They want you to dance:
Minimalism isn’t the first word that comes to mind when you think of Sun Ra. But, if you want to see “less is more” songwriting in action, look no further than the 4 one-syllable words he selected as title and base lyrics for Space is the Place.
They flow with the music wherever they’re placed, they encompass layers of meaning and allow layers of harmonising, their diphthongs breathe in and out as the music requires and the placement of the 2 rhyming nouns gives the whole line a pleasing see-saw balance. That’s an awful lot of responsibility for 4 small words.
Luck or judgement? Well, consider some possible 4 syllable alternatives to Space+is+the+Place:
- Space is super.
- Space is a place.
- Join our space race.
Each has 4 syllables. Each contains the word space and a positive message. Do they fit the music? Try singing them while Sun Ra plays his keyboards for you. How do they feel? Better or worse than Space is the Place?
You need no excuses to listen to Gregory Porter. It’s always a delight. If you’re inspired to cover his songs, do your detective work first. Like a lot of jazz singers (Amy Winehouse comes to mind) Gregory often ghosts consonants like d, t, n & m at the end of words. Softened endings often suit the jazz mood. But be careful when you sing a cover: a softened consonant isn’t the same as no consonant.
Try this exercise: in his song Be Good (Lion’s Song) Gregory sings the phrase Be Good fifteen times. Can you hear the d sound every time? Does the d sound exactly the same every time?
Summertime: where the music asks the words to stretch out like lazy cats. Ella Fitzgerald makes it all seem extremely easy. So why does the pianist turn round in appreciative surprise (1.43) when Ella sings the word mornings?