Sunday, January 24, 2010

Abstraction to Realization in Bird Songs

Our brains are constantly shifting between abstract thought and cognitive thought. I enjoy making art about this phenomenon, and I enjoy even more finding great art out there that represents this atmospheric sensibility. Think Michelangelo's emerging slaves as a very early example.

The American contemporary composer/songwriter Andrew Bird plays with this idea. He often uses the sounds of words, rather than their meaning, to inform the exquisite musicality of his work. In his song "Souverian" he relishes the French sounds of that word (sue-ver-ee-yoh(n)), repeating them again and again... and we English speakers are mesmerized into tripping on the sounds which mean little but music to us. Then at the last minute he makes almost invisible sound switches and all of a sudden we have English word clarity: "So very young."

Sure, we can concentrate on catching the words... and even occasionally go to our dictionaries and figure out the possible exact meaning behind so many of his obscure references, but the essence of Bird's musical genius is found in drifting with the musicality of his sounds, in the lilting ride from focused to unfocused thought. Life is full of abstract atmosphere. I think Bird revels in it.

Another Bird song I can't resist, but doesn't feel as abstract, word-wise.