Words in music


Trigger Warning: Song begins with sample of bombing


food for thought or a grain of salt¿

" 7] In other words, acts of recognition, rather than being triggered by formal characteristics, are their source. It is not that the presence of poetic qualities compels a certain kind of attention but that the paying of a certain kind of attention results in the emergence of poetic qualities. "

“Interpretation is not the art of construing but the art of constructing. Interpreters do not decode poems; they make them.”



Terry Riley is a true master…

I’m from the tail end of the hippie era, and I believe we could use more of that kind of visionary optimism…

These times feel so dark, to me about as bad as the Reagan era… maybe worse… I keep wondering where are the next analogs to punks…

Maybe they’re already out there but I’m too old and disconnected to see them…

I did get a bit of a hopeful glimpse watching the movie “The East” with Brit Marling… and a bit from parts of Fight Club but those are already in the rear view mirror…

Probably derailing the thread…


I grew up in the Reagan area and personally I feel the current time to be much darker… in 2005 I already began to feel the darkness… I see Trump as more the symptom or effect than the cause… This year I see some light but have no joy in it thanks to immediate crises.

However… my own feeling ignores the fact that for so many Americans subject to self-perpetuating cycles of mass incarceration thanks to racist drug laws, not to mention so many innocent Americans left to die because of Reagan’s “silence”, their illness being blamed on themselves – the 1980’s were extremely dark times indeed so I don’t in fact know… I just know I had the privilege then of having some hope for the future… your post does hint at how I should question that privilege…


Trump as symptom indeed…

Silence = Death

Apathy = Assent

Such happy memories… Argh…

Well at least there’s been some progress in some areas since then…


Rereading my comments I realize I may have come off as spiteful which was not my intent - I’ll blame it on my metal and punk upbringing :innocent:

I agree with you. It’s hard to argue with the idea that to fix a problem you need to first recognize it but It feels like things are getting so dark so fast and new problems are cropping up before last week’s can be digested and (a very large) part of me worries that piddling around the margins of electoral politics ain’t gonna cut it and it’s going to take some radical thinking like Mr. Riley’s utopianism to dig ourselves out. Art, and I mean “art” in the broadest sense, seems like our only hope in this regard.

To try to bring this back around: I posted the Terry Riley album art because I had heard his music before, but always through the computer and since getting the record and reading the accompanying text I’ll now associate those words with that music- which makes it all much more meaningful for me. I have similar associations with the previously mentioned Godspeed, You Black Emperor, who is also instrumental but so closely linked with radical politics in my mind that they cannot be separated.

All this to say, I think it’s possible for musicians making instrumental music to still imbue words (or maybe more accurately language, or at least concrete ideas typically expressed through words) into their work without being a bunch of Bobs Dylan and Joans Baez. :v:


Thanks for that. It’s a really interesting topic, although I am not sure how to articulate exactly what the topic is at the moment… I used to write a lot of songs, with words, and those words often had some kind of political (or other) message…

At some point I stopped writing words (in songs, obviously I’m more comfortable with writing in other ways…) I did this because I no longer knew what I was trying to say, to whom, for what purpose, or what it might mean to the listener…

So I switched to mostly instrumental music, and mostly improvised…

What I realize now is that the very act of doing this kind of music, which is largely outside the “music business” and even the music mainstream (whatever that is) is in itself a bit like going off the grid…

It’s not so much that I refuse to participate in all that, more that I don’t care about all that, and I am therefore free to pursue whatever creative path I find interesting…

Ironically, I teach Music Business (being an intellectual property lawyer with a music/arts background) but I find the actual products of that industry (outside the “outsider” aspects of the indie world) to be largely unpalatable and even “the harbinger of death”…

Have you read Jacques Attali’s book Noise: The Political Economy of Music? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise:_The_Political_Economy_of_Music]

Some interesting ideas there…


I listened to an interview from a local musician/producer I really like a year or so back where he said he was often unhappy but didn’t want to inject more unhappiness into the world through his music. So his music and its lyrics tend towards big party tunes and either fairly oblique or very positive messages.

I really related to all of this.

I also like music and words that are sad, angry, frustrated, personal (not in the sense of confessional necessarily, more loaded with someone’s character). But I thought the above was quite a different view to those that have shown up in the topic so far, so might be of interest.


Do you have any particular examples of music you reckon does this?


I think politics (and spirituality) are personal and should be kept to ones self even in music (words or not).


So contrary to my personal experience of all three of spirituality, politics, and music.

All feel like communal activities to me, things that have more meaning in the relationships between than in any one thing itself.

But I’m not trying to say you’re wrong. Just noticing how different our perceptions are.


Perhaps I’m meeting only the same kind of people, but I always end up feeling like i’m being sold something (or trying to be convinced).


Feels even more relevant now, in the age of Californian ideology techno-takeover.

(fan made video)


IMO, also contrary to the history of music and art. It’s all political, and it’s all personal, and it’s all communal. And always has been.


Nothing comes to mind. It’s something I’d like to listen to (which usually means I should think about doing it myself)


Have not heard of this but just checked out the wiki. From that

Also important to Repeating are Attali’s ideas of Exchange-Time and Use-Time. Attali defines Exchange-Time as the time spent towards earning the money needed to purchase a recording, whereas Use-Time involves the time spent listening to recordings by the purchaser. In a society made up of recording labels and radio stations, far more recordings are produced than an individual can listen to in a lifetime, and in an effort to spend more time in Use-Time than in Exchange-Time people begin to stockpile recordings of what they want to hear. Attali states that this stockpiling has become the main method of use by consumers, and in doing so, shorter musical works have been valorized. More importantly, according to Attali, this process of stockpiling removes the social and political power from music. (Attali, 101)

I’m curious how he thinks this stockpiling removes the social and political power of music. Guess you gotta get the book to find out! :smiley: I sort of backwards related to other parts too as I personally love when bands rework songs when they perform them or even just record different versions (I love the idea of the remix, too, though rarely enjoy them in practice for whatever reason). I also lament that the days of musicians regularly covering each other is essentially done. I’d be lying if I said I could ascribe these feelings to any intellectual underpinning, though!


Politics create the environment we make music in. So much music would not exist as it is today if the groups that made them were not marginalized politically, culturally, etc.


I dug a wrinkled copy of this tiny book of essays out of my backpack today. This is the fisrt essay in the book. Some of the references made are not what I might have chosen myself, but the messages are timely still. Interesting bits on being an artist in times of war … Do I remember living in a time without war? No I really don’t …

Howard Zinn’s Artists In Times of War

I think words in music can be really anchoring in terms of intent. That’s not always desired. Words set to music or vice versa can also deliver a much needed message. There are some pretty excellent accidental protest tunes with words out there. Definitely snapshots of times that can relate really precise attitudes for the moments they belong to.


I recommend this book.




other examples: