Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Jacob Collier Plays the Same Song In 18 Increasingly Complex Emotions | WIRED

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`- Hello everybody, my name is Jacob Collier

and I'm a musician.

Today I'll be playing and transforming a familiar tune

through a variety of different emotions

of increasingly abstract natures.

The song, "Londonderry Air," otherwise known as "Danny Boy."

[piano music]

I'll be playing this tune a few times,

and as I'm doing so,

emotions of increasing complexity

will be fired at me in real time.

The challenge will be to seamlessly transition

from one emotion to the next

without stopping playing the tune.

I have not been shown these emotions in advance,

so what you'll be seeing

is a real time intuitive musical process

as I try to explain or describe these emotions

one after the other.

After each performance,

I'll be doing a boatload of musical analysis

describing what's going on in my brain

as I'm making these musical decisions.

I have never attempted anything like this before

in my entire life.

I'm quite excited, a little bit nervous.

I think it's gonna be really challenging

and it's gonna be really fun.

Let's give it a shot.

Okay, so three different tiers

of emotional complexity to work with,

ranging from tier one,

the most simplistic of all the emotions

to tier two, more abstract, compound emotions,

to tier three, the least defined,

most subjective states of all.

Let's begin with tier one.

Here goes.

[cheerful piano music]

[slow, melancholy piano music]

[loud, harsh piano music]

[mysterious piano music]

[jubilant piano music]

[quiet, relaxing piano music]

[keyboard typing]

So that was my attempt at describing six tier one emotions,

happy, sad, angry, mysterious, triumphant, and serene.

Let's take this apart.

So with happy, [cheerful piano music]

we begin in the key of F major.

And one thing you may notice

is that I'm using lots of triads here.

When I say a triad, I mean like a three-note chord

which is very self-assured.

Overall, it feels joyous.

It feels bright.

It feels hopeful.

Feels like something that resembles happiness.

So generally speaking,

it's pretty safe to assume that with major chords,

things tend to feel more consonant, more positive,

a little more comfortable, one might say happy.

Whereas with minor chords, things often feel less consonant,

a little colder, sadder, more austere,

especially when these chords are played quietly.

[slow, melancholy piano music]

Now there is something rather solemn about these sounds.

We're visiting a bit more of a transparent feeling.

We're also slightly quieter

and we've ascended into the upper notes of the piano.

[slow, melancholy piano music]

I'm also experimenting here with a little dissonance.

See this chord.

[piano chord music]

I've got this little tension here

between the G and the A flat.

[piano chord music]

And interestingly, this tension here

is almost like an inversion of this tension.

This is a tension close together

and this is tension far away,

both describing I suppose a different kind of sadness.

But there's something quite tender, I suppose,

about this repeated pattern, very sad.

Into anger.

[harsh piano music]

As you can see, I'm playing very loudly.

I'm also playing very low on the piano now,

and into this dark and dangerous zone.

And a lot of the notes sources are dissonance.

So they're not particularly within triads.

Like they were with happy.

[cheerful piano music]

Or sad.

[melancholy piano music]

They are a law unto themselves.

One of the challenges for me,

is how do I get from angry to mysterious?

And so to climb out of it, I chose a scale

which many of you guys will be familiar with

just from watching films or seeing theater shows.

It's a sound called the whole tone scale.

There is an equivalent distance

between every note in the scale,

and it's a scale sort of barren of tonality,

and creates this extremely interesting sense

of transparent wonder, mystique, kind of strangeness.

A little bit of the bizarre.

For me, mysterious is all about being suspended,

almost like I'm viewing the world from above.

Things don't make any sense.

Things are very confusing.

[jubilant piano music]

But once I ascend into being triumphant,

the triads return, these big open sounds.

I'm repeating each sound three times

in the beginning of this.

Buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh, buh

It feels almost like a national anthem or something.

[triumphant piano music]

Repeated notes, repeated chords.

Chords that bring you back home to F major.

[serene piano music]

But when we get to F major, we're very serene.

So once the triumphantness has laid out the foundation

for our return to home, what's left is the serene.

And as you can see with the with the serenity,

there's notes which are quieter, there's fewer notes,

things are feeling delicate.

It's just serene.

Okay, so it's time for tier two.

These emotions will be slightly less defined,

slightly more abstract, and increasingly subjective.

Let's give them a shot.

[slow, tentative piano music]

[jazzy piano music]

[slow, confusing piano music]

[cheerful piano music, with scary chords]

[peaceful, happy piano music]

[slow, thoughtful piano music]

[keys typing]

I really enjoyed that tier.

That was good fun.

It was really challenging.

It was way more challenging than tier one.

They're far more abstract, and they're far less objective.

