duminică, 6 iulie 2008


Had Sigmund Freud lived 40 more years (to the overripe old age of 123), he would have been delighted to hear such a wonderful example of his life's psychoanlytic work embodied in the haunting lyrics of "Mother." Or had Oedipus lived a few millennium longer than his fictional death he would have found an adversary in the youthful Pink, a young boy whose desire for maternal acceptance and love is arguably equal to the greatest mother-centered protagonists in the history of literature. Contrary to the eye-gouging antics of Oedipus or even the grandiose melodrama later in Floyd's album, "Mother" is relatively low-key and emotionally subtle. The music itself is interestingly split, though with few if any seams to show for it, between the gloomy and simple verse chords and the effervescent, nursery rhyme-like chorus. Coupled with these seemingly disjointed yet oddly congruent styles are the blistering guitar solo and unsettling lyrics, all of which culminate in a perfect example of Floydian schizophrenia. The simple chord progression and uncomplicated lyrical delivery reflect Pink's childhood innocence at the time the song takes place. The very inquisitiveness emulates those youthful stages when the world is one big mystery. Why is the sky blue? Why does the ocean have waves? Where do babies come from? While the steady stream of inquiries seems to imply that Pink is rather young, with most children going through the "question" phase of development around 3 or 4 years of age, the level of seriousness shrouded behind the questions characterize Pink as being fairly older. The implications of governmental conspiracy and public ridicule indicate Pink's age as being around 12 to 14, that age when one learns that many of the world's most time-honored institutions are nothing more than hollow shells of public hope and dictatorial vanity. Santa Claus isn't real and there are many major religions that worship other deities than Christ. It's an age of discovery and self-recreation, when one must adapt and reinvent himself or herself in light of new knowledge. By this reading, the song's question (Pink) and answer (Mother) technique fits perfectly with this stage of budding self and global awareness. From the great Greek philosophers who used questions and answers to illustrate and promote self-realization and their own philosophical ideas, the dialogue form is often the favored method for encouraging mental and philosophical progression. So why would the band choose to illustrate such a serious stage of personal development with the nursery rhyme-like style of the song's chorus? Before we get to that, the song's emotional and psychological message must first be examined.

Similar to the music, the lyrics are as subtle as they are unsettling. Although the song takes a seemingly forthright form of question and answer, the psychological implications behind the lyrics are far from being simple and straightforward. Although the battling was over, the effects of World War II were still extent in the years following the atrocious fight. The destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the atomic bomb as well as the deaths of millions of Holocaust victims and soldiers were all too fresh in the global consciousness. Fears of nuclear warfare and continued fighting ran rampant through the post-war world, instilling a sense of uncertainty in the generations of and following the war. Such fears are blatantly reflected by the first line of the song in which Pink asks his mother if "they'll drop the bomb," referring to the apprehension of enemy retaliation. However, this line, as well as the majority of the lyrics, is open to a wide range of interpretation. Because of the psychological tendency to group people into two main categories (those like "us" and those apart from "us," or the Other) coupled with the recent divisions of global powers in the war, one automatically assumes that the "they" Pink refers to is the enemy of the Allied forces. Reading the lyrics in this light illustrates Pink's burgeoning global awareness, thereby exhibiting his maturing persona. Yet taking into account that the "they" in the rest of the lyrical stanza oppose Pink in some personal manner casts a different light on the first line. In the succeeding lines, Pink wonders if "they'll like this song" or "try to break my balls," metaphorically referring to emasculation through personal attack, implying that his fears are much more personal rather than global. Therefore, "the bomb" becomes a symbol of any kind of destructive power in life, especially when considering that a bomb killed Pink's dad in the war. Accordingly, the "they" becomes as faceless and unrecognizable as the molded children in "Brick in the Wall, 2." No longer is there a discernible enemy. "They" could be anything from a collective appellation for Life in general to one's closest friend; "they" becomes anything that has potential destructive powers. The war, Pink's teacher, and, as we learn in this song, Pink's mother are all "they"s in the life of Pink. Because he realizes that this Other could be any situation, person, or thing and that they could "drop the bomb" (i.e. cause destruction in his life) at any time, he is consumed with an overwhelming fear, or paranoia rather, of the external world. Being that there is so much potential danger in the world, Pink asks his mother if he should "build a wall." For Pink who is already growing more and more paranoid at such an early age, the internal is his only safe haven from the dangers of the injurious world.

