Sounds of Poetry

Welcome back to my learning portfolio. This post will be my reflection on the latest PLP project, one which dove into the meaning behind poetry and music. The goal of the project was to be able to thoroughly dissect these forms of media to identify the poetic devices used throughout and the implications they have to the tone and meaning of the pieces, as well as to evaluate their appeal to us personally. The driving question for the project was “How might we use music to represent text and ourselves?”.

Throughout the the project, we established our knowledge of poetic devices and their applications in popular poems and music. This took various forms from quizzes to memorize poetic terms to activities discussing poetry with small groups. One such activity was where we were tasked with answering various questions about poetic devices in 8 different poems which drew on our knowledge in a more practical sense than things like the quizzes.

Then came the time for the primary assignment of the project, which was to choose five songs that have some personal appeal to us and evaluate the reasons they do, as well as identify the subtleties in the way the songs are written. We began by making a playlist, hence the assignments name “Playlist Of My Life”. I chose songs that spanned multiple genres and focused on a wide variety of topics rather than similar ones, which would have shown a more monotone thought process and not allowed me to discover the strengths in songs of different topics which allow them to project as powerful a message as they do. You can listen to my playlist here.

Here are my analysis’ of my five chosen songs. I believe that I was able to strongly analyze their meaning and was able to find the reasoning for their personal appeal beyond just sounding nice and being fun to listen to. Mind you the value of the songs are also situational in that an analysis in a certain mood and lens like these were written do not fully reflect their merit in relatability. You can click on each song’s box to read my analysis.

