Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Decemberists "The Island/Come and See"

The first thing I would like to say about this song is that I was pleasantly surprised with how the song sounded. For some reason, I assumed that I would not like it or that it would not meet my taste in music but I was wrong. The song possessed more than a few choruses and refrains which reminded me of other songs that are longer in length. Even though they are drastically different and probably not as thought provoking as this song by the Decembrists, I could not help thinking of Boston’s “Foreplay/Longtime” or Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick.” Both of these songs are similar to the Decembrists’ song not only in length but in a desire to combine more than one sound into one song. While we were listening to this song in class, I could not help but think about this similarity.

What I found to be the most interesting part of this song occurred while I was attempting to scan the lyrics. What should have been a relatively easy task became rather daunting as I was trying to simultaneously listen to the lyrics and stress the proper syllables as well. I found this very difficult to do. More often than not, I found myself working ahead of the singer and trying to stress syllables that he had not yet sung. But when the singer arrived at those lines, he often seemed to be putting stress on the syllables I had marked as unstressed. I don’t really know why this occurred. My best guess is that while I was scanning the lyrics, I was saying them quietly rather than singing them. And unlike a poem where more often than not, no one is reading it aloud, a song needs to be sung to be fully appreciated. I think scanning songs is more difficult than scanning poetry for this simple reason. If the song is not heard aloud, the person scanning the lyrics could potentially scan the lyrics improperly.

What I noticed, specifically during “The Island/Come and See” part was that the lead singer would stress and unstress whole words. The word ‘and’ is almost always an unstressed word but just because a word is unstressed does not mean that the word needs to be said quietly. The lead singer, specifically in the line “Come and see,” would barely utter the word ‘and.’ The words ‘come’ and ‘see’ were vocalized very loudly and a lot of emphasis was put on those words but the word ‘and’ was said in a much softer tone. It is much easier in song form to stress and unstress the right syllables. Take the third line of the song for example. The word ‘bayonet’ is a three syllable word with the accent on the second syllable. It is a relatively easy word to sound out and determine which syllable is stressed. But in song form, the lead singer over exaggerates the stressed syllable, almost to the point where the syllable ‘yon’ almost sounds like it is a separate word.


Roger Market said...

That's interesting. I've always heard "bayonet" with the stress in the FIRST syllable. This whole idea of stress really is subjective, isn't it? That fact makes the deciphering of meter much more difficult than it is in theory.

Thomas said...

Good point. It is very subjective and the more I think about it, I think you are definetely right

Steve said...

First, I’ll start by saying that I enjoyed this song very much. “Art Rock,” as it was called in class, is still a new concept for me, but I remember hearing a rendition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” before, and this reminds me of the same idea.
Now about this song. The first thing I notice is the intro. It was definitely longer than what most songs have, very elaborate, and successful in building anticipation. It was effective for creating the early mood of the song.
In “Come and See,” I couldn’t help but feeling like there was a slight reference to Yeats’ poetry. One reason for this is the fact that I’m reading Yeats in another class. Another more worthwhile reason is in the fifth line, where “sorrow fills the silence all around.” This reminds of Yeats’ focus on sorrow, like in the poem “The Cloak, The Boat, and the Shoes,” where a boat is built “for Sorrow… on the seas all day and night.” The more obvious reference is that to The Tempest, which has been brought up in the reviews of others.
There are three very distinct movements in this song. The first one is a discovery, an exploration that seems to foreshadow coming conflict. The second, “The Landlord’s Daughter,” is the realization of this conflict, a rape of the named woman. There are very few lyrics in this section, compared to the other three, but there is much emphasis on sound. The music utilizes a great deal of accent and the singer stresses many of the words, which made scanning the meter very difficult. Thomas made a great point in stating that for a song to be fully appreciated, it must be said aloud. When I tried to scan this song and this section without listening, my analysis was very different.
The last section was my favorite. “With dimes upon your eyelids” made me immediately think of Greek and Roman practices, but with a slight twist being that dimes place a more modern context on the practice. Although this practice would be carried out by one human onto another, I took this section to be more of a metaphor of the natural world speaking to the men. Water is the most prevalent element in this song and seems to be the most powerful force as well. I took it this section to be the response to the men traveling on the boat in the first.