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Sunday, May 3, 2009

Going and going, with fictional borders...

The following is an essay I wrote for my English class. The assignment was to pretty much interpret and give meaning to any song (and I cut it down, originally I wanted to do a 25+ minute epic ;D). Enjoy!


"My New World", by Alex Ricard

Most bands would consider a 16-minute long song exploring different musical territories and building up over a variety of themes a massive accomplishment, but this is just the order of the day for prog-rock super group Transatlantic. From their two albums, only three of their songs are under 15 minutes long (and simultaneously, they have three songs over 25 minutes long). “My New World” from their first album SMPTe is, comparatively, a concise and focused effort from the band that explores the limits of pop and rock music over its duration, lyrically telling the complex story of two unlikely lovers in the 1960s as a metaphor for the state of America during that time period. Overall, “My New World” uses this love story, combined with the musical flow and structure of the song and the positive energy from the music itself to create a rich, vastly layered atmosphere.

In alternate verses, the two main characters are introduced through the lyrics. “Days in the sun she's seen by the river/reading a book, feeding her dreams,” Roine Stolt sings, illustrating the female as a peaceful hippie type who “hiked up to Woodstock, she got high in Frisco …painting and poetry filled up her mind.” The male character is also introduced here, as “the boy, the pride of his mother” who “took pride in serving his country/went off to war, no more than a child.” The chorus is a thematic break from the story to feature a first-person perspective with “my new world was spinning me around,” alluding to rapid changes both in society and in a personal connection as the main focus of the lyrics. Throughout the song as the love story progresses, the differences between the two characters (representative of the diversity of the American people) are further explored: the line “now she’s a loner, now she’s a stoner, no one can touch her” is repeated throughout the song, while a verse dedicated to the boy states “disappointment struck him hard when he found out/there was no ‘lucky Stars and Stripes’/they set it all on fire, while Jim and Janis got us higher”, showing a shared experience in troubled times, such as in a relationship or a period of massive social change. By the end of the song, however, the differences are resolved with a final chorus stating “my new world is spinning me/and time is not my enemy/my new world is ahead of me today/and all things pass away,” underscoring the peace and contentment perfect for a happy ending. However, as implied in the chorus and title of the song, the “new world” is a complete change, due to the troubles and triumphs that occurred during the ‘60s.

The music itself begins with a slow, sweeping melody played on strings. Guitars then quickly come crashing in for a bombastic exaggeration of the same theme before the song settles down for a Beatles-esque piano shuffle in irregular 5/8 time for the introduction of the characters. The song slowly builds up to the chorus which features four-part harmonies with an uptempo beat, giving off a happy feel. “My New World”, over time, becomes very atmospheric and soft and then fluctuates between loud and soft sections, creating an episodic story. The overall structure of the song is very linear: throughout the work, many melodic themes are revisited, modified, layered, and constructed in a way similar to leitmotifs in classical music. This structure helps to further the storytelling nature of the work, while helping the emotions reach their full fruition because the song is not bound to a traditional verse/chorus structure.

“My New World” modulates through various major keys, which gives it a “happy” feel. The chord progressions and rhythms used give it a very Beatles-influenced sound, combined with the influence of bands such as early Yes and Genesis, who also had their start in the sixties. The fairly brisk style imbues the song with a slight sense of purpose - even the solo sections speak with unique voices. Rather than being an all-out rocker, “My New World” is casually restrained, remaining polite and pleasant, yet still with an attitude. The song carries with it the peaceful and idealistic attitudes of the ‘60s and contrasts it with the harsh realities of the violence of the period, functioning as both a timeless love story and a homage to the entire time period.