Rhythm & Views

Andrew Bird

I've been reading about the progression of Noble Beast on The New York Times' Measure for Measure blog. Since last March, Andrew Bird--performing a sold-out show at the Rialto on Saturday, Feb. 14--has posted notes about and drafts of songs for Noble Beast, most specifically the first song on the record, "Oh No." Bird wrote about the song's inspiration--a 3-year-old boy wailing on an airplane--and from there, Bird discussed the lyrics, the recording process, all of the things that made up the composition of the song and the album.

From "Oh No" on, Bird's thoughtful composition builds into the textured landscape that is Noble Beast. To compose is to create, build, assemble, synthesize--to make something new out of various parts that weren't there before. Here, Bird's toolbox is made up of familiar pieces--violin loops, acoustic guitar, whistling, minimal percussion, dreamlike lyrics--but the composition is windier, grassier and brighter than Bird's previous solo albums.

The dramatics are subdued, the dreams more fluid. Mostly acoustic instruments, and the occasional African or Latin rhythm, make the album feel more natural, less contained--more English garden than French. Take the mournful acoustic guitar and plucked violin on "Natural Disaster" that help to examine all of the things that can be described as a natural disaster, like "a wolf with a lung disease," or the layers of decaying matter on the forest floor.

One could write a dissertation about Noble Beast. As a composition, it is as complex and gorgeous as a George Eliot novel.

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