And I find myself drawing far more

on my musical intuition than on my musical knowledge.

Let's see what we can make of it.

[slow, tentative piano music]

So, frightened.

Lots of strange intervals.

Lots of odd sounds.

A lot of distance between the lowest note

and the highest note.

Chords which create dissonance

between themselves and the melody.

The feeling of general unsettlement.

Things feel like they're going slightly wrong.

The melody, which feels so familiar is being disrupted,

and recontextualized in a very strange way.

This transition from frightened to flirtatious,

that's a difficult one.

I can't think of a single time in my life,

well maybe one or two,

where I've been really frightened,

and then straightaway I've started to flirt with someone.

It's so quite rare.

It's quite a quite interesting thing to describe musically.

[jazzy piano music]

So you can hear me sort of being overtly decorative here.

I'm playing with parts of the melody.

I'm making it fun.

I'm stretching out the time.

And over the course of the second half of this,

I'm actually falling into a pocket,

which I suppose gives gives way to dance,

a sort of levity, I suppose,

which one is when one flirts, I can tell you.

[slow, confusing piano music]

So this musical confusion has some things in common

with the earlier frightenedness.

I'm taking small fragments of the melody,

and I'm scattering them all over the place,

all around the piano, high and low.

But the difference here is that with confusion

things are things slightly more staccato and short,

and almost like they're creeping around.

I'm sort of juggling all these different tonalities at once.

It's like a sort of emotional tug of war.

I can hear my ear being led in one direction,

and then me pulling that melody back.

And then another direction in the other hand,

and pulling that melody back.

Reeling things out, and reeling things in.

It's a very confusing space.

Having finally made it out of the confusion,

back to our starting happy key of F major.

[happy piano music, with scary chords]

My left hand seems to be dropping

all sorts of strange dissonant bombs.

[happy piano music]

And so after being shell shocked at that huge blast,

it takes me a few seconds

to recalibrate and find my feet again.

But when I do, I'm in F sharp major.

So it was almost like the right hand is saying like,

"Oh, wait, wait, wait wait, wait.

"Where was I, where was I, where was I?

"Let me get started over again."

[dark, scary piano chords]

Only to be disrupted yet again, by another left hand blast.

The left hand is determined

to get in the way of the right hand.

[peaceful, happy music]

Ah, and finally peace in B flat major.

I've also returned to a consonant, major tonality,

which is reminiscent of happiness, I suppose.

But there's something very calm about this,

and it's very flowing.

I've also reintroduced to time.

[happy piano music]

And there's a basic structure about that,

that I suppose feels comforting.

It feels like there's something within it

that you can see forming, and you can lock into,

perhaps you can hide in or something.

And see how I'm repeating the chords within the key center.

It feels sort of cyclical.

Almost like you're being hugged

with this warm blanket or something.

It's lovely.

The feeling of betrayal is such a delicate

and subtle thing to describe,

because too much consonance feels wrong,

but too much dissonance feels wrong.

It's a very careful balance between absence and silence,

and space and hollowness,

and things which are still there,

but feel like they don't belong.

And there's this tension

pulling between the right hand and the left hand

throughout this section

which I think perhaps shows that feeling.

It reminds me of things in my own life

where things haven't been able to agree,

and they end up apart, and it feels awfully weird.

And so with the left hand and the right hand,

having been unable to agree on something,

the left hand just drops out

and leaves the right hand hanging here at the end.

Which I suppose is as accurate a depiction of betrayal

as I could have hoped to show.

Okay, so it's time for our final tear of emotions.

These are the most abstract emotions of all.

Extremely subjective, a little defined,

subtle combinations of simple estates,

really open to interpretation.

I don't know exactly what to expect,

but we'll see where we end up on the other side.

Here goes.

[flowing, happy piano music]

[slow, tentative piano music]

[slow, dark piano music]

[light, easy piano music]

[loud, cheerful piano music]

[slow, peaceful piano music]

[keyboard typing]

The challenge of accurately describing these spaces

comes far less from the cerebral part of my brain,

and far more from the spontaneous one.

In describing these six emotions,

I'm drawing on an utterly different set of devices,

experience, feelings, and knowledge

from both of the previous two tiers.

These are such abstract, open, fragile,

delicate concepts to describe.

There's space for me to bring

my own interpretation to these things,

which is a bit of a relief.

That said, it was a huge challenge.

Let's take a listen.

[flowing, happy piano music]

So, seeing a long lost friend.

You begin to feel comfortable within it.

Ah, there's the long lost friend, that D major low down.

Feels like I've established a connection with something.

I'm noticing elements of reassuring.

[upbeat, happy music]

And serene.

