Music Meets Philosophy: The Happiness Project
Neighborly wisdom, music innovation, and the extraordinariness of ordinary human speech.
By Maria Popova
We’ve long been fascinated by the concept and origin of happiness. Which is why we love Broken Social Scene multi-instrumentalist Charles Spearin‘s The Happiness Project — a series of interviews with Spearin’s neighbors on the subject of happiness, deconstructed into the melodic, sing-song quality of speech. Spearin’s inspiration came from the insight that the movement of our lips and tongue, the rising and falling of our voices as voice our thoughts, isn’t something we normally pay attention to, except in the context of explicit music. And yet this cadence is so rich in implicit melody.
The natural cadence of people’s speech can sometimes carry beautiful melodies.
After each interview, Spearin would listen to the recordings, examining both their meaning and their melody. He then invited a few musician friends to play, as closely as they could, these natural melodies on different instruments — from the tenor saxophone to the harp to Spearin’s own daughter on the violin — and then arranged them just as he would’ve songs.
Meaning seems to be our hunger but we should still try to taste our food. I wanted to see if I could blur the line between speaking and singing — life and art? — and write music based on these accidental melodies.
The result was The Happiness Project album — a fascinating experiment in music innovation, infused with the substance of everyday philosophy.
If you can take a bunch of people and just put them in a situation where they’re kind of comfortable, get them to talk about a nice subject like happiness, and then their wisdom shines a little bit more.
It’s one of our favorite music projects of 2009, so we thought it fitting to feature right before the holidays.
Published December 23, 2009