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May 25, 2010, at 6:17 pm — Arts and Culture | Music / / / / / / / /

Scope & Scale of Tune & Tale

Soundtrack to this post: “Be Here Now” by Ray LaMontagne, from Till the Sun Turns Black.

Be Here Now, Live on BBC

First of all, I apologize for my cheesy rhyming title. Yes, I do realize that it sounds like something out of Hobbit culture, but I couldn’t resist. Anyway, on to business! A couple of weeks ago, my buddy Ben and I performed a Dave Matthews tribute show on Grand Valley’s Campus. The gal who opened for us is an amazing folk singer-songwriter with a pure heart and some serious pipes named Emilee Petersmark, and she played a set of originals save for one cover. The cover was on the ukulele (so it was already up my alley), and strangely, the chords sounded familiar to me right away. Just when I was trying to put my finger on it, Emilee began to sing…

“It’s a great big universe and we’re all really puny, we’re just tiny little specs about the size of Mickey Rooney…”

I was suddenly in awe. It was a song from the cartoon show “Animaniacs,” which I was completely obsessed with when I was a kid. She had dug up a piece of my childhood that I had completely forgotten, and sailed it into the air on soundwaves in such a tiny, yet beautiful way.  Listen to this, and try to imagine it being played by just one girl with a uke:

Great Big Universe

That moment just really got me thinking about this interesting ability that music has to add to the message of words by toying with the scope and scale of the actual song. It’s amazing to me that there can be songs that are so incredibly huge in orchestration and emotion that have a subject matter as small as giving advice to a loved one (such as the Ray LaMontagne song above, one of my favorites) while simultaneously, there can be tiny little “dinky” songs that are about the vast and immeasurable existence that we’re a “tiny little spec” in. And the best part, is that both of them are beautiful. Playing with the scope and scale of the music as a whole vs. the actual message of the song is quite fascinating to me… it’s just one more thing that completely reinforces the true power of  the partnership between instrumental organized sound and poetry.

If you couldn’t tell by now, I really love music.

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