On Writing on Music

Just after school, I was having a conversation with my son.. regular mommy to son stuff..

How was school?

Good, The other section had an assembly..rather a rushed affair.


Well, they had this song.. and the music was funny.

How was it funny (I asked, knowing less about music than he did)

His response was interesting.. so I asked him to write it down.
When you read it, you will wonder, as I did..You will wonder.

Here it is:

“For their song, they set ’Where the mind is without fear’ to a strange, not at all likeable tune. After every line, they would return to C, as if they meant, ’Great, our minds are without fear, let’s go home for hot chocolate’, and ’Now knowledge is free, and just in time for lunch!’ – except in the last line, when they went two notes lower to A, as if to say ,’We’ve made all of these changes, but now we’re worse off’.

If they had done the reverse, then it would have implied a struggle to attain every stage of the ’heaven of freedom’, which paints a better picture of reality – all by changing one note (and changing the final A to C, as well). In addition, the point of good poetry is to not be able to fit it precisely to any one tune – so they were fighting something of an uphill battle.”

I’m still left wondering..

A mother.

4 thoughts on “On Writing on Music”

  1. Haha 🙂 Since I didn’t hear the actual rendition, I won’t be able to comment on it in detail, but as a general rule, not all poetry can become song. In fact, most poetry simply does not work in a musical setting. To make things worse, Germanic languages (and English is one) are particularly worse. Till Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, most Europeans believed that music had to be set to a Romance language, mostly Italian. The consonant heavy nature of German (and English) in general makes it hard to set it to music, which is why the German composers had to put in an extraordinary effort on the instrumentation side to compensate for it 🙂 And we are thankful they did because they did make music a lot of sophisticated than it was when the Italians ruled the cultural scene in Europe.

    In the case above, that poem is first of all quite a terrible choice for a song. It doesn’t rhyme and it’s in no particular meter. (Most) Music is rhythmic and it requires syllabic homogenity to work. This one is largely free verse, and unless someone had really good rapping skills, a song would, in general, sound quite lame.

    Now getting to the A and C aspect, hard for me to comment unless I heard the whole thing, but from what I can guess, they set this in a typical pop song format with the I VIm IV V format, in which case, cognitively, ending positive sounding phrases on a major chord and negative ones in a minor chord would have made sense, and I suspect your son experienced that particular cognitive dissonance that only music geeks can hear 🙂

    Good for him 🙂 But tell him that knowing too much theory comes with one big problem on the long run – it becomes really hard to appreciate almost 99% of all popular music 🙂 So as long as he realizes that it’s not polite to be elitist about one’s tastes, it’s fine 🙂

    1. The conversation did move on to all poetry cannot be set to song.. and then onto Aekla Cholo and how it works as a song..

      As a mum, I’m thinking – should I have stopped his music lessons so early?

      (Still a bit st..)

  2. Not that I understand music the way he seems to do, but I am pretty sure he will have a tough time building up a music library- out from the contemporary batch of bollywood musicians 😉

    How does he know so much, if you don’t mind me asking ?

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