Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Songs of Sadness

This is kind of an addendum to today's Sundown Six in some ways. I've been trying to put together a review of The Staves' album for a couple of days now, but it's not happening. This is primarily because of dissonance but also, in some ways, because of the sadness of some of the songs; the primary example being the recent much-6music-played Facing West:


Which I'm sure has been mentioned on this blog before.

At first listen it has a kind of Jack Johnson surfiness and a Mumford-and-Sons folkiness that they're quick to – arguably – distance themselves from in intervals, which might be a good idea, because Mumford and Sons. But just on a basic skim-listen lyrical analysis, it's a song of sadness;

Sing me a song / Your voice is like silver and 
I don't think that I can do this anymore

I'm guessing, and only guessing, that it's basically a breakup song.

Equally, there are songs that evoke a true sadness in me – and, perhaps, only me – and, equally, pieces of music that do the same. Before we get into that, let's have a bridge song between now and sadness:

So first up on my list – for now – is Field of Poppies.

This is, as the video suggests, taken from Civilisation V. (I know this makes two game soundtrack videos in a row, but bear with me here.)

The music in Civilisation V is context-sensitive, to a degree. Certain soundtrack elements play at certain times to denote actions taken or things going on in the world. As the title might suggest, Field of Poppies tends to play during wartime and – in my experience (and, I'm slightly ashamed to say, extensive experience) – it comes on at a point during a war where the initial bombast of sound and fury and patriotic passion and let's-go-kick-some-ass! has passed over, and all you're left with are lines and lines of virtual troops dying to defend or expand your borders or protect your cities / take an opposing city. 

It also plays in the aftermath of a nuclear detonation, so, basically, it signifies a heinous loss of (virtual) life and, for me, it's always a cue to step back and think – Talking Heads style – My God, What Have I Done?
It's a sadness in a piece of music, basically.

The next one is a new one to me, and slightly disingenuous.

I've not played Bioshock Infinite, but I've absorbed a ton of information – and, arguably, the story itself – through, say, TVTropes and Wikipedia and video gaming websites. But in this instance, not knowing enough about the context makes this song... I don't know, 'feel' just that little bit sadder. 

All I can do in this instance is speak from a music-listener's point of view -

- And let's not forget, in this game-music-centric post, that this is supposed to be a music blog -

That music doesn't necessarily need its original context to be sad. Another example, same source:

Soundtracks can prove more prevalent in terms of sadness-inducing music, because that's what they're there for – to provoke an emotional response. One of the best examples for this, for my money – and if you disagree, the joke's on you, because, skint – would be Hoist The Colours, but this one does need context:

(You might have to clickthrough on that one.) 

I have a soft spot in my heart for cripples, bastards and broken things songs that are designed to be sung when your back is against the wall and it could be, very really, very nearly, the end. 

Let's wrap this up for tonight, though; I can give you a non-conventional example.

This is not, by anybody else's standards, a song of sadness.

But for me it's the saddest song in the world.

When I hear it, I hear loss, and worry, and the ultimate concern that the person you love doesn't love you back quite as much, and that the only person for you in the world will one day have moved on, taking their sway with them. 

It's a song of need, where that need can only be satisfied by one person, placing them in a position of power that means they can break you whenever they want to. It's almost a song of begging and anguish and the fear of rejection and dejection.

To me.

Oh, sure, I could have gone with this kind of business:


But that's not sadness, to me. Not right here and not right now, anyway. There's sadness, and then there's grief. 

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