Prompt 9: Someone* one said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Try it anyway. (*There is more than one apocryphal story of where this quote came from.)
I like music that is incredibly complex … have I mentioned I don’t like pop music? I think there is a huge difference between being a “performer” and a “artist”. Plus, I really value and enjoy music that increases something in my experience as a listener, either adding layers upon layers of sounds to listen to, poignant and personally applicable lyrics, or even inspires some other creative outlet (like dance, painting, drawing, writing, etc.)
A couple of years ago, one of my favorite artists, Kimbra, released a wild album that was so creatively dense, titled The Golden Echo. The thing about Kimbra is that she is a true creative artist; just watch her talk about her songs or creative process, or even watch a live performance, and there is a clear distinction between her and other mainstream singers. Each song generated a different experience for me, and each created a very different mental images. After listening to this album for awhile, and inspired by an art exhibit she did for her album, I decided to put some headphones on, turn the volume way up, and visually create what I experienced with each piece. I was rather limited to my sketchbook, markers, crayons, and colored pencils. I do admit that my drawing skills are not great, especially since I haven’t indulged in that hobby in quite some time. But I really enjoyed the challenge of physically representing each song.
For this prompt, I thought it would be fun to take the same album, but now write about the songs, and try another way of exploring this album.
This piece is interesting, as the verses feel grey and muted and muddled, but the verses are bold and brighter in sound. Tonally, this contrast creates an interesting dynamic in the song, and almost suggests a tension beween the singer of the verses and the singer of the chorus. Emotionally, this song seems to creates a middle ground between what a person knows they “need to be” in a relationship and what they want in a relationship, almost like waiting until marriage or being intimate.
This was a hard one for me to construct visually, because this piece was more of an emotional experience for me than a visual one.
This is a wild piece, as at feels really distinct from the rest of the rest of the album. This song is full of texture and sounds; it almost feels like this was simply a fun, creative song for Kimbra. It could even be an homage to the music she grew up with. This was also a hard song for me to visualize, as although I may be a ’90’s kid, I didn’t engage with that part of culture (the bright colors, music, etc.). Plus, this song was one of the first ones she realized as a music video for her album, and thus I understood this song in the context of that video.
This was a song that I used to listen to in my car during the summer, with the bass turned way up, the windows down, and it became a fun, “feel good” song, one with a good beat and dance rhythm. To visually represent this, I figured bright colors, minimal structure, and no clear message captured the overall experience while listening to this piece.
I’m going to preface this right now by saying that the image I created was supposed to be hills and a dirt road. My brother said it looks like something else, and I’ve been self-conscious of the image since then …..
This song feels like the kind of song you’d listen to while on a road trip. It’s simpler than the previous song, and I feel a sense of adventure in this song. There’s a lyric that goes “‘Cause you’re the hope I never find off the beaten track”, and I experience a sense of reckless wandering when I hear that line paired with the music.
I felt a lot of blues and tans and yellows and oranges while listening to this piece, much like a bright blue sky over tanned fields and dirt roads. This is a much lighter and brighter piece for me, and tonally, it feels happier.
This song, right off the bat, reminds me of a slave songs during the times of slavery, in terms of the tones of the music, or even bluegrass soul, much like Back to the Garden by Crowder. I experience a lot of dark colors while listening to this piece, almost like being in a mine. I also pick up on metaphors pretty quickly, and so this idea of personal “gold” created an image of mining for gold, similar to the dwarves in Snow White. I also think this song as a touch of gospel music to it, and so this piece almost creates a spiritual, personal experience.
This was also a fun piece to create, as it challenged me to work on my shading skills, and my details. I hadn’t sketched like that for quite some time, so it became quite time consuming. My original mental image included dwarves, but I did get a bit frustrated with my lack of ability to be able to accurately portray what I was “seeing” in my mind.
This is like a ’70’s, disco style song, and is a great dancing song. This was also one of the music videos released for the album, and in the video, Kimbra is wearing a variety of red dresses. So, in that sense, I automatically thought of red when I began to listen to this song to sketch it out.
I hear the lyrics a express a joy at something/someone being a “miracle” for Kimbra, which has created a sense of happiness for her. There’s a lyric that goes “got me seeing visions of love” which seems to capture the feeling of this song. Personally, this song speaks to me in the regard of being in a relationship again after being single for a number of years and falling back into those happy places of love.
This was perhaps one of the hardest songs for me to visualize, and I had to sit for quite some time with my headphones pressed against my head and my eyes squeezed shut. Tonally, this is a darker song, especially in comparison to the previous song.
