I’m as sensitive as the next person to the arguments of New Criticism, a movement in literary criticism that argues that any piece of literature should be regarded as an isolated aesthetic object, detached from the author, his or her intentions, the historical context, etc. And I believe that it is important to appreciate any piece of art or creative content in this way from time to time.
But I’m also a complete sucker for anything that gives a peek backstage. I love to watch or listen to documentaries, interviews or articles that lift the veil on what the artist actually intended, what life was like when the a work was created, who ordered it, how it was received at the time of its conception, and so on.
In the realm of recorded music there are several ways to get behind the scenes. The “Classic Albums” documentaries are an obvious example of how well the TV format works for showing how recordings were made. It turns out that radio is just as good. I’ve been a fan of the Song Exploder podcast for a while. I discovered the show as it happens to be a part of the same Radiotopia collective as my sister’s wonderful podcast “Strangers”. Song Exploder episodes are 15-20 minutes of an artist taking us through the creation of a song, and letting us listen to the individual tracks that make up the song, and the thoughts behind them.
Last year, one of the records I enjoyed the most was Björk’s Vulnicura, and Song Exploder rounded the year off with a nice christmas present: an insight with the lady herself into one of the strongest songs on the record: Stonemilker. Hearing her explain how she wanted the strings to give the impression of standing inside a monument of equilibrium is just great. Click here to listen to it.