Yet Pink's youthful imaginings shine through even amidst his budding paranoia when he asks if he should "run for president." To clear up a few misconceptions, I seriously doubt that this is a realistic dream of running for United States president considering that Pink is, after all, British. Rather, I believe that the unspecified presidency is used to show that despite his hardening world and personal views, Pink is still young and thus full of childlike expectations and dreams. All dream of being great and important figures at some time or another, Pink is no exception. Still, his momentary dreams of great political power are quashed when his overpowering apprehension takes over when he questions the trustworthiness of the government, wondering if "they'll put me in the firing line." Once again, the "they" is unspecified and can refer to either the actual government or anyone who assails and criticizes those with power. As Pink realizes, power and greatness merely emphasize the vulnerability of a person; when one is in the spotlight, he or she is that much more susceptible to public criticism and attack.

Now it's time for you as a Floyd fan to pick your favorite next line because the band has given us a few choices. The album version ends the verse with "is it just a waste of time," with the "it" arguably referring to Life in general. In light of all of life's hardships, Pink is wondering if it's even worth living. In the movie, Pink sings "am I really dying," referencing his childhood sickness that is further recounted in "Comfortably Numb" as well as the idea that life is nothing more than a gradual death which also reemphasizes Pink's reluctance to continue remaining vulnerable by living in the external world. In concert, Waters sang "what a crazy time," perhaps in reference to the chaotic, post-war and postmodern world Pink grew up in as well as the often-tumultuous phase of adolescence and personal discovery. Whichever line you choose, each contributes a different yet cohesive view of Pink's fragmenting and confused personality.

In true dialogue form, Pink's mother takes over at this part of the song to expand on everything Pink has discussed thus far. What's most interesting about the mother's voice is that it isn't so much a true-to-life recreation of her thoughts and sayings as it is a loose representation of her actions and what those actions are doing and have done to Pink. While the point of view is partly through the mother's eyes, there's a hint of something else behind her words, an omniscience that is beyond her or young Pink's view. It's as if the mother's actions rather than her thoughts and words are speaking, referring to herself in the third person ("she") rather than the first ("I"). No reasonably sane mother would knowingly hurt her own child yet millions of mother's in the world physically and psychologically harm their children through their actions. What one mother might think is best for her child could very well be the thing that causes the most detriment, as in the case of Pink. I personally don't think the mother is directly speaking but the effects of her actions certainly are. The problem with Pink's mother isn't that she is inherently evil or psychotic but rather that she is overprotective. As Waters said in a 1979 interview, "if you can level one accusation at mothers it is that they tend to protect their children too much. Too much and for too long. That's all." Having lost her husband to the war and seeing her son as the only remaining extension of the man she loved, the mother tries every imaginable way to keep her son "under her wing." Unfortunately, such overprotection results in the psychological projection of her own fears onto her son, overcompensating for the loss of her husband by keeping Pink safe from any harm that might arise. In this light, the earlier scenes of Pink dressing in his father's uniform ("Tigers, 2") take on an even stranger tone considering that Pink, in a sense, becomes his father in the watchful eye of his mother in that he is the last remnant of his father. By trying to make up for the past (the mother "failed" at protecting her husband from death and so is determined to keep Pink safe), Mother ultimately stifles what Pink might have been. As if in response to his dreams of greatness at being "president" (symbolically), the mother proclaims that "she won't let you fly but she might let you sing," insinuating that Pink is only allowed brief and fleeting moments of individuality and personal discovery. Instead of the risk of greatness, the mother keeps him "cozy and warm" before finally, and eerily, answering his earlier question by offering to "help build the wall." Whether she is cognizant of it or not (most likely not), the mother's actions largely contribute to Pink's later isolationism. In trying to keep him as safe as can be she inadvertently produces the most harm.

