02.03.2009

"Life In Technicolor," Viva La Vida, Coldplay

Posted by AJ Harbison at 12:00 am

In my car this past week I’ve been listening again to Viva La Vida, and it never fails to be awesome. I’ve been impressed recently with “Life In Technicolor,” the first track. It’s instrumental, so there are no lyrics and only a brief appearance by the vocals. But it’s an example of perfectly crafted “unfolding” (a term, I believe, used by John Cage in some of his lectures–a professor at CSUF introduced me to the concept). I’ve written before that musical form is the balance of repetition and contrast, and “Life In Technicolor” is an excellent example.

After the initial fade-in of the electronics and a few times through their progression, a hammered dulcimer begins the main riff of the song by itself. Then the song continually builds, gradually adding instruments and slowly morphing the chord progressions, all the while having way too much fun. The balance of continuity and repetition with new, evolving, unfolding material is pitch-perfect–which is hard to achieve in a pop song. Since most pop songs have simple progressions and standard instrumentation, an instrumental pop song without vocals can get boring very quickly. But even though “Life In Technicolor” still uses only standard pop chords (I, IV, V and vi, for those keeping score at home), it mixes up the instrumentation a little and manages to sustain interest by keeping that perfect balance. It builds to an exciting climax and then quickly falls and blends seamlessly into the next track, “Cemeteries Of London” (which I just now realize is incorrectly labeled “Cemeteries In London” in the title of the linked post… darn it).

You can listen to “Life In Technicolor” here, courtesy of Last.fm: click on the black play button in the player on the right side of the page.

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