Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Power of Interpretation

Do, ré, mi, fa,, have you ever wondered what intentions were brought forth in a song? What about how it's all interpreted? Everyone has a different way of relating lyrics to their own personal lives. There's a scientifical method, then there's your own method. Observing one verse of a song, I took 8 people's different takes on what they thought the lyrics meant; what kind of story was being told. The research and survey will demonstrate the effect of music on the brain.

The way that I see this method, in my own explanations, before I researched brain stimulation, music creates a bridge between the imagination and reality. I call this relm 'the grey'. The grey, to me, is that brief moment where your mind stops running at 1000 mph, and zones in on one single thing; your music. I call this relm 'the grey', because it's shady; an in between. You are still aware of the things around you, the white, yet not exactly lost in your imagination, the black. When playing music, I find, as well as others, that I fall into my own world. My own personal Narnia, my own Atlantis, my own Heaven. Normally, staring straight into the eyes of nothingness, is where I do my most productive creations. In time, as a musician, your own zone will establish itself in your life. You could be like Madonna, who demands her own dressing room to be decorated perfectly pink. Or even like Pink Floyd, who refuses to play at a concert if they do not have a bowl full of M&M's in their dressing room, excluding all the brown ones. You might even find your zone the way my best friend Allyssa did, and everytime she plays music, she sways back and forth to the rhythm of her guitar.

Studies proven in the article Abstract Coding of Audiovisual speech: Beyond Sensory Representation, in the magazine Neuron, volume 56, have taught us that questioning and interpretation are completely normal anf frequent human traits. When under an MRI scan, it can be seen that the left side of the brain is stimulated when asked questions and asked for opinions. I can therefore conclude that by asking my 12th grade English class to interpret song lyrics that I have distributed to each of them, I will not only have stimulated their brains, but I also expect to get all completely different answers. The variations I obtain should be drastic. The reason behind this is that no two persons think alike, and no two persons have been educated the same. Our brains translate words into concepts extremely differently. Looking at the structure of our brains, the area that takes in these words and transforms them in to concepts is called 'Werkinke's area'. According to the magazine Neuron, Werkinke's area hears speech and then translates those sounds into words that have abstract meaning. For example, if I told you I had seen a purple dog yesterday, your brain would process this information, hear the words, visualise the event and/or situation and then give you an image of what it thinks happened, all in the span of half a second. This also occurs when hearing a song. The 'language', the lyrics, are interpreted by our brains in the same sense as seeing a photograph.

When looking at this picture, your brain has already created a back story for it. Whether this picture gives you the impression that creation is a wonderful idea, that power is found where we least expect it, or even that killing and eating eggs is bad, you've already formed and opinion on the image. When listening to a song, our brain sees pictures. We call this 'imagery'. In my survey, I found that everyone's reaction to the same lyric, is shocking. How so many brains work differently to come to a conclusion, yet the same when using the same organs in the brain. I'm amazed with my results. When given these song lyrics, I asked the students to write in the lines what they thought was happening in this songs. To avoid a biased opinion, I did not tell anyone the name of the song, nor the artist.

There's people that love me and people that hate me
But it's the evil that made me this backstabbing, deceitful and shady
I want the money, the women, the fortune, and the fame

That means I'll end up burning in hell scorching in flames
That means I'm stealing your checkbook and forging your name
Lifetime bliss for eternal torture and pain
Right now I feel like I just hit the rock bottom

This is a song by Eminem called Rock Bottom. I knew that not many people in my class knew it, and was right to assume so. This eliminated the possibility of understanding the song as a whole, as opposed to focusing just on this cut of the lyrics. Taking a look for a second at Trevor's response to these lyrics.

''The individual is explaining how negative influences affect him much more than the positive ones, that despite the fact that people love him, he was still corrupted by the hatred of those who do not. He has realised the path he's taken, and has realised his mistakes, although, he will continue to comit the act that led him astray. This individual may not be trying to be selfish, he is merely doing what he know.''

Looking back at what Trevor said, I find myself agreeing completely with his statements. Trevor's interpretation is that the individual cannot be blamed for the person he has become, it is only due to the circumstances around him that made him that way.

''I think that the author is talking about karma and about how just because he has everything in this life, he will have nothing in another. They are just coming to the realization that they can't get away with continuously using people over and over again without having a negative influence on themself.''

