I caught Steve Reich, on the BBC here, talking about how a Brussels Flamenco Show inspired his 1972 Clapping Music. The flamenco was dismal, until the Spanish performers began to mark time with complicated clapping patterns, entrancing Mr Reich in the process. Which led me, in a wonderful ‘completing the circle’ way, back to Spain and to Catalan Percussionist Santi Carcasona:
“It was my mate who convinced me to do it. He ran a car showroom, and he said, ‘I’ve got this group come from Australia, but the singer’s not very good. Can you do a demo for me?’ I said, ‘What do I get?’ He said, ‘Well, I don’t have any money. I’ll give you a set of carpets.’ That was 1969″
If you’re thinking of writing a song in English, choose words for their shape as well as their meaning. Meaning can float in the air (“I am the Walrus?”) but the shape of English words in song must align with the feeling of your music.
Think of Lana Del Rey’s Summertime Sadness. From the title to the chorus it’s a masterful mix of sound shapes. Summertime: soft, warm and measureless. Sadness: deep and hazy. Together, each intensifies the other. I’ve chosen Miley Cyrus’ cover version, from BBC Live Lounge. You can see how Miley shapes her mouth and where she breathes, to allow each word its languorous character:
El Naán choose their words to enhance the beat of their hands and the strength of their message. You don’t need to speak Spanish to understand them. The sounds of the words speak for themselves: a human language. Filmed in a single take:
Weeping is an ancient English word. Its sound and shape are crafted to speak directly to the human heart. We feel it; we don’t think it: