My attempt at analyzing music

I’ve always liked music. I listen to anything from Cannibal Corpse to Bach. That’s why I was intrigued by this project since I had never really analyzed music before. The part of this project I was not so excited about on the other hand was having to read poems since I have never really liked them. That being said, I did read some poems I did like, but I’ll get to that later.

As I briefly mentioned before, a big part of this project was analyzing music. More specifically we would be creating a playlist of five songs that we thought represented us then analyzing those songs. But before we could get to the analyzing part of this project we had to learn how to analyze music. 

This is where poems came into play. This is because poems and songs use a lot of the same writing techniques. As well as that poems are easier to analyze since the only thing you need to worry about is the actual writing since there is no instrumental. Our first analysis activity was to analyze and answer questions about 8 poems in groups of three. This activity ended up having a mixed difficulty since on one hand there were poems that were long and had quite obvious meaning. Whereas on the other hand there were poems that were two lines and were about wheel barrels. However in the end we were able to analyze almost all of the poems we were asked to analyze. This activity ended up being eye-opening since I was able to read poems of all types which led my stance on poems to slightly change positively. Along with my change in opinion on poems this activity ended up being a great way to cement the poetic terms in my mind. 

After thoroughly preparing our brains to analyze poems it was to try using those skills on songs. To do this we were tasked with picking a song that had meaning to us and then analyzing it to the best of our ability. The biggest challenge of this task for me was to pick the song. This was because I generally don’t think of the songs I listen to as having meaning, just that they make my brain happy. But finally after countless hours (more like 30 mins) of searching I had a candidate, All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix. I started my analysis by listening to the song a few times to try and discern the mood and tone. After that, I pulled up genius to get an in-depth look at the lyrics and the list of poetic terms. Instead of walking you through my step-by-step analysis, here is my finished analysis.

All Along The Watchtower

Jimi Hendrix’s most famous song (according to Spotify) has been a song that has stuck with me ever since the first time I heard it. All along the watchtower specifically struck a chord with me due to the vocal and instrumental performance by Hendrix. As always Hendrix is putting on a truly beautiful electric guitar performance that left me wanting to listen on repeat. Along with the amazing performance, the lyrics by Bob Dylan leave lots to question and interpret. A good example of this is who the joker and thief are. 

Onto the technical side of the lyrics, this song is a good example of many of our poetic terms. The most prevalent of which is free verse. I think free verse is such an important part of this song since it allows the story to be told in a more entrancing way. At least that’s how it felt for me. I feel like if this song were to have been written in a more traditional way it would have lost some of what makes it so great. Along with free verse, this song also demonstrates Caesura. This becomes pretty apparent because of this song’s free-verse style. Just looking at the lyrics while listening to the song you can see this. For example, the is a very apparent pause in verse 1 in between the first line and the rest of the verse.

Doing this analysis I was able to figure out what I was good at when it came to analyzing music and what I still needed to work on. I discovered that I needed to work on the emotional connection of the songs. I noticed this while writing since As I wrote the paragraph on the emotional connection I slowly realized that I didn’t have much of a connection to this song other than the fact that I liked it. There was no memory of listening to it when I was young or something in my life that is related to it. This is something that I tried to improve in the main analysis.

For the main analysis, I spent much more time deciding my five songs. I started by looking through all of my playlists and picking any songs that I had a memory of listening to when I was young and any song that had a meaning that I agreed with. I ended up with around ten songs. Now it was the hard part eliminating songs. This was hard for me since in my mind all ten of those songs could and should be on the list of songs that represent me. However in the end I was able to bring myself to cull down the list to five. Here is that list

Analyzing those songs wasn’t the hardest but it did take lots of time. From that process, I ended up with A 1300 word google doc containing my five-song analysis. Out of those five, I had a couple of favourites. One of which was Nightcall by Kavinsky. This ended up being one of my favourites since I was captivated by the lore I discovered while researching. If you’re interested in reading them you can find my two favourite analyses below.

Kavinsky Nightcall

I’ve been a fan of synth/synth-wave music ever since the first time I heard it. I’m not exactly sure what I like so much about it. Part of it could be the smooth electronic melodies or maybe it’s the fact it feels like if you asked a robot to make lofi. This particular song I discovered while watching the movie Drive(which you should watch if you haven’t it’s pretty darn good). It’s actually kind of funny when I first heard it I liked this so much I spend 20 minutes searching for it. Another thing I enjoyed about this song is the limited repeating lyrics. They tell a story but leave lots of room for the important part of the song. The synth. 

Looking into the limited lyrics of this song you can see hints of a love song. Although there is a lot more than just that going on it just takes a bit more research to find out. There are lots of theories about the meaning behind this song but the one I like most is the one I found on a random message board. That theory was that this story continues the story from one of kavinsky’s past albums about a racer who died in a car crash and became a ghost racer. In this song, it would be that ghost racer confessing his love and that person contemplating what is going on knowing the ghost driver and the person on the other end of the phone’s death. In terms of poetic techniques, this song employs the most prevalent would be repetition. This is heavily relied on due to this song only having one chorus and verse that are just repeated. However, this is not to the song’s detriment I would say it’s quite the opposite. Due to this song’s electronic nature, I feel like having more lyrics would have taken away from the overall entrancing aspect of the song. Whereas the carefully chosen and limited lyrics add to it.

Guns N’ Roses civil war

This song has a lot of meaning to me and it has nothing to do with the lyrics. To me, this song represents my introduction to 90s rock. The memory is clear as day, I remember stealing my dad’s iPod and bringing it to my grade 5 classroom. I remember the fear of it being taken away because we weren’t meant to have any devices. And most of all I remember the intro to the song. “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate some men, you just can’t reach so, you get what we had here, last week which is the way he wants it well, he gets it”. All of these things came into play when I was choosing the songs that represent me and are the reason I chose to put this song first.

Now that I have introduced to you the lyrics of this song I might as well start that part of the analysis. The most dulled-down way to describe this song is by stating the overarching idea behind it. War is bad/anti-war. To forward the meaning behind the songs lots of creative techniques are used. One of which is imagery. You can see examples of imagery throughout. One example that specifically sticks out to me is the intro where you are forced to think and picture the effects of war. Along with imagery this song also employs repetition. By repeatedly asking you to look at the effects of war it helps cement them in your mind leading to a more memorable experience.

When reading over my analysis now I can see a lot of things I wish I had done differently. The biggest of which is the depth in which I analyzed each song. This is because even though I feel as though I did an acceptable amount of analysis there is still so much detail and technique hidden that I am yet to discover. 

In conclusion, I feel even though I did accomplish what we were asked to do in this project I could have done more and perhaps even exceed the requirements if I had just spent more time on each song. So finally I will leave you with my answer to the driving question “How can we use music to represent ourselves and text”. To answer that I would say using the meaning and emotion behind songs we can choose one that we feel represent our emotions and opinions on this world. And for text, it is the same thing although you swap out yourself with some form of text.

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