The Soundscape Of Loud Play
“Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se” Charles Eames
When Hanson put out new music, a sound multiplies around the world, as those who love their music, anticipate, listen, reflect and sing it out loud.
The music is never a complete revelation as Hanson have, since This Time Around and the early days of Underneath, tested their sound and teased their audience with snippets of songs and glimpses into the process of their making.
Sometimes the music is resonant of previous albums and at times, ideas that were floated but not formed, find their resting place – all in Hanson time.
The latest Hanson music that was streamed in its creation, is a complex piece of clever marketing as well as invention. The two EPs that make up Loud Play are a Hanson.net member’s kit consisting of 5 songs called LOUD and a download of 5 songs called PLAY. Members of Hanson’s fan club can access both EPs, non-members can purchase Play as a download, or together, the music can be purchased as a vinyl collection with Hanson original art work.
Hanson explain their idea on their official website by saying,
The concept for Play was born out of a desire to do something cool during HANSON Day weekend. In the past we had recorded projects like Middle Of Nowhere Acoustic and The Sound Of Light during Members Only Events but simply doing the same thing again was not as exciting as connecting it to a bigger musical idea, so Loud Play or LP was born. Loud would be side A of the Vinyl, and would focus more on riffs and intense sounds, Play would be… well more playful, and would incorporate the voices of every fan who attended HANSON Day. Play is not a live record, but it does have live elements. Loud Play fulfils something we talked about doing for years. It is the first attempt or maybe the testing of the water for the idea of more music all the time from HANSON. I love the idea of doing multiple EPs every year. The prospect of making music in short form, leaving room for concepts and songs that might never come to fruition without the pressure of a shorter production timeline and the shared vision that comes when music is coloured by a concept. Whenever the three of us sit down to talk about what will come next the only thing we have a shortage of is time, but if it permits I hope we will do more projects like Loud and Play in the future.
Since 2011, Hanson have talked of putting out more frequent music in smaller chunks. If as they say, Loud Play is a test for the success of the venture, it will be interesting to see how they proceed. Many people prefer longer, full albums and not everyone is a fan of downloaded music, but the serious Hanson fan and the more casual admirer of their music, are equally eager to hear their latest work and the band would be foolish not to feed the fascination of those who remain loyal to their sound.
Hanson music and concepts are bred in the heat and steam of the pressure cooker environment. This is not just the Tulsa heat but also the volatility of the Hanson brothers themselves as they have wrestled with their own temperaments in the 3CG crucible of creativity. And they have never been afraid to share the reality of this cook – house atmosphere. From scenes in their 2003 documentary Strong Enough To Break, to their 2013 biopic Remade In America they have shown their day-to-day exchanges, processes, disagreements, wrestling with ideas, walking away from moments and the ultimate resolution to a fruitful outcome.
In a recent interview, Zac Hanson said that in their early days, they just wanted to be the first band to play on the moon.
It was a child’s dream of doing something different and spectacular and crazy. The interview ended with him saying that actually they still want to be that band, the first one to play on the moon.
His comment suggests that the drive to invent, push at boundaries and do something that is personally thrilling, is no less than it was 25 years ago, when as young siblings Hanson took their own brand of a cappella from the family living room, to the stage at Tulsa’s Mayfest. The child or the adult at play, it makes no difference to Hanson.
With Loud Play, Hanson remained Inside The Box of their immediate world as they took the tools of their trade and reflected on them as their soundscape.
“A soundscape is a sound or combination of sounds that forms or arises from an immersive environment”
” The idea of soundscape refers to both the natural acoustic environment, consisting of natural sounds, for instance, the sounds of weather and other natural elements; and environmental sounds created by humans, through musical composition, sound design, and other ordinary human activities including conversation, work, and sounds of mechanical origin resulting from use of industrial technology. Crucially, the term soundscape also includes the listener’s perception of sounds heard as an environment: how that environment is understood by those living within it and therefore mediates their relations”.