In response to Pink's mother, the ensuing guitar solo blazes into life out of nowhere almost as if musically representing one of Pink's few outbursts of individuality. The reaching voice of the ascending arpeggios gives way to the descending notes that lead back into Pink's paranoid musings. However, more has elapsed between the mother's chorus and Pink's last verse than a guitar solo. "Do you think she's good enough for me," Pink intones in the first line with the general implication that time has elapsed since the adolescent musings of the song's first half. Although it is unknown whether the "she" is just a girlfriend, his wife, or women in general, Pink is apparently in a relationship implying that he is at least a few years older than he was earlier in the song. In that time, Pink's paranoia has seemingly shifted, now including his mother in the list of "they"s in that he now addresses her cynically, asking if the girl he's chosen is "dangerous for him" and sarcastically wondering whether she'll "tear your little boy apart." It seems that Pink has become aware of the damage caused by his mother's overprotection and in response is using her maternal fears against her, mocking her motherly defense with every line and caustic tone of voice.

While Pink's attitude has changed, his mother's has not. Her unwavering protection continues with the last chorus in which she vows to "not let anyone dirty get through." Declaring that she'll "wait up until you get in" and "always find out where you've been," her overprotective resolve to keep Pink "healthy and clean" is merely strengthened. Out of all of her lyrics, the last line is perhaps the most telling and the most damning in which Mother says that Pink will "always be baby to me," emphasizing her personal bond with her child by finally referring to herself in the first person ("me"). For her, Pink will always remain "Baby Blue" and so need her protection, an idea of vigilant guardianship that comes full swing later in "the Trial." The viewer finds that while Pink is physically and mentally older, his mother still holds him captive, restraining him "under [her maternal] wing." Even though Pink is frothing at the bit to discover the world outside of his house, his town, and his country, his mother projects onto him eternal infancy where he'll "always be baby to me." Thus the song is schizophrenically split between two conflicting frames of mind, both musically and lyrically: between Pink's blooming self in the somber verses and the mother's overprotection of her child's innocence in the nursery rhyme-style chorus. We finally see that the mother's chorus is so much like a nursery-rhyme because she continually views her child as nothing more than a helpless infant.

The song ends with Pink forlornly asking if "it need[ed] to be so high?" The point in time is either that of Pink's last verse (when he cynically asks about his relationship with a girl) or possibly later in life (Pink's present state fully enshrined behind his wall). Being that the line is as ambiguous as the rest of the song's lyrics, there is much debate as to what "it" refers to. One theory is that Pink is looking over his childhood and reflecting on his mother's overprotection, wondering if she really had to set her expectations for him at such an overwhelming height. Another view is that "it" refers to Life in general as it has in previous songs. By this reading, Pink questions whether life really had to be so hard and whether pleasure in life had to be so unattainable. But perhaps the most widely accepted reading has "it" referring to the Wall itself with Pink asking if his wall had to be so daunting, so unavoidable, and so insurmountable. Although everyone has a wall, Pink possibly victimizes himself by believing that his is greater and higher than the rest. As Raven so adequately put it in an e-mail: "'Mother, I know I needed a wall, but did it have to be so high that I can't get back out if I need to?'" As we will see later, there is a way out yet Pink is so full of self-pity and contempt for the world that he is blind to any means of escape.

The music is the first noticeable difference between the album and movie versions of "Mother." The simple and gloomy acoustic guitar is replace in the movie with what sounds like a xylophone or some similar instrument picking the individual notes of the song. The resulting sound is very childish and very much like a nursery rhyme, along the same lines as the chorus on the album version. It's almost as if the music is playing from a toddler's hanging mobile, further emphasizing the childlike state that Pink's mother tries to contain her child within. Yet as we see later in the song, the Young Pink is much older than the toddler image that the music evokes. What is odder than this, though, is that the song begins not with images of Pink's mother but with remembrances of his wife. The viewer first sees a Polaroid photograph of Pink and his wife sitting on the bedside table as Pink vainly tries to reach someone on the phone. A quick flashback of Pink and his wife kissing follows, insinuating that it is she that Pink is trying to call. As he hugs his pillow to himself after placing the phone receiver in the cradle, there is a quick shot of Young Pink in a similar position resting his head on his mother's chest. Had Pink been a young toddler, the scene would be relatively unremarkable, yet there is certainly something peculiar at seeing an obviously adolescent boy lying on his mother's bosom in such an infantile posture. Even before the song's lyrics start, Waters is already setting up the framework for the song, showing the overprotective, maternal hold of the mother and Pink's perpetual infancy. In perfectly Freudian fashion, it's these very musings about his mother that trigger thoughts about his wife and vice versa. Many psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud purported that most people form relationships with people who remind them of their parents, whether similar in physical appearance or personal demeanor. Freud saw this phenomenon as an extension of the Oedipal / Electra complex (depending on the person's gender) in that the parent of the opposite sex is usually the first person a child loves and seeks love from. Therefore, finding a spouse who is similar to that parent is simply an offshoot of those original puerile feelings. It's hard to say at this time if there are any similar qualities between Pink's wife and mother considering that "Mother" is the first time the viewer is introduced to the wife (in the movie) and one of the first descriptions of Pink's mother.

