Released March 1 1971, English Progressive Rock band Pink Floyd have pushed the boundaries of music to uncharted waters. Just passing the album's 40 year anniversary, the legacy of The Dark Side of the Moon lives on interestingly enough in much of today's youth and modern culture. The way that the band ties the concept and the music together in unison makes for a mesmerizing hypnotic effect that sends the listener into a whirlpool of emotions. Never before has a band been able to send such a clear message to the listener depicting the reality of life as we know it. Darkside asks the questions that we all face, and documents the lifecycle of the human being from life till death. The clarity of the lyrics is striking, but at the same time vague enough for the listener to come to his own interpretations and tie it to his own life. In this week's feature of Music Landscape, I will be reviewing one of progressive rock's finest masterpieces, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon.
The album starts off with the pulse of a human heartbeat. This is important because it is symbolic of birth. Just as you are welcomed into this life from the mother's womb, Pink Floyd begins the album in much the same way. As the heartbeat continues, it becomes synchronized to the ticking of a clock. This could symbolize the man/machine connection right from the start, as we combine the natural elements of birth to the ticking of a man made clock. We find our self taken back to our own birth, bonded to the mechanical ticking of man. This is the time that keeps the world going, the time that we live our lives by, and the time that gives us order. But also, this is the time that binds us from the very beginning as we must adapt at a very young age to mankind's sense of time. The opening track continues as voices begin crossing over the heartbeat/clock patterns as well as the opening "ching" of the cash register. Pink Floyd is introducing appetizers spread throughout the album of what's to come using excerpts from various other songs in their intro Speak to Me.
The intro bleeds into the 1st track entitled Breathe which is packed with many deep lyrics compacted into a short segment. David Gilmour's voice seems to echo through time and space causing a hypnotic effect upon the listener. As if a teacher informing a student about what to expect in life, and how to handle all these new sensations that he is experiencing. "Breathe breathe in the air, don't be afraid to care" he says. "For long you live and high you fly,
and smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry, and all your touch and all you see, is all your life will ever be." He's right, our lives appear to be nothing but sensory perception. This sends a message to the listener that is both chilling, and maybe even artificial, but is he right? The song ends with an interesting comparison to that of rabbits in the fields, continuously digging holes from sun up to sun down only to dig a new hole and continue right where we left off. This describes the element of the working world that we live in, where we perform the same tedious task over and over and over again like a machine, void of any personal value.
The writers now give the listener a chance to dwell on the previously mentioned ideas as synthesizers propel us through some sort of psychedelic trance. In the track entitled On the Run, Voices over the intercom are heard in conjunction with the introduction of footsteps. The tempo has picked up now as we listen to a man running through an airport trying to catch his flight. "Here for today, gone tomorrow" is a line thrown in during this musical venture that captures the essence of future lyrical content. The heartbeat now comes back into play as we begin to hear the plane taking off and an explosion. Our imaginary man is still running back and worth as the listener is greeted by a series of pacing footsteps through the airport terminal partially unaware that his plane has already left him. The silence is eventually halted as a ticking clock is greeted with a thunderous boom of alarms from various clocks almost as if we had just been awakened by a dream. However this dream is all too real, and as observers and listeners we experience this frantic race against time every day in our waking lives, just as our frantic man racing through the airport does.
The song Time puts us back into our youth initially, and as a young man myself, I can understand this period of life quite well since I am living in it now. Wasting our time with nothing to do, "kicking around on a piece of ground" longing for a purpose or a guide. But time quickly gets away from us, and begins to elude our grasp in the coming of old age. We as humans end up wanting that time back, because in our youth we had no grasp of its value. Time has seemed to have eluded us, and though the sun continues on its cycle, and the moon and the stars rise and fall, we look in the mirror and are greeted by our old age, a shadow of our former self. This thought is expressed in this well placed line, right after an energized guitar solo by Gilmour.."So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking, racing around to come up behind you again. The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older, shorter of breath and one day closer to death." The music continues to sway the listener in a trance, almost having the ability to lift us off the ground.
By this time, female vocalist Clare Torry begins introducing a whole new element to our experience by adding the presence of a female backing vocalist. She is introduced in the latter half of Time before taking a more prominent role in The Great Gig in the Sky. Time ends with a well placed transition right back into a reprise of Breathe. A transition so smooth in fact, that we may have even forgotten that we are being reintroduced to previous material on the record. The reprise takes us...home. Home to a familiar place in our cozy chair, feet propped up to a roasting fire, as we are transported into a sense of security, slowly lulled into a state of relaxation set to the keys of pianist Richard Wright. It is then that we are again introduced to various snippets of lines separated through the music. As we sit in our chair, reflecting upon a past life, "And I am not frightened of dying, any time will do, I don't mind. Why should I be frightened of dying?
There's no reason for it, you've gotta go sometime."
The piano is met by bass and drums, as Clare Torry again makes her presence felt through an elaborate display of vocal work. Her voice almost represents a state of panic, but is slowly drawn to a soothing murmur. The bass and drums drop and the listener is again graced by sweeping piano to that of a lullaby. The piano slowly fades and slows to an eventual haul and we are greeted with silence. The composition that had once lifted us off the ground has set us gently back into our seats. Side one is finished as the vinyl stops spinning and the needle lifts up. Our musically journey will continue next time as we explore side two. This concludes this week's edition of Music Landscape.