So last night I was at the Union Chapel in Islington to see Lucy Rose. It’s a beautiful venue; a beautiful church which one would be forgiven for thinking was designed with live music in mind, as it’s so perfect for it. Lucy Rose was very pleasant, also. Her set, which consisted nearly exclusively of new album tunes, suited the occasion and it was all very amiable and nice.
BUT. This post isn’t a live review. It’s about a minor (major for the sake of this post) gripe of mine. Musicians that explain their feelings and meanings and stories behind a song just before they sing them.
I’m a firm believer in Roland Barthes Death of an Author essay which argues that as soon as a piece of writing is put forth into the world the intentions of the author no longer matter. The writing is then what the reader makes of it. This is surely how music should be too.
Songs can be so emotive, relatable and personal to ourselves that of course they take on a meaning other than originally intended by the writer.
So then, for a musician to sit and tell you what the feelings and stories are behind a song, just before performing it, detaches your own conceptions. It’s indulgent of the musician to think people want to hear why they were sad rather than leave the song open to everyone’s interpretation of sadness.
It’s a little like a film vs a book. You read a book and you have your own pictures in your head of the settings and characters and then you see the film and suddenly those actors are all you see. Once a musician has told you where a song comes from you lose some of that personal connection as it’s hammered home it’s their song, not ours.