Thursday, April 21, 2005

Alone in Kyoto - Air

I've been pretty good about blogging about older, more complex music lately, so I've decided to pick something more contemporary (and easy).

The French band Air is big into electronics. This song starts out with a 30 second introduction of soft electronic effects which sound similar to a cacophony of birds chirping. This does a great job of building the listener's anticipation - it's much more exciting to hear subtle things and wonder what's going to happen next than to hear loud, brassy music that has nowhere else to go.

Next, another synthesizer and acoustic guitar enter with a simple, contrapuntal pattern that set the groove to which the bass is added. Soon, the bass enters with an acoustic piano as well as some scattered vocal sounds. Just when the piece seems to be building to something big, it reverts back to the beginning, light, airy texture of electronic bird sounds.

It builds again much in the same manner, which sounds sort of like the process music of Steven Reich.

Throughout, one common tone (D) is repeated in a pulsating middle voice while the progression stays the same - Bb major, C major, d minor, Gsus (which is an incredibly tasty chord in this texture).

Eventually, the piano gets a solo, accompanied by some atmospheric wave sounds (literally ocean wave sounds) and a guitar strumming chords. This fades out to just the wave sounds which end the piece.

Overall, I thought this song was amazing. If I had to describe it's overall purpose, I would call it an experiment with subtle intensity. The music never gets loud, nor the texture very thick, but when it devolves into a piano solo, I felt mysteriously relieved, as if I had just been through a very intense musical experience. This probably came from the process by which it was built up, which was slow and never changed dramatically at once (again, much like minimalistic process music).

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