deconstructing songs

I’ve been decon­struct­ing songs, try­ing to fig­ure out what mag­i­cal com­bi­na­tion of pitch­es and tim­bres and rhythms can cre­ate such an intense response in my body. Every song is a puz­zle when you try to fit the com­po­si­tion into what a per­son can do with­out stu­dio edit­ing or a band.

On my quest to unlock such a puz­zle, I dis­cov­ered Final Fantasy per­form­ing a Bloc Party cov­er of This Modern Love, what is now my favourite song of all time1, hav­ing dethroned Blonde Redhead’s Elephant Woman of the hon­our it held for many years. It strips me bare by lay­ers and lay­ers, and even though the lyrics found rel­e­vance in my life before I decid­ed that dis­tance would keep me sane, it’s only in recent months that it’s gone from being a song I nev­er skip to a song I always play.

To be able to see how Owen Pallett repro­duces it with only a vio­lin, a loop ped­al, and his char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly frail voice is a par­tic­u­lar treat. Not only because he can draw the same inten­si­ty in me as in the orig­i­nal ver­sion, but because you can see how it’s done; what part he keeps to present the lis­ten­er with the essence of the song, what he’s changed to fit the tools he uses, and even where he takes his breaths. It’s like find­ing an ele­gant solu­tion for a puz­zle that has per­plexed you for years.

But I’ve yet to sit down and attempt any seri­ous cov­ers of my own cause I’m still wait­ing for my musi­cal knowl­edge and gui­tar abil­i­ty to catch up with what I want to accom­plish. I’ve been learn­ing clas­si­cal pieces for a bet­ter foun­da­tion, and in that pur­suit I came across this par­tic­u­lar ver­sion of La Catedral.

I enjoy clas­si­cal music (though I’m real­ly picky) cause it can evoke a spe­cif­ic emo­tion in me, but most pieces cater to only one emo­tion at a time, or there’s a lot of devel­op­ment before the part I real­ly like. La Catedral, on the oth­er hand, has it all, from sor­row to ela­tion, and every bit of it is bliss. I’m con­vinced that this is how the old Paraguayan gui­tarists rocked out with their cocks out, and it amazes me how some­one could write such heavy emo­tion when there were no met­al idols, no amp dis­tor­tion, no scream­ing back then.

I’d say that for any­one to ful­ly under­stand me, they’d have to under­stand this song too. It rep­re­sents every­thing I love about music and emo­tion and sex, cause it’s all in this song, and only Denis Azabagić plays it the way it was meant to be played2. When watch­ing this for the first time, I remem­ber think­ing that I would make love to this man, this man who looks like some guy’s uncle, because he plays like he’s touch­ing every nerve of my heart.

I love the way he moves with his gui­tar, the way he cra­dles the body, the way he purs­es his lips or widens his eyes with every swelling of pas­sion. To be able to play like him is is exact­ly why I start­ed tak­ing up gui­tar; I want to feel as good as those who lose them­selves to the music, and learn­ing this piece has become anoth­er thing I hope to do before I die.

  1. As a per­son who lis­tens to almost any genre but is still obses­sive­ly selec­tive with music, say­ing that I have a sin­gle favourite song is a big deal. []
  2. I nev­er liked this song until I heard him per­form it, the last 45 sec­onds in par­tic­u­lar, with his orgas­mic fin­ish. Every oth­er clas­si­cal gui­tarist uses paus­es that break up the flow of what are sup­posed to be relent­less six­teenth notes, to the point where it feels like the entire song is ruined. []


  1. Have you ever seen Imogen Heap in con­cert? You MUST! Especially if you liked this live ver­sion of Final Fantasy.…. There is an amaz­ing rich­ness to every­thing she does and you can’t believe it’s just her and her lit­tle elec­tron­ic glovey things and her key­boards and loops.

    I have nev­er heard Le Catedral before — Thank you. : ) I think the end would require this flour­ish, you’re right.

    • I haven’t seen her in con­cert, but I have seen her live before, using a loop machine. It was pret­ty spec­tac­u­lar, and I remem­ber think­ing that the song was bet­ter than the album ver­sion.

  2. It looked as if Denis were play­ing the vio­lin or dou­ble bass. At one point I turned the sound off and just watched his move­ments. Nothing like I’d ever felt or expe­ri­enced before.

    • I’ve nev­er con­sid­ered watch­ing him with­out the sound…I won­der if I could pick out where he is in the piece just from the way he moves.

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