[slow, peaceful music]

The diatonic major tonality cluster chord,

the common dynamics,

the amount of space there is around the notes.

And here are two moments of pause,

with a slight change in hue.

The second chord, slightly darker from the first.

You see how I've introduced that B flat in the left hand?

That removes your ear from the tonality of D major.

Something has changed.

Something has altered.

Something is been viewed from a different light.

And here, [tentative piano music]

I'm pivoting from the long lost friend to inevitability,

and I'm using the C sharp to get there.

The C sharp belongs in the key of A major,

which is where we've been,

but it also belongs in the key of F sharp major,

which is where we're going.

And so this C sharp is a bridge

from one emotion to the next.

[slow, tentative music]

He comes the guilt.

[dark, sad music]

There's a sickening sort of weight to these chords,

like an increasing amount of heaviness in his voicings.

There's a lingering tension

that you can't quite put your finger on.

And each cord presents a different relationship

with this top note.

And they're all slightly uncomfortable

and they all feel heavy laden,

and they all feel like they're trying to shift the weight

from one place to another to another.

And they don't feel quite right.

It's a very interesting musical predicament

to have found myself in.

Booh, booh

And even there, you see I add that E,

and it changes the whole compass of the thing.

It creates a stodgy kind of blockade in the middle where

something is stuck, and it's forcing the chord to change.

But the E is fighting the D sharp in the bass.

And then there's this F sharp at the top.

There's a kind of parallel comradery

but there's this lack of loyalty, which is very interesting.

And each of these heavy, guilty chords is repeated.

It's like it's embedding itself within the music somehow.

The weight shifts from the D sharp, this closed chord,

to an E, a more open cord.

You got E, B, and F sharp, it's like a fifths structure.

Things are opening up and feeling more transparent.

[peaceful piano music]

And here, a D major triad just to cleanse the palate.

And this here is from the end of the tune, "Danny Boy,"

it's almost like a reminiscing of something.

Something coming back to you, it feels familiar.

But it also feels like it's been slightly forgotten.

And by the time we reach this F major,

some peace has been found.

It feels like I'm finding my way to a resting point,

and F major as the resting point,

followed by the C major.

[peaceful piano music]

And back to F, the most peaceful of all keys.

And this one note emerges,

and with it, and the repetition of it,

I'm conjuring up all these different musical ideas

and forces to express this Jacob Collier,

which is about to happen.

[bright, cheerful piano music]

And in true Jacobian style,

this first chord of the Jacob Collier passage

is a super ultra hyper lydian chord.

It's a chord stacked on top of a chord,

stacked on top of a chord, stacked on top of a chord.

At last, I'm liberated from these emotions,

and I'm just expressing something.

It's loud, it's clear,

all sorts of bundles of notes flying around

all over the place.

I guess I'm used to it at this point.

And here's this joyous flowing in opposite direction.

[joyous piano music]

To continue the melody at the top,

which resolves in this weird, surprising way.

The A, which you thought was gonna be part of F major,

is part of F sharp minor.

Can you believe it?

And I suppose this poses the question,

well what is a perfect ending?

[peaceful piano music]

I think for me, the ending for this particular improvisation

draws upon some of the forgiveness,

and some of the happiness, and some of the reassurance,

and the serenity of earlier on.

And the notes are becoming quieter, the range is decreasing.

I've entered back into this major tonality.

You can hear these nice diatonic cluster chords.

Things are settling down.

It's time to make some kind of musical peace.

There's nothing more perfect than that.

[keyboard typing]

These disconnected emotions one after the other,

kind of put me on the spot.

And it revealed what my immediate musical pallet

was saying about me.

And that was really interesting, and strange,

and weird, and cool.

One of the greatest challenges and privileges

of being a musician, is the process of learning

how to alchemize the forces in your life,

to create with.

You learn to transform them

into something which has form, structure.

Something which can be heard and understood,

even believed, even by people who don't experience

the emotions that you're drawing from

in the same way as you.

In some ways, an exercise like this

is very far removed from the real world.

Composers don't sit around

trying to portray exact emotions on a list.

It's not really what happens.

But I do think that it's an interesting exercise.

And it definitely gets you to think about

what you make music using.

Like what materials are,

and what parts of your brain you're using

to engage different elements of your language.

A lot of the time, the most interesting music that I write

comes from emotions that I don't really understand.

And I think the process of trying to get inside them,

not necessarily to control them or to explain them,

but just to get inside them,

is the most powerful thing I can do to be creative.

By being thoughtful and nuanced

around the choices that you make,

you can add so much dimension to the music that you play,

and also the music that you listen to.

The Description of Jacob Collier Plays the Same Song In 18 Increasingly Complex Emotions | WIRED