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10:24 a.m. - September 17, 2005
A Saucerful of Smed - An Experiment
Today is a little experimental piece. I was writing something to a friend when I mentioned that I thought a certain song was a soundtrack to its own movie. The more I thought about it, the more I though Ė well, I can perhaps write something while listening to the song that would evoke the same visions I had when listening to it, and illustrate in words what I see in those visions.

Mind you, no substances of any kind have been consumed, except for some French toast and decaf coffee, so donít even go there.

The song in question is called ďA Saucerful of SecretsĒ by Pink Floyd. For those of you who want to play the Smed home game, itís the live version off of the ďUmmagummaĒ album.

This is an interesting instrumental suite in either three or four parts (they say that itís four parts but the last two parts run together rather seamlessly). Itís not really a Ďsongí per se, but a series of excursions in sound. The studio version was released in 1968, but I think the live version has more power and immediacy. If you ever see the movie ďPink Floyd Live at PompeiiĒ then this cut is the highlight, at least it was for me.

This was way before Pink Floyd was a household name. They were a band with a cult following, nothing more. The only place you heard them on the radio was on the FM dial, when the FM was experimental and could get away with playing 12 minute pieces.

If you are playing the home game, yes there are only four of them making this unholy racket.

This is an experiment, as I said. Hopefully it works. If it doesnít then there will be more of the usual drivel and falderal tomorrow or the next day.

Ok, ready, letís start the show, er tune.

It starts with a firm, low bass line, and then an organ kicks in with a cymbal roll, signaling that something is on the horizon. The organ seems to be wandering a bit, as there is something unknown. The cymbals get louder, the bass louder Ė then a guitar is slightly heard feeding back over the din.

The bass cuts away, the guitar starts in making evocative noises, as the sounds are floating on the ether. Everything seems to be in a state of suspended animation for now, but then the cymbals become insistent, the guitar louder and stranger, and the organ starts clashing with itself and the guitar.

The chords become harsher on the organ. The cymbals are now accompanied by a pounding tom tom while the guitar squeals its message out into the distance. Something is here, something is happening, and itís happening now.

After an incessant pounding on the drums over the cymbals, guitar and organ, it climaxes, the sound floats away, all that is left is a drum pattern thatís repeated over and over. Other sounds start to creep in Ė some percussion; some organ fills that sound like a horror movie. More percussion also creeps into the picture, rolled cymbals again.

Then, chaos. The organ lifts a note, and then the guitar feeds back and makes a sound like laser cannons shooting through the night. Itís here Ė this is it Ė itís arrived in all of its glory and majesty.

The drums insistently pound their pattern as the organ signals tension in the air. Another message may be forthcoming. And itís here, the guitar feedback fills the air with sounds from another plane, the organ also starts to make the same kind of noise. There seems to be some communication going on thatís almost unrecognizable, yet it is truly communication.

All grows quiet except the drum pattern, then a bit of feedback, some basic organ, and the drum changes its pattern to roll on the toms. The guitar drops away for the most part, and the organ is left sending out its message to everyone. There seems to be peace at hand after the cacophony.

The tone of the organ now changes to a church organ. The chords are majestic, stately, important. The bass guitar starts in again, underpinning the organ with a powerful low line. Something big has happened, something powerful and massive has occurred.

The drums start in the background, the bass and drum making a nice pair that accompanies the stately organ music, which is getting louder and more forceful. This seems to be a hymn of some sort Ė a tribute or elegy perhaps.

The guitar reappears on the horizon, playing basic chords in support of the bass and drums, and then starts a counter melody of its own, perhaps as a response to the hymn.

The bass becomes very loud and forceful, taking the center. The sounds now seem to be unified, as the instruments all seem to be conveying the same message in their own ways with their own cadences and melodies.

Vocals appear Ė simple wordless vocals over the music. This is a hymn, a hymn of praise to whomever or whatever appeared in the beginning. It has shown the world the light.

This continues for the rest of the piece. The wordless vocals float over the air, the guitar plays simple chords and counter melodies against the stately organ, while the bass is in the middle anchoring everything down and keeping things grounded.

So what happened here? I believe that they were trying to tell a simple, yet powerful story of a UFO coming to Earth. At first, of course, itís the cause for discord and chaos, and perhaps we on Earth did not know how to respond. The saucer disrupted and interfered with communications with its strange magnetics and powerful propulsion.

But then the saucer lands, and slowly, surely, we on Earth see what the truth actually is. This is not a hostile invasion, the people who have landed are truly trying to explore and study us and understand us, and we in turn, believe it or not, are responding in kind. We on Earth see the light, see what the potential is, and reach a communion with the saucer and its inhabitants.

At least thatís the way I interpret it.

Well, as I said, this is an experimental piece. Perhaps it made sense even if you donít know the song. Many have dismissed this song as overblown pretentious prog-rock nonsense, and it does have its excesses (what 12 minute song doesnít go into excess), but I think itís a powerful piece, and deserved to have at least THIS interpretation of it told, even if it is 35 years after the fact.

 

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