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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Is For Tunes: The Happiness Project


My friend introduced me to The Happiness Project when she included the song Anna on a mix she made me. The song instantly caught my attention. One of the philosophies I’ve been trying to incorporate into my life recently is to place more importance on just being happy. Anna samples the sound of a woman speaking about these young girls she works with, and says, “They’re happy all the time.” It made me happier to know that somewhere there is a bunch of girls that are just effortlessly happy, even if achieving that state of being is harder for me. This is just one of the many reasons I love this song. There is some really remarkable saxophone that kicks in over the sample of the woman’s voice and starts to mimic her cadences and tones. It reminds me of bebop, but the instrument is imitating the vocals instead of the other way around. As the woman finishes her comment on happiness the clip is looped several times to emphasize her final statement. Then, the rest of the song is developed from the melody set by her speaking voice. In addition to drawing parallels between her voice and the sounds of different instruments, connections are also made to other noises. The sound of birds singing is mixed in towards the end, and it fits in perfectly.

Despite how impressed I was with Anna on first listen, and despite my ardent love of jazz and linguistics that allows me to geek out about this music for hours, I didn’t really get around to checking out The Happiness Project further until this week. Apparently, The Happiness Project is the brainchild of Charles Spearin, a founding member of Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think. He was inspired to interview his neighbors about the subject of happiness, and then used the audio to craft a collection of inspiring, fascinating, and beautiful songs that were released last year as an album. There is so much truth, simplicity, and joy in this music. I believe it’s worth anyone’s time to give it a listen, no matter music preferences. These are the sounds of every day life interpreted into cohesive, acoustic compositions, and they are for everyone to hear.

The linguistics classes I was at first begrudgingly and later engagingly required to take in college certainly influence my appreciation of The Happiness Project. The women’s accent and intonation in the interview sampled for the song Mrs. Morris sound so unusual to me, and actuate such an interesting progression of notes from the tenor sax. I’m not sure anything besides this woman’s voice and manner of speaking could inspire such music. If I let my imagination run, I see her as reverberating at this completely unique frequency that augments the generally delightful noise of the universe.

Basically, Charles Spearin’s aural interpretation of the world is wonderful and brilliant. I sincerely hope that one day I am able to hear and understand at least half of what he does. Every song from the album is available on The Happiness Project website. However, you can’t listen to them all together, which I expect is crucial for their full appreciation. I really need to buy the entire album, and sit down with it for a solid afternoon. Also, if you'd like to know more and see something awesome, watch the video below.
Listen to The Happiness Project by Charles Spearin


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