Life Is A Highway – Tom Cochrane “Life Is A Highway” is a feel good rock song which derives it’s meaning in motivational thinking. Immediately in the title we see the first example of a poetic device, as it is a metaphor that the primary meaning of the song stems from. It is meant to represent that you cannot control everything in life, but you can cruise along like a highway and enjoy your time. The first line is a smilie which reinforces this, saying “Life is like a road that you travel on” (0:20). The artist himself used the song for motivation for this reason. Throughout the beginning of the song, an ideal and appealing situation is being described, “Where blues won’t haunt you anymore” (0:31). This example of personification acts to talk about how if you just cruise along and enjoy a weight will be lifted off your shoulders. The line “I wanna drive it all night long” (1:00) showcases this enjoyment such that the artist looks forward to what’s coming, and is spreading that message to you. My personal enjoyment of the song stems from its addicting rhythm and instrumentals; particularly the parts showcasing the harmonica. In my opinion the harmonica parts (like at 2:33) alone could effectively convey the tone and message of the entire song. The vocals in the song are also very confident and insistent, and are able to push the song’s message to the front of your mind. The lack of especially deep seated lyrics actually helps to elevate the song to be more inspiring for day to day life. The stanza “There was a distance between you and I. A misunderstanding once But now we look it in the eye (oh!)” (2:13) is a very approachable analogy for facing your problems like the song exists to encourage. The song is also Canadian, and mentions Vancouver, which may seem tacky but a local and relatable message makes for a song to seem far more personal. Northwest Passage – Stan Rogers “Northwest Passage” is a song that is meant to contrast adventure of the modern day to adventure of the first explorers of the northwest of North America. This comes to a head near the end with the two lines “How then am I so different from the first men through this way? Like them, I left a settled life, I threw it all away” (3:39). This ultimately leads to the conclusion that both Stan Roger’s and many of the famous explorers’ sacrifices and expeditions were in vain with the line “To find there but the road back home again” (4:02). But also that the will to discover is entrenched in human nature and persists back then and “Three centuries thereafter” (1:34) in the current day. One of the most notable lines in the song is “To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea”, an allusion to the Franklin Exhibition meant to reach the Beaufort Sea from the Atlantic, which left no survivors. This is one of several real examples of historical explorers which make the song so powerful, and make it fit it’s genre as a folk song so well. The song is divided into quatrains, all of which follow a mostly consistent AABB and ABAB rhyme scheme which makes the song have a clean rhythm from start to finish, and allows you to follow all of the historical and symbolic references worked in throughout. The song appeals to me in two ways. The first being the sense of adventure showcased throughout, which my lack of ability to relate to actually makes the song more powerful, as it is both motivation and information to cover that void. The second reason would be the historical and cultural aspect of it, which I am very much interested in. Mentioning significant locations and people like the Fraser River and David Thompson bridges a connection to Western Canada and makes the song about more than just the Northwest Passage, but the geography and history of Canada as well. Hate Us and See If We Mind – Rome “Hate Us and See If We Mind” is meant to be sung in the perspective of people loyal to the African nation of Rhodesia near it’s collapse and turn to becoming Zimbabwe. It is performed in a very somber tone, as the context which surrounds it fits that description too. Rhodesia was abandoned and embargoed by nearly all of the international community due to it’s lack of majority rule. They were then stuck in a long guerrilla war with various factions invading the country from inside and out. This is where the song picks up, at the point where there is nothing left to lose, hence “Hate Us and See If We Mind”. One of the most interesting aspects of the song is the inclusion of a 35 second clip at 2:37 of the Rhodesian president’s speech from the handing over of power. The song manages to accomplish this perspective while also maintaining relative political neutrality as does the album with the same topic, as we can see in lines like “The wild hoax we pulled; it's all over“ (0:53). End stopped lines like “We could never have won this; We were fighting lions” (0:18) put emphasis on what is being said, and the fighting lions metaphor puts it into perspective what the situation would be like for a Rhodesian. This is why the song appeals to me, it addresses a contentious historical topic in an approachable sense as the often demonized side of the conflict. It also shows persistence after all they fought years to preserve is lost, which is an admirable attribute. The song also utilizes hyperbole to highlight how personally significant and personal the situation would have been by repeating “It’s All Over” many times throughout the song. This could make the listener think the song is overdramatic, but personally I find it to make the song sound significantly more authentic to the message being portrayed. The artist isn’t actually from Rhodesia after all so an authentic feel in the message is all but guaranteed. Better Country – Paul Brandt “Better Country” is a song which wishes to spread an optimistic message about the world and Canada while maintaining a strong a basis in reality. The strength in the piece comes from the apostrophe and second person addresses that can be interpreted as reference to the listener or someone else which makes them feel like part of the story being told. There are examples of this in every stanza, “Maybe we can be together in a place called home” (0:21) being repeated various times as part of the chorus. This makes the tone of the song feel like a real invitation