Session 6 – Voyage and Return Song Study

What you said about Paradise / Glory / Imagine

Both songs are about perfect worlds / heavens or utopias.

The musical crescendo in Coldplay’s song invites you to fly away from all your troubles and makes you dream of a wonderland. The words of Imagine refer to a land without borders or racism which is a peaceful and hopeful vision / illusion?

The music in Glory mimics the different stages of a Voyage and Return story, first the slow routine of the ordinary life then the beginning of the adventure with an accelerated pace / tempo then a climax and finally the slowing down back to normal. It has something epic and heroic about it.

Born to Be Wild by Steppenwolf, 1968.

– Rock ‘n Roll song with electric guitars, bass, drums and vocals.’wild’ > echoes the film / book ‘into the wild’. Contrary to the book, here the word refers to a state of mind not to an actual place.
– ‘heavy metal thunder’ was the first occurrence of the term ‘heavy metal’ that now refers to a very loud music genre.
– Part of the soundtrack of the Road Movie Easy Rider > ‘epitome’ of the biker’s song
travel by bike across America
– no destination but looking for adventure.
– Adventure is associated with fire, lightning and explosion. It’s a thrilling / exciting experience related to danger.

The Passenger by Iggy Pop, 1977.

  • Rock n’ Roll song, vocals, tambourine, drums and electric guitar.
  • The character in this song is travelling in a car but he’s not driving it.
  • Driving around the city
  • he asks rhetorical questions “What does he see?”
  • this song about vision and urban landscapes.
  • It’s set at night
  • the ocean is ‘winding’ and the city is ‘ripped’ > the character’s vision is blurred or distorted.
  • This song was written and sang by Iggy who is famous for his drug abuse in the 1970s.
  • His journey is a mental journey more than a journey to a precise destination.
  • It echoes the 19th century tradition of ‘internal landscapes’ > paysages intérieurs . The poet’s state of mind is mirrored in the landscape he sees so the landscape becomes a metaphor for his feelings (ex. Baudelaire, Quand le ciel bas et lourd pèse comme un couvercle, Spleen de Paris)
  • the English word ‘Spleen’ is always opposed to “idéal” > just like the island can be both heaven and hell, the narrator’s destination can be seen as a dream or as a nightmare. > Ambivalent visions.

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 19.01.43David Bowie and Iggy Pop catching a train in Berlin, late 70s.


Open Book by Gnarls Barkley, 2008.

  • this song relies on a metaphor
  • the narrator is identified with an open book
  • the hero of Voyage and Return stories can be seen as the book itself, his personal story written under his skin (life-changing experiences, hardships and troubles) just like the story is ‘tatooed’ onto the pages on his travel diaries.
  • Without the hero’s testimony, the book doesn’t exist.
  • It’s set in the jungle, we can hear birds, deep breathing and tribal beats.
  • The beat / pace is distorted just like the vision in The Passenger.
  • The character has trouble going forward, walking in the jungle.
  • ‘When I sing a song of peace, It soothes the savage beast’
    • the solution to be at peace with himself is to sing.
    • This song is about the power of writing and reading.

    Cultural references:

    • Lyricism : the mythical story of Orpheus and Eurydice > journey in hell to rescue is lover, poetry as a powerful weapon against evil, origin of ‘internal landscapes’ > Orpheus had the power to make trees and rocks cry thanks to his lyre. Today string instruments are associated with feelings (violins in Coldplay).

    Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 17.45.52Orpheus by Franz Von Stuck

    • Utopia vs Dystopia / Spleen et Idéal / Baudelaire
    • Internal landscapes / The “I” and the Eye.



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