From their studio in Tulsa, Hanson took inspiration from their every day environment, that of musical instruments, working conversation, song writing, performance, as well as the objects surrounding them, loud speakers, cables, sound decks and carry cases.
The music that emerged is an expression of who Hanson are and how and why they Play.
It is not so much about what they see as how they see it.
Loud Play, expresses what Hanson see in the things that are every day; their effect, and their potential.
Musically, both EPs deliver a mix of dynamic and genre along with intriguing lyrics. Both EPs feature each Hanson brother taking a lead and both have songs destined to become great live performance pieces.
On Play, the music revisits themes that Hanson have toyed with before.
They touch on independence, over coming the odds, the intricacies of the human condition, the intensity of living in the moment, the capacity of music to make a difference in the world, the desire to live fully and purposefully, and the existence of unconditional love.
Familiar motifs abound. There are resonances of This Time Around with its “cannons a blazing” in Feeling Alive and echoes of You Can’t Stop Us from Anthem in Man On Top. This song may even be tipping a wink to the strange people mentioned in Top of The World written and performed with Blues Traveller.
Man On Top is uncompromising in its language and the protagonist makes it plain that he is equipped to take on the ones who want to cover their asses. The fist raised and the rising sun reminds me of the cover design of Ayn Rand’s novel Anthem, an author and piece of literature known to Hanson.
Maybe there are passing references to this novels hero and his walk to freedom, away from the suppression of individuality.
Freak Out has a little Stevie Wonder in the wings and is reminiscent of Nothing On Me, a song that didn’t make it to Anthem.
Feeling alive (Play) and No Rest For The Weary (Loud) use couplets of lyrics, often opposed to each other, to paint a picture of a character intensely driven to honesty and self revelation. The author challenges the assumptions and misconceptions of others in the unravelling of his own story.
It feels as if the unravelling on Feeling Alive is happening in public, on stage maybe and it brings to mind Taylor Hanson’s performance of “ Song For You” by Leon Russell from last years RNR tour.
“I’ve been so many places in my life and time
I’ve sung a lot of songs I’ve made some bad rhyme
I’ve acted out my love on stages
with ten thousand people watching”
Russell’s song with its poignant truthfulness, shows a man humbled by the love of another and In Feeling Alive, I think Hanson are expressing something similar.
This song may be an anthem to the moment, the concert, and the place where the ideas and the process and the people meet in the performance. The place where the quality of the experience is proved.
In the moment of the performance, there is a mutual humility, the artist and the audience are enabled by each other to understand their place in the scheme of things. But this isn’t submission or piety.
This too is liberation.
Feeling Alive refuses to be inert. The song has movement and it tastes of extremes. Reaching to the sky, sounds multiplying, the possibility of not surviving but all born of passion for truth. This character abandons himself totally to who he is and this is a celebration. It is a man “withholding nothing”
“I stand here on the summit of the mountain. I lift my head and I spread my arms. This, my body and spirit, this is the end of the quest. I wished to know the meaning of all things. I am the meaning. I wished to find a warrant for being. I need no warrant for being, and no word of sanction upon my being. “
Ayn Rand Anthem
So what of Playing Loudly ?
On a book shelf in a Hanson home is a copy of Play by Stuart Brown.
In this book he says that,
“In Play we engage fully with the world. I don’t think it is too much to say that play can save your life. It certainly has salvaged mine. Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organised around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books,… fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilisation. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively.” Stuart Brown Play How It Shapes The Brain, Opens The Imagination And Invigorates The Soul.
He goes on to say that Play is that which gives living its vitality. The ability to innovate largely comes out of an ability to play and the most significant aspect of play is that it allows us to express our joy and connect most deeply with the best in ourselves and in others. We are happy when we can live an expansive life, one in which we are aware that we are actively participating in something greater than ourselves as part of a community, free from fear. Play is the purest expression of love
“When enough people raise play to the status it deserves in our lives, we will find the world a better place.”
This is the world of Hanson Music.
This is the soundscape of Loud Play.
Thanks and credits to Hanson for images used in this piece.