Jul 25, 2010

"Ghosts" Accompanying, Part One

Warning: this is going to be a pointless rambling on some of the "ghosts" that are haunting on various tracks of 'Homeland'.

Laurie Anderson has stated a few times during interviews that, during the construction process of Homeland, she'd taken fragments from certain songs and built them into others. Being an avid audio candy hunter myself, it was no surprise that soon I caught myself listening to certain segments of songs over and over and trying to find out what those unfitting-or-familiar-at-first-sight/hearing fragments appeared at certain points of the songs and why. Now I'm trying to enumerate some of the more obvious ones.

1. The Timeless Melody

One of the recurring fragments is the melody sung by Aidysmaa Koshkendey, the female singer of the Tuvan throat-singing group Chirgilchin. Both 'Transitory Life' and 'The Beginning of Memory' begin with the same tune. During the former track, Aidysmaa's singing continues with a second and third line, escalating the frenzy of the hair-raising beginning of 'Homeland' even further. The third line, though less prominently featured than in 'Transitory Life', re-appears at the end of both verses of 'The Beginning of Memory', perfectly nestling into the timeless texture of the song.

2. The Bell of Concentration

The next element is the bell tolling that can be heard twice during the first half of 'My Right Eye' and numerous times throughout the whole track of 'Only an Expert'. Its use in the latter song still needs some further explanation to me (maybe it's the mockery of experts' constant calling of attention to themselves). If one considers the first verse of 'My Right Eye' as some kind of Buddhist exercise,

Concentration. Empty your mind.
Let the rest of the world go by.
Hold your breath. Hold your breath. Close your eyes.

the bell toll leads to another story that Laurie tells in 'Delusion'. It's a practice of concentration: you hear a chime clinging and you have to follow the sound with your mind, and then there's a second cling of the chime but this time your mind shouldn't follow it.

UPDATE: The bell also echoes in 'Falling', the restful counterpart of its predecessor, 'Only an Expert' - similarly to 'My Right Eye', it rings during the part of introversion: "[...] I fall asleep".

3. The Ghost of Dark Times

The ending of 'The Lake' required numerous listenings until I found out what the "ghost" whispered (i. e. Laurie's voice burdened heavily by filters and FXs). The rhythm of the recital sounded too familiar to me but, since my auditory comprehension skills are desperately weak, it took a fairly long time to recognize that the "whispering" is, in fact, the last verse of the previous track, 'Dark Time in the Revolution':

And you thought there were things
That had disappeared forever
Things from the Middle Ages
Beheadings and hangings
And people in cages
And suddenly they were everywhere
And suddenly they’re alright
Welcome to, welcome to,
welcome to the American night.

... OK, now... what the WHAT? Lines like these, stuck at the end of the most intimate, most moving, most peaceful song on the album? How so? Was it Laurie's intention to posteriorly disguise the intimacy of the song? This one really puzzles me. (If you are reading this and have a better solution, feel free to e-mail me.)

(To be continued. Sometime.)