Archive | December, 2009

Happy New Year: The History of “Auld Lang Syne”

31 Dec

A very happy new year from the writers of The Music Court. In May we started this blog with minimal expectation, only wanting to bring a little musical joy to everyone out there. Today, we have a loyal flock of readers and we want to thank each and every one of you personally. We promise to continue to bring great content to the blogosphere in the year 2010. So, as the clock strikes 12:00 A.M, wherever you are in the world, pop the champagne and sing “Auld Lang Syne,” hopefully now knowing what the song means.

“Auld Lang Syne.” You have heard of it before and have definitely heard more than one version. Personally I became accustomed to the Kenny G version. It is the classic new year’s song and if you are questioning how it goes watch this:

It all is coming back to you now, right? Good, now ever wonder where it came from. Did you know the song has lyrics? Auld Lang Syne is believed to be a poem written by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1788. This is pretty funny to an English major who has taken British Literature because Burns, the national poet of Scotland, also wrote a poem called “To A Mouse” which inspired the title of Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men.” I always thought Burns’ poetry was kind of funny, so in seeing that he wrote this makes me kind of laugh too. Yet, the lyrics of this song are often forgotten. So, is the meaning of Auld Lang Syne which is kind of necessary when singing it.

Auld Lang Syne, literally means “Old Long Since,” yet, in order for it to make sense, it is easier to say “Long Long Ago.” Or, more modern, “For Old Time’s Sake.” The song basically calls to people to remember friendships. The content makes it the perfect New Years song. The Scots, being smart, started using this as their new years song and others quickly followed suit.

How did the song become popular in the United States? Credit band-leader Guy Lombardo whose playing of the song on new year’s eve popularized it in America.

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The Best Rock Song of the Decade Response: “Devils and Dust” by Bruce Springsteen

30 Dec

The results of the poll pointed to “Smooth” by Santana and Rob Thomas as the #1 rock song of the decade. It is a fair choice; the song is a great combination of Carlos Santana’s blues styling and the voice of one of the best rock frontmen of the decade. Yet, like how it has been for the past polls, I must disagree. Personally, I wish I could have just picked all of the songs on the list because each song has its own reason why it should be considered the best song of the decade. But, if I do have to choose one, the one song that has that extra something putting it above the other musical pieces is “Devils and Dust” by Bruce Springsteen.

“Devils and Dust,” the name of Springsteen’s 2005 album as well, was released as a single in March of 2005 and gained critical acclaim immediately. It was nominated for three Grammy’s, including song of the year, and Springsteen took home the Grammy for best solo rock vocal performance. So, yes, everyone does understand that the song is good and gained notoriety because of its success. The question still remains, what makes this particular song better than all of the other rock songs of the decade?

In judging a good song one must ask a couple of questions. Is the song technically sound? How is the vocal performance? Is it catchy enough? Do the lyrics fit and are they beyond normal cliché? Yes, I know, I too just like listening to music and singing along but these are talking points to perpetuate discussions on music and in defending the “Best Rock Song of the Decade” I need to cover all of the qualifications. Let’s look at the music side of it first.

Springsteen’s song begins with an acoustic guitar with both E strings (The high and low) dropped to a D tuning. Briefly, this means that one will get a different sound out of their guitar because of this different tuning. He strums his guitar with a meaningful chord progression that can practically sing the song for him. In the studio version of the song, a string section compliments the acoustic beautifully. The song is a perfect example of a rock crescendo, allowing the lyrics to tell the story and when the words reach a climactic moment the melody does as well. Springsteen then brings out a harmonica and blows the hell out of it to represent the consternation of his protagonist. The loud harp, the strummed acoustic, and strings and drums just work. The song goes above and beyond the musical qualifications.

While the song is immaculate, it is the lyrics that let the song rise above each other hit in this decade. There is a truthful pain that one feels when listening to the song. In a clear anti-war statement, Springsteen tells the story of a person in war who has been put into the situation where he has his finger on a trigger and he looks towards faith for an answer of what to do. There is a constant repetition of God and “Devils and Dust.” The character’s “god-filled soul” is filled with “devils and dust.” What this attempts to demonstrate is that in the heat of war when there is blood and effluvium rising around you, the conflict between good and evil mix and a horrifying confusion rises. The character attempts to reach a conclusion that he has “god on his side” and he is just “trying to survive.” Yet, in surviving a brewing fear that he is doing it while destroying morals rises. The conclusion is reached that “Faith just ain’t enough” because “When I look inside my heart, There’s just devils and dust.”

The lyric is a story about the fear in one’s heart that arises when the conclusion is reached that in war there is no faith and no good. There is only “Devils and Dust” and rightfully these two words end the song. The devil that represents evil and the dust that represents death. It is not surprising that after Springsteen finished his performance at the Grammy’s he found room to say “Bring em’ Home,” referring to our troops.

