Day 16 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is songs. I don’t have a particular song that inspires me, partially because some of the pieces which I connect with don’t have words (like orchestral music). Songs can also mean different things at different times. Good songs are ones which are open to interpretation. I’m not a fan of modern music (how old do I sound?!) where the themes are too obviously spelled out and the repetition is too ‘in your face’ and obvious. There’s obviously a place for those, e.g. You dance to them, but I wouldn’t say they’re very inspirational!
When approaching songs with pupils, we used to talk about all of the different ways they could be interpreted so that they could relate to one story and then work on telling the story in their performance. You can teach people how to belt out a tune (like Xfactor likes to demonstrate) but you can’t teach people how to really communicate the emotion of it. The easiest way to do this is to tap into experiences you’ve had, so the more life experience you have, the ‘better’ your communication can be, which can be problematic when you’re only 14 years old! That said, pupils used to regularly open up and talk about their home lives and a range of (often quite terrible) experiences they’d had. So performing their songs gave them an outlet to ‘get some of their feelings out’ and was a kind of therapy as well as a passion.
One of my favourite songs is defying gravity from the musical Wicked. The lyrics are pretty self explanatory, it’s about breaking down the conventions that someone else has beeen dictating until you decide to not follow them anymore. But the score and orchestration is clever as well, it uses fragments from elsewhere in the musical and changes them slightly to fit the new context. The song in itself shows that just because you think things can only be interpreted in one way (from earlier on in the musical) doesn’t mean that they have to *just* be interpreted in that way.
There shouldn’t be a right or wrong way to interpret pieces of music. Some pupils came out with some brilliant insights which I hadn’t even considered. As our lives progress, the way we listen to music also changes and develops, even songs which we thought we’d ‘heard’ everything in before can still suddenly give us a fresh perspective. And that’s something which I love about music and I’m grateful for- the only limitations are the ones you set yourself.