, although I do enjoy the ease of pop music upon the ear. I also enjoy singing it, all the more so if it is beautifully lyrical. Yet, I find that lyrics aren't as strong taken apart from the whole of the piece. If you can't feel the intent of the words with the singer's voice, why have the words in the first place? It is a difficult decision for me, deciding why a piece moves me.

For that matter, it's always been an odd mix of favorites for me. I prefer songs with a good beat, that keep me moving and are just enjoyable. Yet, upon listening to an album for the 40th time or what-have-you, I find the quiet moments hidden in the slower tracks. For who can have a serious thought with a heavy beat?

I just listened to some Cat Stevens on grooveshark.com for a while. It has been so long since I've heard his voice, and I do miss it. Cat Stevens was a true Flower Child and his music brings to mind such beautiful imagery, self-exploration and understanding.

From simple, honest tunes such as "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out" (written for the 1971 movie Harold and Maude) you just get the sense of joy that Cat Stevens found in the world and all of its differences.

And if you want to be me, be me
And if you want to be you, be you
'Cause there's a million things to do
You know that there are

Or the optimism and acceptance found in "Moonshadow".

And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if... I won't have to work no more.
And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry,
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if... I won't have to cry no more.

But then you have the dialogue in "Father and Son" that reaches most of us -- for who hasn't seen if not experienced the dismissal of young tempests by cooler, older heads?
I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy,
To be calm when you've found something going on.
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you've got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.

How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It's always been the same, same old story.
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away.
I know I have to go.

I don't know why I find the sentiments of old hippy songs more poignant and relevant to my own life than any modern attempts -- perhaps I merely am more familiar with the tunes of the 60s than today. Perhaps there is a sense of "why reinvent the wheel" when it comes to these feelings. They just make me want to look at my beautiful, shining moon and sing in the dark.

1 comment:

  1. "They just make me want to look at my beautiful, shining moon and sing in the dark".

    That's the hidden wood-nymph in your peeking out. Abandon the cities and rush to the glades!

    Actually, though, I was talking about rock when I said I don't always care for the *music* part of their music, although a lot of their lyrics are either gorgeous, or deliciously cynical, or fuck-you caustic -- all of which suits my tastes just fine. Contemporary western pop, I've no *idea* about. I think the last chart-toppers I heard were Savage Garden, and I was probably in middle school when they peaked!

    There's a story here, however. A great deal of older Bollywood music is very, very poetic, very nuanced, and contain a great deal of play on words (they are therefore also impossibilities for decent translation). The music they were set to is great, sometimes, and pretty meh in others. Comparing it with modern Bollywood songs, one finds the emphasis slowly moving from excellent poetry set to music, to catchy, if sometimes bizarre lyrics (which are even catchier) set to jangling, foot-tapping, persistent beats. I sometimes find myself humming a few bars of songs where I can't even make the lyrics out, because they're so completely overshadowed by the rhythm/beat glitz.

    I suppose it was growing up on the older kind of songs that made me more aware of the presence of the lyrics behind the beats, and now I find it hard to shift focus.