People of the World

Paul Kantner hit the ground tripping with his only composition ‘D.C.B.A.-25’ on Jefferson Airplane’s breakout album, Surrealistic Pillow.  The title references the chords D, C, B, and A, and the number 25 refers to LSD-25.  The lyrics in ‘D.C.B.A.-25’ show that Kantner doesn’t enjoy it much when he is straight, as he says, “Too many days I’ve left unstoned”, in a regretful manor.

In order to understand what chords are in music, you must first learn notes.  A Benedictine monk who was also a master of music named Guido d’Arezzo assigned the notes of the scale which are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C each a syllable of, Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do, so that people could relate to them better.  Musical instruments can be broadly divided into monophonic instruments, which can play only one note at a time, and polyphonic instruments, which can play several notes at a time.  Music sounds a little empty if notes are only played one at a time.  It is the interaction between different notes played together that gives music its richness and color.  A chord is a combination of three or more notes.  Chords are built off of a single note, called the root.  A chord, in music, is any harmonic set of pitches consisting of multiple notes that are heard as if sounding simultaneously.  For many practical and theoretical purposes, arpeggios and broken chords, or sequences of chord tones, may also be considered as chords.  Chords can be played on instruments such as piano, keyboard, organ, harp, guitar, harmonica, ukulele and xylophone.  Chords with two notes can be played on string instruments by bowing on two strings together.

Since a chord is three or more tones heard at the same time, any instrument that can do three or more notes simultaneously can play chords, thus keyboards (unless you’re running a mono synth patch), the violin family, guitars, the xylophone family, or groups of monophonic instruments and voices, such as choruses, bands, and orchestras.  Popular music, when it’s written at all, is typically written out with tabs, chord symbols over lyrics, or the traditional staves with notes on them.  The top string on a guitar is the thickest string, which is called the highest gauge.  Guitars are typically tuned in a series of ascending perfect fourths and a single major third from thinnest to thickest, thus the notes are E – B – G – D – A – E

Rodgers and Hammerstein said, “When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything!”  Monk Guido didn’t just select random sounds, what he chose came from ‘Ut Queant Laxis’, a well-known Middle Ages Latin hymn that honored John the Baptist which was chanted for vespers (a sunset evening prayer service).  Each succeeding line of the song started one note higher than the previous one, so Guido used the first letters of each word of each line: UT queant laxis, REsonare fibris, MIre gestorum, FAmuli tuorum: SOLve, etc. “Ut” was eventually deemed too difficult to pronounce and was changed to “Do.”

It’s time you walked away and set me free
I must move away, ‘n’ leave you be
Time has been good to us my friend,
Wait, and see how it will end
We come and go as we please
We come and go as we please (that’s how it has to be)
Here in crystal chandelier, I’m home
Too many days, I’ve left unstoned
If you don’t mind happiness
Purple-pleasure fields in the sun
Ah, don’t you know I’m runnin’ home
Don’t you know I’m runnin’ home (to a place to you unknown? )
I take great peace in your sitting there
Searching for myself, I find a place there
I see the people of the world
Where they are and what they could be
I can but dance behind your smile
I can but dance behind your smile (you were the world to me for a while)

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the prompt is to find a song that includes a number.

17 thoughts on “People of the World

  1. I never learned musical theory…I always played by ear. I can read tab…now that it’s all over the place. I’ve gotten lazy since the internet.
    I like this one Jim. I need to hear more of them…I only know their radio hits usually…

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  2. In 2003, Surrealistic Pillow was ranked number 146 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, and it maintained that rating on the 2012 revised list. It was voted number 174 in Colin Larkin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums. I used to listen to it a lot years ago.


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