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To what degree is music open to interpretation?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by Connemara, Oct 22, 2002.

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  1. Connemara

    Connemara Jedi Knight star 6

    Nov 18, 2000
    This is something that I've puzzled over for a while, because there are different views on this. Some people believe one should only interpret music the way it's creator interpreted it. For example-

    I like the band Live, though they have some pretty depressing lyrics to some songs. There's one song in particular I like Selling the Drama Because of the title of the song, and judging from Live's attitude I would guess they intended it to be an anti-Christian song.

    However, if one takes the song at face value, ignoring the title or any beliefs on the parts of the singers, one can find it fits with Christian ideals as well as secular ones. In fact, this is my favorite Live song.

    So what I'm thinking over is can music that might be written by someone with one set of ideals be interpreted completly differently by someone with opposite ideals?

    Or should one keep in mind to some degree at least what the song is supposed to mean?

    What do you think?
  2. Ariana Lang

    Ariana Lang Jedi Youngling star 5

    Oct 10, 1999
    It depends on what kind of music it is. Any music with words can only be twisted so far. Music without words can be taken almost anywhere you want to go.
  3. GivePeaceAChance

    GivePeaceAChance Jedi Youngling star 1

    Sep 18, 2002
    I don't know the band at all, but I would say that any great art (music or otherwise) is open to all manner of interpretations. Like Mona Lisa's smile, Hamlet's metaphysical crisis, Antigone's stand against tyranny or Beethoven's Sonatas, great art provokes responses rather than presrcibes them. Art which insists upon a fixed meaning is very limited and means that the listener/reader/audience has no active role in shaping meaning. Art is created in the past (which has gone) but it exists only in the present and only through our interaction with it. Any appreciation must be dialogic - it must emerge through a recipricority between the work of art and the observer.

  4. RidingMyCarousel

    RidingMyCarousel Jedi Master star 6

    Feb 20, 2002
    Depending on the audience of the music, the song can be interpreted at different amounts. As Ariana Lang said, music without words can be mended to mean anything. Now, about songs with lyrics: One could take a few Creed songs and say they're Christian because of the semi-Religious message in the songs.

    Point and case: someone could take the song "Breathe" by Seven Channels and make it mean what they'd like it to -- [link=]view the lyrics here[/link]. Whenever I hear this song, I think about Jesus and (please respect my viewpoint here, I don't mean to offend anyone) how we breathe Jesus Christ in and out daily. The lines As I lay on the floor and I wonder why, The question lingers why did you die, help remind me of why Jesus died on the cross (again, this is my religious viewpoint, I'm not trying to push or offend anyone). Someone else could think the song is about a loved one who died (which I think the song was actually written about a deceased relative).

    Perhaps we could have a comparison here between different folk's viewpoints? Such as name a song and show the lyrics, allow each of us to hear the song and then we post our own thoughts on what we feel the song means to us?

  5. Connemara

    Connemara Jedi Knight star 6

    Nov 18, 2000
    Hey, that sounds like fun! :)
  6. Melyanna

    Melyanna Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jul 19, 2001
    Man, I saw this title and started hoping for a discussion on improvisation. :p Interesting topic nonetheless, though. :)

    Anyway, as a classical musician, I've seen this a lot. In fact, I got burned in a contest once because I interpreted the lyrics of a piece (William Schuman's "Orpheus with His Lute," if I remember correctly) as rather melancholy, somber piece, and the judge marked me down for interpretation. Apparently he thought that it should have been happier. *shrugs* Just because the guy in the song was heading into the underworld doesn't make it happy. ;)

    So yeah, there's lots of room for interpretation in lyrics of songs, be they classical or popular. Granted, one of them is probably the author's intended message. But that's like a lot of things in life - take "A Modest Proposal," for instance. Sure, you could interpret it as meaning we should eat children of poor people to curb overpopulation, but that doesn't mean that that was Jonathan Swift's intention in writing the essay. ;)

  7. Connemara

    Connemara Jedi Knight star 6

    Nov 18, 2000
    Hehe, yeah. With classical music it's very easy to interpret things differently. Like, when I was little, Pachebel's Canon always represented sadness to me. (I've been listenening to classical music since I was born, so I already had some good ideas on music when I was like 7 years old). However, now it represents love to me, which is obviously an opinion shared by many as it's rather popular to be played at weddings.

    Of course, it seems to me love and sadness go hand in hand, therefore neither of my ideas on it were far off. I was trying to put words to it for my bf, because he once said he thought it woudl sound better with words. Unfortunately, he dumped me before I could finish it (hence the sad part of love). Oh well...his loss, cause I was working damned hard on it. :p

    But anyway, how did my life get in here? Back to music discussion...
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