“Devils and Dust”

Lyric of the Day #69: Top 100 Lyricists #78

29 Dec

Good news, everyone! I cannot help but think of Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth whenever I say that (Futurama is quite awesome). But, if I was using that formula I would most likely be saying bad news, everyone, because whenever Professor Farnsworth says good news it is always bad news and vice versa. Okay, I’ll shut-up and get to the music.

As you can see from the title of the post above, after a month of inaction the lyricist section is back and will pick up strong from #78. Also, I am finally done with the list so there should be no more delays. Hopefully, the section will be finished sometime in the next year and a half! And, what is a better way to get back into the lyricist list than with one of the more creative lyricists, David Byrne of Talking Heads fame.

David Byrne was rejected from his middle-school choir because they claimed he was off-key and withdrawn. While Byrne has always been a bit of an odd-ball and, trust me, this comes out in his awesome lyric, saying the man is off-key is kind of like passing on Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft, it is just a bad idea. Luckily no one ever said anything bad about his lyric. After forming and dissolving The Artistics while he studied for a year at the Rhode Island School of Design, a move to New York sparked the beginning of Talking Heads, which was a pretty solid move. For our particular profile of Byrne’s lyric I would like to focus on his 17-year journey with Talking Heads. The new-wave, punk, avant-garde, and a list of more genres that the Talking Heads represented complimented Byrne’s quirky voice and abstruse lyric. Yet, however esoteric the lyric, Byrne, with his great band’s help, still made the music accessible and well-done. Two of Byrne’s most creative lyrics lie embedded into the 80’s music scene. Five years separated, Remain in Light released in 1980 and Little Creatures released on my sister’s birthday July 15 (10 years before she was born), are two great examples of classic Heads’ music and the lyrics are just extraordinary in every definition of the word.

Let us begin with Remain in Light and Byrne’s hit song “Once in a Lifetime.” The lyrics are spoken throughout the verse portions of this song and reveal an interesting existential crisis. I believe the lyrics expose the classic qualms of a mid-life crisis and what it can get anyone thinking. Let’s look at some of these verse lyrics.

“And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well…How did I get here?”

It is as if the character singing the song has just woken up from a long trance and is now absolutely confused with his situation. Byrne makes the character an everyday person as well by preceding every subject with the word “you.” He is saying that this can happen to anyone. The song can be taken as hilarious because of the questioning and comments that Byrne’s voice humorously goes over. For example the line “And you may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful wife,” is just, well, funny. Yet, underneath the humor is an unsettling consternation that appears when one looks over their life and realizes that their youth has dwindled and they are now “settled” into a situation. Byrne expresses this existential confusion well in this verse:

“And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house ?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go ?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right ?…Am I wrong ?
And you may tell yourself
MY GOD !…WHAT HAVE I DONE ?”

The climactic point of the song when Byrne yells “What Have I Done,” is just spot on. Byrne’s lyric expresses existential conflict at its core and it hits hard and successfully. It is just as relevant in Byrne’s 1985 hit “Road To Nowhere” which became a huge success mainly because of its zany truth.

“WELL WE KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOIN’
BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHERE WE’VE BEEN
AND WE KNOW WHAT WE’RE KNOWIN’
BUT WE CAN’T SAY WHAT WE’VE SEEN
AND WE’RE NOT LITTLE CHILDREN
AND WE KNOW WHAT WE WANT
AND THE FUTURE IS CERTAIN
GIVE US TIME TO WORK IT OUT”

This fantastic beginning sung in full chorus is just genius. In it Byrne writes about everyone as a whole. We know where we are going but we don’t know where we’ve been. This can easily be taken as a statement on the inevitable end to the “Road” of existence. The future is certain, we just need time to work out the nitty-gritty of it. Classic Byrne lyric, smart and quirky, but, at the same time a little scary

“Road to Nowhere”

Court Link: “All You Need Is Love”

28 Dec

Love is all you need

Starbucks and their love project recently coordinated a world-wide ongoing campaign to creatively help fight HIV/AIDS that is just ravishing Africa. Personally, I am inspired. On December 7th, 2009 at 1:30 p.m. GMT musicians joined from all over the world to sing The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” together at the same time to raise awareness of the miserable virus. The video is awe-inspiring; a perfect example that there is still love in this world. Love, while it sometimes may seem hard to locate, is indelibly ingrained into our being. So, get inspired. Watch the video and help out. Visit this website and add your voice: http://www.starbucksloveproject.com

Check out the video:

Visual Music #20

28 Dec

After a long weekend of Christmas cheer, birthday celebration, chocolate-covered vacations, and extraordinarily good family news, I’m feeling up and well enough to post a new Visual Music – complete with a hint this time! Also, once you’ve gotten the answer, highlight the next line down after the answer for a special message from me.

Song Title and Artist

BOOBIES! ...Kinda

Hint ( Like Snickers, this ViMu is guaranteed to satisfy )

Answer ( One Week by Barenaked Ladies )

Yea, It’s gonna be stuck in your head for a while now. Sorry.

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