A Song - Two faces of the same coin
I would love to start this blog by translating some interesting articles I wrote a while back for the Italian audio blog www.betheaudio.com, which is currently not available . In this new chapter, I would like to discuss with you about some concepts I found useful when approaching the understanding and mixing of a song or an album.
Hand in hand we will be exploring what I call the Intimacy of sound. Trust me, listening to something will never be the same after reading these articles.
I hope to give you more questions than answers, utterly stimulating your interest and curiosity. Also, don’t forget to reach me on social network platforms.
Today I’ll be talking about what we can define two faces of the same coin: the Corpus Mysticum and the Corpus Mechanicus.
As good practice, let’s start to analyze and interpret the single words:
- Corpus, in Latin means body, which can be defined as a series of elements in a system, working together for a common goal or scope. Think about the human body: is an ensemble of organs, tissue and other elements which are working together for the mere surviving;
- Mechanicus, in Latin means mechanical. I already see your mind imagining cogs, engines and steam! Well, you are not too far;
- Mysticum, in latin means mystic. We give the adjective mystic to everything that has a spiritual significance that sometimes transcends human understanding.
To help you visualize this concepts (with some approximation!), we can think about a human being:
- The Corpus Mechanicus -identifies all those elements like the organs, the tissues, the blood etc…which allow the human being to just exist;
- The Corpus Mysticum – comprehends things like thoughts, emotions, feelings and mental processes which uniquely distinguish an individual from another.
Why all of this? How can it help us?
A Sound Engineer (or a Music Producer) approaching a sound material, has always to take decision and making choices. Something technical (which equipment or plugin should I use? How can I enhance the level of my song? ), some other times intellectuals (Which kind of reverb should apply? Which kind of timbre should I pursue? Which effect should I use?).
To successfully do this process, an Engineer should start to catalog, skim and understand the sonic material he has.
Without a reasoned and proper approach, the material that is composing his song, will sound like a cloud of sounds and notes, put and glued together only by following musical criteria.
I mean, there is nothing bad in that, but if you want to leave your mark and your signature, intimately understanding the elements at your disposal will give you an edge in producing the best song ever!
Personally I think that the first step that a Sound Engineer should take when trying to understand a song and clarify his intellectual processes, is to divide all the elements in two macro-categories, using the earlier explained r: Corpus Mysticum and Corpus Mechanicus.
Let’s go in depth and see how we can use those two complex expression in music!
- The Corpus Mechanicus – represents the basic language of an entity and all its basic elements, where the message finds its expression. In a song, for example, the Corpus Mechanicus represents the chords progression, the basic arrangement, the structure, the melody line, etc. But it also represents all the elements and technical choices that allow that specific record to exist, like the medium adopted or the EQ used to make the melody line sounds “loud and clear”.
- The Corpus Mysticum, on the other side, includes all the elements, which are not necessarily part of the basic language, that give an added value (in terms of ideas and meanings) to the message expressed before, with the Corpus Mechanicus. For example a reverb that transform a sound in a particular way, a sound that is expressing a concept, the psychoacoustics elements etc.
Those two categories are divided by a very thin line, which can be precisely discovered after a lot of exercise and ear training. Indeed, if we try to analyze any modern pop song, it becomes difficult to establish which element belongs where. To achieve a better classification, is important to understand if a given element is functional to the musical piece, or rather if without that element the song would lose its original meaning, or worst its message. To operate this choices, also don’t forget to always contextualize!
Said that, why don’t we start to analyze some songs? Just post it here, as a comment, together with your thoughts!