Monday, July 25, 2005

More lyrical analysis

Finding one analysis (see below) of Close to the Edge wasn't enough. I stumbled upon a painstakingly detailed annotation of the lyrics, concentrating specifically on spirituality.

It's a bit ambitious to sum up all of these points in a blog post, and I'd be lying if I said I understood it all. I did an academic paper in my Philosophy and Music class that was somewhat similar to the first analysis -- I used Sting's The Soul Cages to demonstrate the use of themes that disappear and recur to link songs that also have a lyrical tie. But this one's on a different plane.

Give the second one a chance. It's a strange read at first -- the writer seems a little hyper as he points out his spiritual kinship with Yes' Jon Anderson, a bit like an overenthusiastic tour guide showing prospective students around a college campus, or perhaps Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek pontificating about Jim Morrison's status as a shaman.

As I understand it, the message of Close to the Edge (at least as interpreted here) is that we should only keep one foot in this world and one foot in the spiritual world, which we encounter at the "edge." All the petty distractions of the world melt away -- they have to -- as we seek God. And it's not enough to know God's name, which really tells us nothing. Add it all up, and it's almost enough to make me revive my flirtation with Unitarianism.

It also explains to me another reason why parents tend to return to church after spending their early single years drifting away. The reason most people give is that they want their kids to have a religious grounding. But I think it's also because parenting makes us more spiritual. We feel like we're part of a flowing lifeforce, the river or the "cord" described in Close to the Edge. Since becoming a parent, I've found that being around kids and other parents is an uplifting experience for me. This song explains why.

I also wonder if there are any songs today that could merit this level of scrutiny. Even newer Yes music doesn't seem to have deep meanings wrapped in many layers woven into a complex work of art.

But some people are trying to find that meaning, and on that note, please check out this annotation of Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl.

(I have seen some hostile reaction to this amusing piece of work, claiming that Hollaback Girl is a vital feminist statement. After reading the spiritual themes of Close to the Edge, I think Gwen is pushing an exclusionary form of feminism that doesn't allow those of a Buddhist orientation -- including Zen-ified Christians and Unitarians -- to take part. A follower of Zen or Buddhism would neither talk shit nor care whose shit Gwen is referring to.)

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