This is Claire's interpretation of the lyrics. Her formed opinion is completely different than Trevor's. She believes that the individual has to face the consequences for the actions he has placed upon himself.

Looking now at Tatiana's interpretation:

''This song seems very contradictory: like, at first he's saying that the evil is making him do things, but then he's saying it's his own fault. Also, why not just try to gain money, etc, in being nice if he's afraid of hell?''

Tatiana raises important points. She's sees a little more in depth this character, and questions his logic. She interprets this man as one who is not willing to help himself, who'd rather sit around and pity himself as opposed to going out and looking for a way to better his life.

''I think this is about someone that has gotten mentally injured more than once in his life, and now it's made him hate everything around him. I also think karma has a lot to do with this verse.''

Alyssa took a page from Claire's book when touching base with karma. Although her and Claire might have the same concept, the idea is still completely different. Alyssa interprets that the individual is damaged and boken, and has turned bitter by fault of his life.

''This sounds as though an individual (a man?) has chosen to blame his current choices -to get rich through theft, lawless enterprises...- on his past. It sounds like something Billy the Kid said when interviewed. The word 'bliss' though, seems to point to some sort of medicated present.''

This is the interpretation of my English teacher, Mme Jacie. Of course for those of you who don't know, Billy the Kid is an american outlaw from the early 1900's, in the time of Lincoln, and is believed to have killed 21 people (it's okay, I didn't know this either, I had to look it up). Mme Jacie finds the the individual at fault because he, as a person, has made his own choices in life. She interprets the lyrics as the individual trying to find a way to escape, hence the 'medicated present'.

''These lyrics make me believe that this guy (or maybe girl), is being put through the wringer in a sense. Something or someone is throwing his life upside down, putting him throigh pain and torture, that is making this person do crazy things. Hence they literally feel as if they've hit rock bottom. He seems to think that you've got to do mean and hurtful things to get small moments of joy and happiness. His life is upside down, it hurts, makes you bleed and cry and do bad things. It's the circle of life, being at rock bottom once or more in your life.''

Forrest brings a different approach to her interpretation. She has a more sympathetic side to the fact that his life has been thrown upside down. Although she feels for him, and tries to understand why he does these actions, she also understands that that's life. You have to push through, and make it right for you. Sometimes, you just have to foget about everyone else and do it for you.

Looking through all of these seperate interpretations and opinions of what these lyrics meant, it's amazing to recognize that not one was at all alike (aside from the fact that both Alyssa and Claire spoke about karma, but let's face it, they were both sitting beside each other, it may be possible that they bounced ideas off one another!). I made my own interpretations in this as well! I tried to explain what these quotes meant. I interpreted interpretations. Looking at all these different takes from only 7 lines of words, it's easy to see that as people, we think for ourselves. Even if you find that you might be constantly second guessing yourself, or looking for someone else's opinion before you make your own, know that that's okay! Independance in thinking accumulates over time. If it doesn't come to you as easily as others, then that's what you have to do, work on those communication skills you might be afraid to bring out in front of others.

Manipuation of language is the way we, as humans, communicate. Benjamin Lee believes that language and thought influence each other. Tihs is why I culod witre tihs setcene, and as the reaedr, it is sitll raedalbe. Ou brains see the word as a whole. Hearing is the same concept as seeing. Unless someone starts spelling each word, putting emphasis on the letters, spelling them out individually, our brain also hears the word as a whole. Tue Chaudhuri said: ''I have learned that language, like the nervous system, is a complicated blueprint which humans use to communicate with, navigate and interpret, the world.'' 

This quote makes perfect sense to me, because humanity depends on our communication. If we took language out of the picture for just a moment, and you went to your math class and the teacher tried to explain to you the concept of trigonometric identities, without speaking. How lost would you be? I know I'd probably get up and leave! I believe this is why we enjoy music so much. For a brief moment, there are no questions, no opinions, no interpretations, no statements to examine, only music. Only language, pictures and images. It's soothing and calming. The brain is the ultimate metaphor.

Whatever your interpretation, the lyrics in a song can make us, as humans, do amazing and interesting things. So, for further advice, I encourage you to find your own Narnia, and let the river steer your boat wherever it may take you. If you try to fight it, you could be blocking some amazing potential! Do, ré, mi, fa, sol...get to work! :)

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting take - I like how you used your classmates' words.