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Thread: SOTW: Moon

  1. #1
    Senior Member rubidoux's Avatar
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    SOTW: Moon



    So, for my song of the week, I chose "Moon". I'm not sure why; I must admit it was a bit of an impulsive decision but I think it's one of the few songs from Björk's recent output ('recent' as in 'last decade') that I truly connect with on an emotional level, and not only admire it from afar for its musical innovativeness.

    "Moon" is the first track on Björk's 2011 album Biophilia, and was first released as an iTunes 'coundown single' in August 2011, along with an accompanying app for iOS. It was a staple during the Biophilia tour and was performed at almost every single show. It features the Graduale Nobili choir, additonal programming by El Guincho (yeah, this one), and harp parts recorded by four different harpists - which were on tour all played by Manu Delago using an electronic marimba with harp samples.

    For starters, maybe let's post a link to the song, accompanied by a lovely little video that was shot during the photoshoot for the Biophilia cover. Everyone keeps trashing the video, saying it's cheap, but I actually enjoy it. It's nice to look at hear being silly, and it's not like it's trying to compete with big-budget productions like the "Mutual Core" video.



    And here are the lyrics, as they are in the booklet:

    as the lukewarm hands of the gods
    came down and gently picked my adrenalin pearls
    placed them in their mouths
    and rinsed all the fear out
    nourished them with their saliva

    now i'm all rejuvenated and rested
    now i'm all rejuvenated and rested

    as if the healthiest pastime
    is being in life-threatening circumstances
    and once again be reborn

    all birthed and happy
    all birthed and happy
    all birthed and happy
    all birthed and happy

    best way to start-a-new
    is to fail miserably
    fail at loving
    and fail at giving
    fail at creating a flow
    then realign the whole
    and kick into the starthole

    and kick into the starthole
    and kick into the starthole

    to risk all is the end all and the beginning all
    to risk all is the end all and the beginning all

    The "now i'm all rejuvenated and rested" part does not appear in the studio version, but was often added live.

    Musicology-wise, "Moon" is a song that takes on sequences. A sequence is an immediate repetition of a musical motif (or a passage) at a higher or lower pitch in the same voice. That's quite a broad definiton, and of course it means that there can be all kinds of sequences (modified, tonal, modulating...) - if you go on YouTube you can find videos presenting Fibonacci's sequence in music, for instance. It's quite a common element in modern music, especially favored by electronic artists. I don't really know much about musical theory but it basically looks like this, doesn't it?



    That's obviously not from "Moon" but I guess it looks like your average sequence. Well, correct me if I'm wrong.

    So, given the fact that Biophilia is all about the meeting points between music, nature and science, what do musical sequences have in common with the Moon? Well, the song is based on repetitive harp motifs that are basically simple variations on how two harp parts interact with each other. They either ascend together, descend together, move in contrary motion, or just keep flat for a while. These sequences are arranged according to the Moon's phases, and their ascending/descending nature makes me also think of the ebb-and-flow motion of ocean (which is affected by the Moon, of course!). It helps that the song doesn't really use your typical time signatures - it all sounds very flowing and organic, alternating between 17/8 and 5/8. Despite it relying quite heavily on repetitive harp sequences, you can never predict where it'll go.

    To make it more obvious and easier to visualize, we have the app. You can use it as an actual instrument, placing your own notes instead of Björk's, and determining the length of the sequences by changing the Moon's phase. Sounds complicated? Here's the video:



    Kind of cool, eh?

    *

    It's all fun and interesting but what is it that makes "Moon" more relatable to me than some other Biophilia songs? It's hard to pinpoint but I think it's the theme of rebirth. To me it's a song about breaking with old habits and trying to dive headfirst into the unknown by just starting all over again. It's about finding inspiration in getting rid of things that keep holding us down. But the most interesting part is how forgiving the narrator of the song is to their former self - "the best way to start-a-new is to fail miserably". There's no condescending, no regret for past mistakes - they were all necessary to move on and be reborn. It gives hope.

    Of course apart from the lyrics, there are many purely sonical elements that make the song great - the bubble bath of choirgirls' voices, the spacey, delicate harp passages, and - well, first and foremost - Björk's slightly over-the-top vocal performance. Yeah, even with her pronunciation quirks ("lukewarm hents of goats" and "bougouinning" notwithstanding). I really love the trance-like meditative quality of the music. An interesting choice to open the album, especially given the fact that she usually opens with a march-y banger ("Human Behaviour", "Army of Me", "Hunter", "Earth Intruders").

    And the last line, "to risk all is the end all and the beginning all" - it's almost as if she's sure that this cycle will repeat again in the future. Actually, the song ends with the exact same musical sequence it began with, making it easy to loop, and kind of emphasising the cyclical nature of the Moon.

    If you try and apply it's meaning to Björk's private life, it makes a perfect sense as the opening track of her last album. After a mixed reception of Volta, the end of all her record deals, battles with vocal nodules, it's like a fresh start. As if she's saying, "Okay, I'm going to throw everything away and just start a new. This time on my very own rules, with wigs and shit."

    So to put it short - I like this song a lot.

    *

    Bonus - there's also a cool remix by The Slips:



    Fun fact - it's actually (almost) an unofficial remix. Björk never comissioned it, so The Slips made it without the song stems - like a casual fan would do - and just put it online. Later she found it, and liked it enough to put it on Bastards.

  2. #2
    condemned to wires and hammers ebby's Avatar
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    I love this song so much. For me, it was a sign that Biophilia would be quite a promising project indeed. I'm a complete music nerd, so weird time signatures, and songs for two harps and voices and the like just brings so much joy to me. It helps that the song itself is pretty damn gorgeous too.

    best way to start-a-new
    is to fail miserably
    fail at loving
    and fail at giving
    fail at creating a flow
    then realign the whole

    This part is a gorgeous focus on how failure can be a good thing.

  3. #3
    sing to the moon dAmION's Avatar
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    Nice pick!

  4. #4
    I posted in the Biophilia thread about loving the album before, and while I still do I have also realized that the things I love about it are its innovations and not necessarily listening to it.

    Moon, however, is one of the songs I come back to often. It is subdued and mellow without being boring.

  5. #5
    sing to the moon dAmION's Avatar
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    Listening to Biophilia tonight, i'm struck (as I have been in the past) at how amazing "Moon" is of a song and an opener.

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