7. Narratives


Dear Sans Thoughts,

Can you think too deeply about something? I suppose it’s possible, if that something is a seemingly rocky relationship (which I would think would necessitate a phrase more like “obsess over” versus “think deeply about”). Or if it is something as trivial as our current tangle but actively taking us away from something better.

But I have nothing better.

Oddly, your question about whether artists are just naming things nonsensically just to toy with us (or literally because they just don’t care) is, from my highly unscientific study, accurate. When I asked Jack Wyllie, of the aforementioned London jazz quartet, what inspired some of the new songs on their album, Isla, he rambled for a bit about the “feel” of the song, etc. But he ended by admitting, “They’re really pretty arbitrary.”

So is that the end of the discussion?

Hardly. Ok, so one person says the title is arbitrary. Perhaps so. But the musicians are captive to the power of their own creations; they can’t escape the feeling of a song after they play it, can’t erase the imagery that pops into their heads unbidden by certain constructions.

Of course, Wyllie only speaks for Wyllie anyway. Composer Max Richter hardly brushed off the task of naming his 24 pieces on 24 Postcards in Full Colour. Characters are created from single letters (“A Song for H Far Away,” “Cold Fusion for G,” and “Broken SYmmetries for Y”). And places are not just named but personified throughout several of his musical vignettes (“Berlin by Overnight,” “Return to Prague,” and “Tokyo Riddle Song”).

These are not random, arbitrary phrases lazily thrown out by someone only “concerned about the music.” They tell a story. In fact, I’ve been reading and rereading this story since I got this album. Trying to understand it and pick up on all the clues. It is surprisingly narrative, and I don’t think for a minute that it would feel so without the hints left in the titles.




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