Thursday, January 16, 2014

Of songs and their names

Travel between work and home consumes about 3 hours of my life everyday. It also gives me about 3 hours everyday to listening to music actively. Active meaning, I play it to listen to it and do nothing else, only listen to that music with activities like walking or travelling on the side.  A lot of this active instrumental music has been much  fascinating me lately.  It makes me wonder, how do wordy names emerge for tunes that were created to escape from the burden of words and translation?

This piece by Tigran Hamasyan is a song that flows like a slow stream of water that smoothly begins to evaporate into nothingness. He’s done this with a faint vocal section that begins in a structured fashion but then transforms into a fading poly rhythmic form that dissolves into itself, soon enough, quite like vague memories that fade away to feel like dreams. He’s one of those artists I listen to without even looking at what each song is called, and I check out names only once in a while. I saw the name ‘A memory that became a dream’ today evening. The awareness of the name really transformed my experience of the song. There was joy in how closely I had sensed the artists’ vision, a success of his capacity to articulate an idea and my capacity to absorb (to some extent, maybe).

I heard Arjuna (the two part composition) by Tarun Balani for the first time at a small private concert in 2013. Tarun announced the name the piece and the band performed it. Then I went home and heard the song on the album again and again. And again. Upbeat music that changes gears between the two parts to charge at you more definitively; this is a great demonstration of building up focus with a change in time signature, rigorous and meditative repetition, and slowly revealing the true nature of something through its journey. To me, this song could be called nothing but Arjuna. I cannot imagine for it to have any other name now. How much would change if I would have not heard its name before listening to the song? It would still stand for focus, perhaps, but not in the context of its Mahabharata reference. Would the piece be different if Tarun had never read or heard about Arjuna or the Mahabharata?

I’m trying to resolve my feeling about the times where I have felt little connection with the artists’ intentions and found my experience of a song to be quite different from its intended meaning. This happened especially in the case of the riveting Piano Textures by Bruno Sanfillipo. The tracks are organized in an order and are called Piano Textures 1, Piano Textures 2, Piano Textures 3, Piano Textures 4, Piano Textures 5, Piano Textures 6, Piano Textures 7, Piano Textures 8

PS. Hunting for relevant pieces for this made me realize how live versions could often be diametrically different from studio versions. It is Jazz after all. It is all the energy in the improvisation.

PPS. Happy 2014.

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