In the following scene we find the white / red color scheme first depicted in "Happiest Days of Our Lives" in the hall that young Pink sits in. A punished young child walks out of the office Pink sits by, insinuating that it is Pink's turn to be chastised for some offense (perhaps he has been writing more poetry). As I mentioned before, the white and red were shown in the school to subtly show part of the cause of Pink's later outburst in the second "In the Flesh." While the colors are once again shown in the school, they are also depicted in the context of the song "Mother," thereby alluding to the mother's own culpability for adding bricks to Pink's wall and for ultimately creating the Nazi-esque Pink later in the album. As the song unfolds, the viewer begins to see how the mother contributed so many bricks to Pink's wall and how it affected him as an adult (before his final breakdown). Case in point: the following scenes alternate between young Pink watching a neighbor girl undress and adult Pink watching television as his wife undresses. [A side note on Pink's wife: we mainly see her undressing through her shadow, something that will come up later in "Don't Leave Me Now." Additionally, the fact that she is largely viewed by her shadow suggests that she is almost always outside of Pink's periphery, hardly ever getting his full attention.] As we see, young Pink gets thoroughly into the role of voyeur, turning off the light, smoking a cigarette, and watching the girl through binoculars, all to enhance the euphoria of adolescent sexual discovery. Oddly, the adult Pink couldn't care less that his wife undresses before him while trying to entice him out of his TV induced daze. As she sits bare-chested in front of him on the bed, Pink maneuvers himself so that he can see the television. The contrast between the normal sexuality of young Pink and the near-sterility of adult Pink is obvious albeit a bit confusing. But as the scene plays on, we see why adult Pink has become what he is; just as young Pink immerses himself into his voyeuristic strip-show, his mother opens the door to his room, prompting him to quickly put out the cigarette and feign studying. The composition of this scene is beautiful and telling with the face of the mother obscured from sight, making her more of a generalized force of motherhood rather than a specific mother. Moreover, the shot of Pink shamefully looking back at his mom is set up so that the camera looks down on him from above, evoking feelings of the ominous and ever-watchful eye of the god-like Mother.

