“Blink” – Hiroto Kudo’s newest song, and also the name of a fairly famous pop psychology book. Could there be a connection?
Blink the book argued that persons with expertise see things differently than the rest of us. Years and years of practice lead to those who had train in a field to discover subtleties far beyond what a layperson could imagine. Not only do experts possess these analytical skills, they have them even with minimal amounts of information.
Music is not all that different from analysis with vast stores of knowledge. A song usually leads with a melody, which is like the conscious mode of our attention. Melody in isolation, means very little to a listener. It takes chord changes (or other harmony) underneath to create the mood of the song. It takes percussion to determine whether the song is a dirge, a dance, or a daydream. The melody is where we focus, but it requires much underneath it to make it meaningful. Similarly, whatever we focus our attention on, squiggles on a page, movements on a screen, have little meaning without the vast stores of background knowledge we accumulate over a life time. No wonder children (and presidents that behave like children) get so frustrated with the decisions of adults.
While “Blink” the song may not have specifically intended to import such meaning, it also provides a good example. In sum, Hiroto Kudo creates a wonderful sense of melancholy whimsy. How do we get to melancholy whimsy from the abstractions of a digital music file? We start with the melodies. Given the plinky timbres and high pitches, there is something distinctly child-like, music-box like. The melodies are simple, but more complicated than a child’s melody, all of which combines to give the song a whimsical edge. The chord changes, however, tell a different story. While not deathly or dreary, the chord changes don’t convey a sense of joy either. Rather, they convey that sunset moment: it’s beautiful and it won’t last; it’s beautiful because it won’t last. Nostalgic melancholy. Then there’s the rhythms. They click and clatter in steady beats. It is stable, but messy. Like sitting in your chair at work, but thinking back on a childhood memory when you’re supposed to be writing a report.
“Blink” creates complex beauty out of subtle, simple parts. So with “Blink”, Hiroto Kudo is not the expert decoding complex messages in song. He’s the expert encoding them. And we can enjoy them regardless of expertise.