k-os, Charlie Chaplin and Joshua Bell
I’ve been surprised k-os‘ song, Flypaper, hasn’t made a prominent appearence on the airwaves. I thought for sure it would be a big hit and it would grace XM’s 20 on 20 frequently. It is instantly catchy with the same energy and danceability of Outkast’s Heya. Do you question my claim of danceability? As I prepared for this blog post, I played the MP3 on my laptop. Here in Montana, I took a few minutes to dance in the isolation of my hotel room.
Rule of Thumb: If a song playing through laptop speakers compels you to dance in a hotel room, it is a pretty damn good song.
Another great thing about Flypaper, is its words. Like K-naan, I’ve found k-os’ lyrics to be pretty thought provoking. Here’s a passage from the first verse of Flypaper:
You see everyday
All the people standing at the train station
Left, right, left, right, left, right
We don’t talk to each other now
What an alien nation
Up, tight, up, tight, up, tight
I originally found that verse reminiscent of the 1936 Charlie Chaplin film, Modern Times. The opening of that film shows sheep herding across the screen. The film then cuts to a human equivalent– factory-bound workers herding onto a commuter train. But now, the k-os lyrics can remind me of a more contemporary example!
Mike E forwarded along this Washington Post article, Pearls Before Breakfast. It covers an interesting experiment. The Post had world-renowned violinist, Joshua Bell, perform at the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station. Three days earlier, Bell had performed a sold out show in Boston for $100 per seat. At the metro station, he only got a handful of people to even acknowledge he was there and he made a mere $32.17.
The Post article is extremely interesting and includes video footage from the experiment. It also hits on some of the same concepts Chaplin and k-os touched upon in their work:
“People walk up the escalator, they look straight ahead. Mind your own business, eyes forward. Everyone is stressed. Do you know what I mean?”
Not much has changed. Pop in a DVD of “Koyaanisqatsi,” the wordless, darkly brilliant, avant-garde 1982 film about the frenetic speed of modern life. Backed by the minimalist music of Philip Glass, director Godfrey Reggio takes film clips of Americans going about their daily business, but speeds them up until they resemble assembly-line machines, robots marching lockstep to nowhere. Now look at the video from L’Enfant Plaza, in fast-forward. The Philip Glass soundtrack fits it perfectly
If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that — then what else are we missing?
Modern Times and the Joshua Bell experiment were seperated by 71 years and yet, the observations remain so very much the same.
An “alien nation” indeed.