In the succeeding scenes and as mentioned above in the lyric analysis, Pink asks his mother if he's "really dying" accompanying images of Pink lying in bed (in all actuality looking more worried than sick) with a doctor and his mother beside him. The doctor then points a finger at the mother (perhaps accusingly? As if the mother has worried Pink into illness) and the two walk into the hall to discuss the sickness, closing the door behind them. There are many interesting portions to the scene as a whole, all of which contribute to the sense of mounting anxiety. Firstly, when the mother closes the door to Pink's room, the room is thrown into a cold, blue light implicating Pink's continual existence as "Baby Blue" to the mother. Corresponding to the lyrics of nightmares and fears, fantastical shadows appear on the ceiling resembling the masks worn by the children in "Another Brick in the Wall 2." Just as those certain teachers seek to shape the children into model citizens, the "nightmares" and "fears" of Pink's mother mold Pink into a copy of her own worrisome mind. Simply put, Pink loses his individuality with every passing day under Mother's watchful eye, putting on another mask when he takes on his mom's fears as a part of his own persona. Psychoanalytically speaking, the mother projects her personality onto her son and thereby forms him into what she desires, fears, or both. Because she fears so much for Pink's health and well being, Pink unknowingly takes in those fears and becomes sick. A simpler theory might claim that Pink has a mild fever and the mother, true to her overprotective nature, calls in a doctor, worried that the fever will lead to something fatal. Whatever theory one might take, the overprotection of Mother is still emphasized above all else. Yet it's not just the mom who is contributing to this cycle of perpetual infancy for the next scene shows Pink sneaking into his mother's room and climbing into bed with her, seeking her maternal protection. Interestingly, this moment of action in which Pink pursues maternal guardianship is juxtaposed with a shot of adult Pink touching his sleeping wife's shoulder. Note the same blue light in the scene in adult Pink's bedroom, further equating the mother with the wife and, as Gerald Scarfe says on the DVD commentary, "muddling up his mother with his girlfriend [wife]" in Pink's mind. Like the mother who hardly wakes when Pink climbs into her bed, the wife simply rolls over in her sleep, facing away from Pink. I can't help but be reminded of a line from "The Hero's Return" on Floyd's album "the Final Cut" which reads: "Sweet heart, sweet heart, are you fast asleep? Good, cause that's the only time when I can really speak to you. There is something that I've locked away. A memory that is too painful to withstand the light of day." Considering the fact that "the Final Cut" is a sort of sequel to "the Wall" in the loosest way imaginable (a few of the songs are "Wall" leftovers or continuations), I'd like to think that this line was spoken by Pink to his sleeping wife regarding his wall. It's only when his wife is asleep that he can truly speak his mind without feeling like he's putting himself out there to be torn down and ridiculed. If this line was written with no Pink or Wall intentions, I'd like to think that Waters and Parker were inspired by it so much that they shot this scene. But that could very well be my wishful thinking. Nevertheless, the tones of both this scene and the line from "the Hero's Return" are similar. Both characters (Pink and "Final Cut" narrator) simply cannot communicate for fear of revealing too much of their inner selves for fear of baring their souls and being met with destructive criticism. Pink seeks his mother's protection and his wife's companionship only when they are asleep and unable to disparage him.

The next scene is similarly intricate and full of meaning (what in this album ISN'T?!?). Once again, Young Pink runs down the stairs but when he opens the door, he sees (at least in his mind) a skeleton lying next to his mother in bed. One is immediately reminded of Pink's dead father, an idea that lends itself to an interpretation of the Mother rather than Pink. The mother is unable to continue with her life because she holds so fast to the memory of her dead husband and because she refuses to let him die by keeping him alive, in a sense, by projecting her feelings concerning the husband onto Pink. This reading implies that continual grieving leads to decay rather than the preservation of memory of the deceased. The mother decays because she is unable to move on in her life and Pink decays because he is restricted from growing mentally and emotionally by her unyielding protection. Another interpretation of this scene fits more closely with the actual music of the album. Right as Pink discovers the skeleton, Gilmour's guitar solo roars into electric life. As I previously stated, the guitar solo can be heard as an outburst of individuality and self-discovery for Pink. If such is true, then Pink's discovery of the skeleton corresponds with his own self-discovery. Metaphorically speaking, Pink sees himself as the skeleton in the bed and realizes the damaging effects of his mother's overprotection, thus accounting for his change in tone between his first and last verses. He finally comprehends the stifling death of individuality that he is being put through and lashes out against his mother's refuge. This idea is further emphasized with the flash-forward to Pink's wedding, showing that Pink has moved beyond the grasp of his mother by marrying. Or has he? As Freud would believe, perhaps he is further entrenching himself in the idea of maternal protection by marrying someone whom he believes to be like his mother. It's difficult to say at this time being that we have little character background for the wife. From all indications, the wife's personality is certainly different from Mother's. The scene after the solo in which Pink's wife tries to get his attention at the piano is far from the ominous feelings evoked by scenes containing the mother. The wife appears to be loving, jovial, and most of all hurt by Pink's lack of communication, all of which are qualities that can't be applied to the mother. The wife eventually leaves the room feeling neglected and Pink continues in his daze, having "taken too many drugs at this point, in my view" as Roger Waters states on the DVD. Despite the apparent incongruities between Freud's theories and Pink's choice of a non-Mother-like wife, another interpretation is born. As the second verse implies, Pink tries to find a girlfriend / wife who is nothing like his mother, who is the antithesis of everything that his mother wanted him to have. However he is not happy with his choice. Instead, he longs for the maternal protection and affection that he has forsaken and not finding it in the non-Mother-like wife he's chosen, Pink turns to other things to fill the void (see "What Shall We Do Now?").
At this point in the movie, the song has really become less about the actual Mother of the title and more about the effects she's had on Pink's adult life. She's affected his sexuality, his inability to communicate freely, his attitude towards women. And because of these effects, Pink's wife eventually finds solace and love in another man.

