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Thu, 09 Oct 2008


"Buzzer" is my favorite song on the new album, Promised Land. You can give it a listen as you read the lyrics.

(When searching for lyrics for it, I ran into a site with this ad: "How do you know if this pill goes with that pill?" My sentiments exactly.)

The song starts with percussion and a tapping beat that continues up until the first mention of the buzzer. You'll hear it through all the verses. During the verses, there are two notes between which she alternates to create a feeling of dissonance. If you compare this song to yesterday's, you'll feel the song is less "full" - there are fewer different frequencies being sent to you. The chorus serves to resolve a lot of this musically, smoothing these things out in two parts: "I would press the buzzer" removes the tapping beat, and the image of driving home adds some much-needed change across the board.

Dar's website explains that the song is about the famous social psychology experiment(s) by Stanley Milgram. Milgram summarizes them, "The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation."

Dar calls it, "A subject I have been obsessed with since reading about it when I was 18."

We start with a scene of self-contented loneliness, even detachment from a relationship with the outside world. She can have "anything I want" "cheaper than the stuff I make myself." We see her go through the Milgram experiment, something I won't repeat because it stands on its own. The process concludes, "Here's your seventy bucks, now everything's changed." She asks us to consider the everyday cruelty we could contribute to; as the buzzer masked her character from feeling responsible for it, so might things like the market shield her in her current life of shoes and stocks.

I've complained to my friend Jonathan about social psychology experiments, in particular harping on the idea that these aren't "experiments." (As far as I know, there's no control group to see if people would push the buzzer without the force of authority.) The way I put it to him was, "Breaking news: people aren't rational!" Growing up in the 1990s, that somehow seemed pretty evident to me (and of course I include myself in that list of irrational people). The value of these social psychology experiments, "just like a game," is in highlighting that fact and by drawing attention to specific manifestations of our non-rational decision processes.

Like last time, in this song Dar learns something about herself. That's probably also something you'll see in the songs I like of hers; on the hand, it may be true of most of her songs. There a simplicity in this song compared to her earlier work. Last time, when there were hidden words of support: "Good, okay," here there seems to be nothing beneath the surface. You could see this as emblematic of a change in Dar's work, something like changing from a world-gazing, secret-keeping child into a grown-up with concerns and interests.

That's alright, it's okay.

P.S. I know I've been remiss on the scheduling. I'll work on that.

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