to join him in this better country, and acts as a call to action. The vast variation in the rhyme scheme of the song makes it also feel like a more enthralling story which reinforces the notion that you can piece together the solution to make the country better as you can piece together the scheme of the song. The message of possibility doesn’t end there however, and the simile “I want a heart like the great wide open” (0:34) further showcases the philosophy the song conveys. The song resonates with me well because unlike the weak idealism in songs like “Imagine” by John Lennon, Better Country’s message is written to sanguinely reflect on western liberal ideals of one’s ability to choose their own fait. The stanza which begins at 1:24 and ends with “And give you space to build the life that you choose, you choose” gives us the most concise emphasis of this, implying that a better country is not one which specific ideals are pursued by pushing them upon everyone, but one which understanding and freedom is the solution. This is likely an allusion to the founding philosophy of the nation of Canada, which Paul Brandt and I both hail from and would both agree with those principles of. This actually generates somewhat of a paradox implying that we want a better country, but we are already there in many ways. It fosters a personal acknowledgement of the value of freedom which we may take for granted. Saturday Night – Jackson Dean “Saturday Night” is a song which strongly acts as an analogy about freedom and defiance, which has it’s basis in youthful identity and relatability. It tries in no way to hold a political message however, but rather a message of nostalgia for all with a way to relate to the lyrics. You could emphasize the entire song in one lyric, “The young live and they’ll drink” (2:33). It’s an assertion which acts as both a reassurance to those who find a relation with the song, as well as a promise that the spirit of freedom which the song exists to reinforce will always be alive and well in the youth. While the song’s lyrics show a clear bias towards small town relatability as is mentioned several times, it cannot defeat the overarching message which is bound by no demographic. Lyrics like “Ain't nothing like feeling freedom in an open field” express a literal meaning, but also reinforce the message of the piece in a metaphorical sense, which adds relatability. The relatability which the song pushes is then further compounded by the lack of hyperbole, having virtually every line of the song being a literal and commonplace experience the listener likely has encountered. Additionally, the first two stanzas have strong rhyme schemes which effectively set the tone for the rest of the song, and are examples of the aforementioned experiences which the song strives to relate to the listener with. My personal enjoyment of the song stems from the philosophy that it represents. That being one of fulfilling personal enjoyment when opportunity is present. But this also leads to a more reflective thought process of whether or not I’ve individually fulfilled my opportunities. This conflicting response makes the song all the more interesting to listen to. In addition to this, part of the personal appeal for me is also the delivery, which fits a prevalent and attractive country music sound. At the same time it also manages an almost campfire song type feeling, which ties in perfectly to the words of the song which make literal mention of this.
“Life Is A Highway” is a feel good rock song which derives it’s meaning in motivational thinking. Immediately in the title we see the first example of a poetic device, as it is a metaphor that the primary meaning of the song stems from. It is meant to represent that you cannot control everything in life, but you can cruise along like a highway and enjoy your time. The first line is a smilie which reinforces this, saying “Life is like a road that you travel on” (0:20). The artist himself used the song for motivation for this reason. Throughout the beginning of the song, an ideal and appealing situation is being described, “Where blues won’t haunt you anymore” (0:31). This example of personification acts to talk about how if you just cruise along and enjoy a weight will be lifted off your shoulders. The line “I wanna drive it all night long” (1:00) showcases this enjoyment such that the artist looks forward to what’s coming, and is spreading that message to you. My personal enjoyment of the song stems from its addicting rhythm and instrumentals; particularly the parts showcasing the harmonica. In my opinion the harmonica parts (like at 2:33) alone could effectively convey the tone and message of the entire song. The vocals in the song are also very confident and insistent, and are able to push the song’s message to the front of your mind. The lack of especially deep seated lyrics actually helps to elevate the song to be more inspiring for day to day life. The stanza “There was a distance between you and I. A misunderstanding once But now we look it in the eye (oh!)” (2:13) is a very approachable analogy for facing your problems like the song exists to encourage. The song is also Canadian, and mentions Vancouver, which may seem tacky but a local and relatable message makes for a song to seem far more personal.
“Northwest Passage” is a song that is meant to contrast adventure of the modern day to adventure of the first explorers of the northwest of North America. This comes to a head near the end with the two lines “How then am I so different from the first men through this way? Like them, I left a settled life, I threw it all away” (3:39). This ultimately leads to the conclusion that both Stan Roger’s and many of the famous explorers’ sacrifices and expeditions were in vain with the line “To find there but the road back home again” (4:02). But also that the will to discover is entrenched in human nature and persists back then and “Three centuries thereafter” (1:34) in the current day. One of the most notable lines in the song is “To find the hand of Franklin reaching for the Beaufort Sea”, an allusion to the Franklin Exhibition meant to reach the Beaufort Sea from the Atlantic, which left no survivors. This is one of several real examples of historical explorers which make the song so powerful, and make it fit it’s genre as a folk song so well. The song is divided into quatrains, all of which follow a mostly consistent AABB and ABAB rhyme scheme which makes the song have a clean rhythm from start to finish, and allows you to follow all of the historical and symbolic references worked in throughout. The song appeals to me in two ways. The first being the sense of adventure showcased throughout, which my lack of ability to relate to actually makes the song more powerful, as it is both motivation and information to cover that void. The second reason would be the historical and cultural aspect of it, which I am very much interested in. Mentioning significant locations and people like the Fraser River and David Thompson bridges a connection to Western Canada and makes the song about more than just the Northwest Passage, but the geography and history of Canada as well.