In my opinion, the shots of Pink in a ballroom dancing class are mainly used to emphasize his adolescent humiliation caused by his mother. It is obvious that Pink does not wish to be in the class; he has no dance partner and when he finally does ask a girl to dance, she is twice his height and seemingly reluctant to dance with him. On the DVD, Waters claims that this scene was inspired by a true childhood event. Though his real mother, he claims, wasn't as overprotective as Pink's, she did make him attend ballroom dancing lessons in knee-high pants against his wishes, humiliating the young Waters so much that the memory is indelibly etched into his memory. While Pink is wearing full pants instead of knee-highs, the humiliation is still present in the awkwardness of Pink's pairing with a taller girl.

After this brief digression into Pink's past, the arc returns to the relative-present in which Pink, unable to contact his wife, curls into the fetal position on his bed, once again emphasizing his inability to leave his infancy…another effect of his mother's overprotection. The viewer finally, but not surprisingly, gets to see why Pink is unable to contact his wife as the final line is sung. Referencing his growing wall, the line is sung over the metaphorical placement of yet another brick: the wife's infidelity. Similar to the earlier shot in which the mother's head is obscured, making her less personal and more of a universal force, the final shot in the song merely shows the entangled legs of two lovers, their faces unseen but their actions overwhelmingly felt.
After the song is over, Pink continues to try to get in touch with his wife. Instead, the lover's voice comes over the phone instead of his wife's and Pink finally realizes what she's done (still not fully realizing what he's done to make her behave that way, though). Pink slides down the wall in a daze and his hand slips from the receiver in a visual that parallels the earlier image of his dead father's hand falling from the receiver after his bunker was bombed. In both instances, Life dealt both the father and Pink unexpected blows. While the father physically dies while calling for reinforcements, Pink's metaphorical death is merely accelerated with this latest "bombshell."

An interesting side note about this scene is that the phone call used at this part in the movie (also found after "Young Lust" on the album) is said to have really taken place, though not fully in the same context. Roger Waters once stated that he made this phone call while on stage, I believe, during a concert. Although the person on the other end of the line was in on the gag, the unsuspecting operator simply thought that this was a real call and so tried her best to patch Waters through to his "wife" only to have another man answer. It's hard to say if this is a true story, though, because Waters semi-refutes it on the DVD commentary, saying that it is either a false story or that he just doesn't remember doing it; both accounts are possible. Here's what Waters had to say back in 1979 concerning the operator, leading me to believe that the gag really did take place and that Waters' memory has become a victim of age: "I think [Young Lust] is great; I love that operator on it, I think she's wonderful. She didn't know what was happening at all, the way she picks up on…I mean it's been edited a bit, but the way she picks up, all that stuff about 'is there supposed to be someone else there beside your wife' you know I think is amazing, she really clicked into it straight away. She's terrific!"


Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2

This second and most famous part of the "Brick in the Wall" trilogy continues with the narrative line and themes begun in "Happiest Days of Our Lives." In Part 2, the school children create an anthem of youthful unrest in response to the harsh treatment of the cynical teachers. Since its release, countless children and adults have adopted "ABITW 2" as an anarchistic hymn using it to strike back against years of educational oppression. While some apply the song's biting lyrics to specific kinds of schooling, others use it as a rallying cry against any government mandated form of education. Largely as a result of this latter utilization, many countries around the world have banned the song from being played on their radio stations, a few even going so far as to place a national ban on both the album and Pink Floyd. However, counter to these extremist views of total educational anarchy, the song was written as an attack against a specific type of learning, that which Waters and countless others endured as children. The lyrics are quite specific in this effect, rebuking those teachers first described in "Happiest Days" who use "thought control" and "dark sarcasm" to mold the school children into mindless drones of society. While there seems to be no specific allusion to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, there are certainly parallels between Huxley's vision of future "education" and the rote learning of Pink's teachers. As previously mentioned, Huxley's novel presents children learning largely through hypnopedia, a process of repeating fundamental lessons to each child as he or she sleeps. Although the specific lessons depend upon the child's social status, there are certain governing "truths" that are taught which all must abide by. The outcome is a loss of individuality and the molding of each child into identical cells in the body of society. Though the educational system Waters is speaking out against is not as subliminal as Huxley's vision, the effects are the same, producing social clones who know the definition of an acre yet who cannot produce an original, imaginative thought throughout the majority of their lives. The opening lyrics illustrate this in the fact that "we don't need no education," is both a double negative (We Need Education, in the sense that certain types of education are good…they keep people from using double negatives! :-) ) and it's a specific cry stating "we don't need THIS TYPE OF education." In this sense, "ABITW 2" is not so much a song about complete revolution as it as an anthem about reclaiming stifled individuality; it's a criticism regarding the types of teachers and systems that ridicule an imaginative child for writing poetry, as in Pink's case.