This song feels like it’s speaking to the conflict of being in a relationship with someone (friendship or otherwise) who constantly hurts the other person, but the speaker is full of grace, though constantly hurt. This feels like an explanation for why the speaker continues to stay in the situation. There is also a really cool Biblical reference – “I’ll give my forgiveness seventy times seven”.
I had quite a hard time developing an image for this song, apart from it just feeling dark. Eventually I settled on the image of split screen (to mirror the tension) with a peace offering against “with loaded gun and poison darts/ he always aims for the heart”.
I saw the aforementioned artist exhibit video before beginning this project, and the piece the artist created for this song has Kimbra on a lion. Instantly, I thought circus, and with the title of “Madhouse”, I thought straight jacket. This image took a really interesting turn while sketching out, as I was again limited to my artistic ability.
I wanted to stick with the red and white theme of “circus”, while also wrestling with the lyrics, with alludes to conflicting labels – “I’m a mess/ then I’m a messiah”. It almost felt like a really public battle over identity, but also an internal recognition that it is all okay, regardless of how the speaker is labeled.
This was the second hardest song to create an image for, as I had never really listened to the lyrics prior to this project. The beginning of the song starts with what sounds like a harpsichord, and so my gut reaction was to do something Edwardian, but that didn’t feel right, especially after listening to the lyrics.
Because of how the singers go back and forth in this song, I feel this piece is like acknowledging a relationship between two people, even though one was in a relationship. It feels like a very mature, but also very instinctual reaction to someone who realize you love suddenly being single and able to be in a relationship.
This was also another tonally dark song for me, and I struggled with coming up with an image, and I don’t really like what the final product was. But, at the same time, I feel that it encompasses my feeling from the song.
This is one of my favorite songs on the album. I love that Kimbra seems to always have a really stripped back, crazy poignant song in each of her albums (“Build Up” in Vows and “Version of Me” in Primal Heart), and this song really showcases her ability to structure wild harmonies.
I got major Tim Burton vibes from this song; there’s a sense of nostalgia or sadness, but also beauty. I felt a lot of grays and really pale pinks. I really envisioned flowers covered in spider webs. This piece is like looking back on a changing relationship and wishing it had been different. It’s almost a final offering of the speaker to her partner to keep the relationship, as “but in time everything must change”.
This was, I think, the first image I thought of for the entire project. I had a very emotional reaction to this piece the first time I heard it, and was instantly washed in feelings of nostalgia, sadness, hope, and desperation.
The sounds in this songs are wild, and around the time the album was released, Kimbra was releasing short behind the scenes videos about each song. For this song, she talked about how they created the sounds by banging on trash cans and then distorting the sounds. I also remember seeing this beautiful lyric video for this song around the same time, so I was really influenced by that style as well.
This song is almost like a “cheerleader” song for someone else, or even a voicing of personal love and introspection. It’s like recognizing that love is in everything, be it the love between two people or the love a person has for themselves, and that love is always growing and changing.
This is also a favorite song. The percussion creates a sense almost tribal or tropical drums, and with is a sense of wilderness and height to the song.
This is another really great dance song. This was another difficult one for me to create a sketch to, as in my mind, it felt similar to “Miracle”. There was no definitive image that came to mind, but this was another “red” song.
There is a line that goes “I know I’ve got you going in circles”, and that felt like an easy direction to go in. This felt like a happy song, and so then it suddenly became an image of a multitude of bubbles floating around a happy space. There’s a musical break in the middle of the song, and clapping begins, which began to sound like popping bubbles. Suddenly, this was a happy piece with bubbles popping all over the places.
This is another favorite song. Goodness, it almost feels like a piece in a theater performance, and I think it is the most romantic song on the whole album.
The idea of “waltzing to the grave” made me think of Dia de los Muertos, and this beautiful, almost morbid, interaction with death. It plays with “from dust to dust” wonderfully in my mind, as it seems to deal with death in a beautiful exchange. This was also one of the first images I had for this project; it was another instant emotional reaction.
There is a wild chunk of time in the piece where there is no lyrics, followed by a short whisper-like chorus, and this very much felt like a transformation period during the piece. I began to see a couple dancing through life until death, and it felt peaceful and radiant and powerful.
There are also a few other songs to this album (Slum Love, Sugar Lies, The Magic Hour), but they were not on the album I purchased, so I don’t have visual representations of them.
What do you guys think? What are some songs/ albums you could write about?
Ciao for now,