“Hate Us and See If We Mind” is meant to be sung in the perspective of people loyal to the African nation of Rhodesia near it’s collapse and turn to becoming Zimbabwe. It is performed in a very somber tone, as the context which surrounds it fits that description too. Rhodesia was abandoned and embargoed by nearly all of the international community due to it’s lack of majority rule. They were then stuck in a long guerrilla war with various factions invading the country from inside and out. This is where the song picks up, at the point where there is nothing left to lose, hence “Hate Us and See If We Mind”. One of the most interesting aspects of the song is the inclusion of a 35 second clip at 2:37 of the Rhodesian president’s speech from the handing over of power. The song manages to accomplish this perspective while also maintaining relative political neutrality as does the album with the same topic, as we can see in lines like “The wild hoax we pulled; it's all over“ (0:53). End stopped lines like “We could never have won this; We were fighting lions” (0:18) put emphasis on what is being said, and the fighting lions metaphor puts it into perspective what the situation would be like for a Rhodesian. This is why the song appeals to me, it addresses a contentious historical topic in an approachable sense as the often demonized side of the conflict. It also shows persistence after all they fought years to preserve is lost, which is an admirable attribute. The song also utilizes hyperbole to highlight how personally significant and personal the situation would have been by repeating “It’s All Over” many times throughout the song. This could make the listener think the song is overdramatic, but personally I find it to make the song sound significantly more authentic to the message being portrayed. The artist isn’t actually from Rhodesia after all so an authentic feel in the message is all but guaranteed.
“Better Country” is a song which wishes to spread an optimistic message about the world and Canada while maintaining a strong a basis in reality. The strength in the piece comes from the apostrophe and second person addresses that can be interpreted as reference to the listener or someone else which makes them feel like part of the story being told. There are examples of this in every stanza, “Maybe we can be together in a place called home” (0:21) being repeated various times as part of the chorus. This makes the tone of the song feel like a real invitation to join him in this better country, and acts as a call to action. The vast variation in the rhyme scheme of the song makes it also feel like a more enthralling story which reinforces the notion that you can piece together the solution to make the country better as you can piece together the scheme of the song. The message of possibility doesn’t end there however, and the simile “I want a heart like the great wide open” (0:34) further showcases the philosophy the song conveys. The song resonates with me well because unlike the weak idealism in songs like “Imagine” by John Lennon, Better Country’s message is written to sanguinely reflect on western liberal ideals of one’s ability to choose their own fait. The stanza which begins at 1:24 and ends with “And give you space to build the life that you choose, you choose” gives us the most concise emphasis of this, implying that a better country is not one which specific ideals are pursued by pushing them upon everyone, but one which understanding and freedom is the solution. This is likely an allusion to the founding philosophy of the nation of Canada, which Paul Brandt and I both hail from and would both agree with those principles of. This actually generates somewhat of a paradox implying that we want a better country, but we are already there in many ways. It fosters a personal acknowledgement of the value of freedom which we may take for granted.

There was one more task however before I was finished. We would have to present our evaluations to several classmates. For the presentation in class of these I decided to present a summarized version of my full analysis, as well as to show the album cover released with it or a screenshot of the applicable music video and describe how it relates to the song. I think that this was probably my weakest part of this project as having no predetermined script and not reading off of my analysis’ for most of the time hurt the delivery of my message. I wasn’t really able to translate the text to presentation.

Here’s a photo of me describing the relevance of a screenshot from the music video for “Life Is A Highway” by Tom Cochrane during the presentation.

Finally, my answer to the driving question of how we can use music to represent ourselves and text is to merely observe. Our listening habits like other media consumption stem from a variety of sources and themselves reflect ourselves in many ways. We can observe what songs we listen to in any mood, situation, time and not only see our ways of thinking but also our values, insecurities and all else. Music has been a powerful expression throughout history for a reason, whether listening to or performing it. Therefore we don’t need to use music to represent ourselves when we are not writing it, our taste and interpretation in media is what the music already showcases, we can just use it to show such in a human and relatable manner.

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