One of the things I love most about music is its seemingly mystical ability to articulate things that cannot be expressed through other artistic means.
There are times when the combination of poetry and melody forms a unique and powerful language unto itself that audiences can immediately comprehend. In other cases, an instrumental part may communicate an idea or emotion so perfectly, it encapsulates a profound piece of the human experience even without the presence of lyrics. Even just the presence of a sound or recording has the ability to transport someone back to a memory or a moment in time.
So for the latest episode of the Soundfly podcast, Themes and Variation, Carter and I sat down with vocalist and songwriter, Laura Lizcano to discuss “Songs That Say So Much,” and to unearth some of these secret powers of music that elude us and mystify us all at once.
The episode is anchored by selections from the catalogs of Armando Young, Laura Lizcano, and Adriano Celentano.
Listen to Episode 55 of Themes and Variation in its entirety right here:
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Episode 55 Highlights
1. Carter on the bizarre, yet undeniable appeal of Armando Young’s visual anonymity.
Carter: “Armando’s videos are incredible, as Max (Swan) pointed out, in ‘Loved Ones,’ he has this giant mask of, I believe, his own face, but like kind of distorted and it also has all these different, interchangeable expressions that he puts on it. It’s so cool. I think it’s challenging as an artist, anonymity being kind of a gift in ways. Again, he doesn’t put a ton of music out. Everything he does put out though is, I think, very thoughtful. He’s in his video, but through a mask, you know what I’m saying? It’s just such a weird thing that I actually think is quite… I like it. I just love it. There’s not really much else to say about that.”
2. Laura on moving beyond the world of academic jazz while honoring the traditions and legacies of predecessors.
Laura: “I felt more drawn to a community that was inclusive of women, that acknowledged that there are queer people in the world, and that was open to playing songs just for the sake of playing a song and not getting to the solo moment. The pieces that I’m keeping are actually in the tradition of, I think, a lot of women: the songwriting aspect and like the badassery of being a female band leader and your own producer and your own everything, right? A lot of female jazz musicians were trailblazers in that way. Betty Carter was the first person to produce an independent record. She was the person who pioneered college tours. She figured all of that shit out and nobody talks about that.”
3. Yours truly on how a song written in an improvised language made me question the way I think about lyrics.
Mahea: “I just think that it says a lot about music and lyric writing in general. And, like myself as a lyricist who wanted to be a poet until I was 16 years old and decided ‘that’s not a job so I’m gonna go to music school’ — I want all lyrics to be poetry by themselves on a sheet of paper in addition to working in a song, but this really made me think a lot about, you know… Every time somebody hears a song, they have the freedom to interpret it however they want. And some of the associations that you have with instruments, or with words, or syllables, or whatever, some of those expectations color your experience. You kind of get a meaning out of this, even though it doesn’t mean anything.”
Join the Conversation
One of our favorite things about our podcast is the fact that the conversation around each theme is so much bigger than the episode itself. We’d love to hear which songs you would have chosen for this episode! Share them with us on Twitter or, if you’re a Soundfly subscriber, in the #podcast channel on Slack.
Plus, with every new episode of Themes and Variation, we launch a new Spotify playlist that includes the songs mentioned in this episode and more. Here’s this episode’s Spotify playlist!
We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a (bass) line at [email protected]!