Music and writing have many connections. Often, song lyrics are compared to poetry, and, just as often, the poets get offended. Billy Collins said it best in a recent interview on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (2013) and in a Q&A in a recent reading I attended in support of his latest book of poetry, Aimless Love (Random House, 2013). I’m paraphrasing, but he basically said that music isn’t necessarily better or worse than poetry, but it’s different in that it’s more of a social medium while poetry is personal, meant to be read by one’s self.
Sure, we’ve all been known to blast stereos in the comfort of our own rooms or to play headphones so loud while walking home that we can’t hear the city traffic. That’s listening alone. However, most music we listen to involves collaboration–of bandmates, of producers, of record labels, and so forth. You go to a concert, even alone, and it’s a community experience.
I’m a fan of Death Cab for Cutie. You may know them for their hit album Plans (Atlantic Records, 2005), which featured the songs “Soul Meets Body,” “Crooked Teeth,” and “I Will Follow You Into The Dark.” In fact, theirs was the first concert I attended alone, wearing a T-shirt sporting the word “Sweden” on the back from a The Sounds concert earlier that year. It’s the ten-year anniversary of their first major hit album (for the indie-rock world) called Transatlanticism (Barsuk Records, 2003). The titular song had a slow build into a beautiful swell, and “The Sound of Settling” was an up-beat song about, well, settling.
Yesterday, a brief interview with guitarist/producer Chris Walla appeared online from altpress.com. Musical journalist Ryan Wasoba interviewed Walla, and Walla’s answer to the final question reminded me a lot of creative writing on the more commercial side–who knows what an audience wants and when they want it? Do you need to just toss darts into the dark and hope to hit the board? I think you need to write what you need to write, when you need to write it, and then send it out (that’s the hardest part for me), hoping it hits the target. I think Walla agrees.
Q (Wasoba): In the months before Transatlanticism, I remember there was a feeling that this was going to be the record that really propelled Death Cab For Cutie into mainstream consciousness. Even so, the album seemed to exceed all expectations.
A (Walla): I was totally surprised and I continue to be surprised–kindly and amazingly and happily–surprised at how well it was received. We hoped it would do well but we didn’t think we were making a pivotal record; we were making the best record we could make, which is something I can thankfully say we’ve always done. I’ve worked on a bunch of really good records at this point, but so few of them end up connecting or landing at the right place at the right time. I think the world needs different records at different moments for different reasons. Sometimes you need to eat a pound of chocolate and it’s not good for you, and sometimes you have to eat a salad and sometimes you need to eat a huge steak. I just feel very fortunate and grateful to be a part of a record that I’m both fond of, proud of and people seem to enjoy (Wosoba, 2013, p.1).
Wasoba, R. (2013). Death Cab for Cutie guitarist/producer Chris Walla reflects on Transatlanticism. Altpress.com. http://tinyurl.com/naqf6mu
Some factual information from wikipedia.org