Ironically, despite being a song about individuality, the lyrics are full of apparent conformity. Gone is any first person singular pronoun. If you scan the lyrics, you won't see any mention of "I." Instead, the lyrics boast "WE don't need," a collective boast alluding to the conformity of ideas. Brad Kaye sent me an e-mail concerning the dichotomy of the song that I felt needed to be repeated here. "When the school children are all chanting 'We don't need no education' together in unison, this act, in a way, is MORE conforming than the education they have grown to hate. If you think about it, Roger Waters was saying that even in a revolt against conformity there will still be the presence of conformists, or uniformed followers. The use of the helpless school children is magnificent and proves my point even more. These kids do what they are told! I mean, I read somewhere that Roger got the idea to use a group of kids one day and then BANG, the next day he asked a school if he could come in and BANG, they all agreed and within a short period of time, the entire chorus of children was recorded. No questions asked. Nobody raised a fuss or anything, even the teachers in the school were excited and caught up in the moment without fully understanding what was going on. My point is this: Roger Waters wanted to show how conformity is ever-present, even when we're little, and even when we are rebelling. His point is definitely powerful." I couldn't agree more. (Side note: it was actually Floyd producer Bob Ezrin who originally came up with the idea to record schoolchildren singing the anthem. Seeing the potential for a radio hit, Ezrin recorded the children and mixed the song before approaching the band with the final product. Needless to say, Waters liked the reworked version and kept it on the album.)

Musically speaking, "ABITW 2" is much more varied and vibrant than the trilogy's first installment. As I mentioned before, the musical styles of the "Brick in the Wall" trilogy reflect the development of Pink. Whereas the music in Part 1 is much more subdued and repetitive reflecting Pink's budding self-awareness, Part 2 is much more energetic, musically echoing Pink's lively adolescence, his developing artistic imagination, as well as his conformity to the conventions of building a wall as seen in the repetitive verse and chorus. Every personal injury repeatedly becomes "just another brick in the wall," linking the ideas of conformity with those of cycles. The animated guitar solo breaks the monotony for a few moments but ultimately the song fades back to the sounds of the school yard and, above all else, the shouting teacher who continues to lord over the children's lives yelling "wrong, guess again!" while reinforcing the lesson previously mentioned that "if you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding." Interestingly, the repetitive sounds (guitar chord / verse / chorus) and narrative cycle (teacher / mental revolution / conformity / teacher) rolls perfectly into the dull drone of the phone ringing, briefly foreshadowing the events that take place in the transition between "Young Lust" and "One of My Turns." This later transition in turn reinforces the ideas of cyclical conformity and repetition while hinting at the failures of many fundamental social institutions such as school and marriage.

Like the popularity of the song "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2," the movie representation of the song is one of the most distinctive and well-known pieces in the Pink Floyd video collection. The darkness and cynicism of the set design is due in large part to Gerald Scarfe who based the factory-like school in the video on some of his previous artwork inspired by his own education. The children march in unison to the same beat, rolling through a machine only to emerge as putty-faced clones void of individual distinction who ultimately falling blindly into an oversized meat grinder, metaphorically pulverized and minced into the same ground beef-like form as the preceding victim. It's interesting to note that many of the machines pictured are made up with parts that resemble hammers. Hammers are a major dichotomous symbol in "the Wall" possessing both creative and destructive powers, simultaneously beneficial and oppressive. The same hammer that constructs a house has the power to tear it down. Similarly, the hammers in the machines metaphorically create ideal members of society while destroying each child's individuality. Both natures of the symbolic hammer are explored in greater detail later in the movie and album as Pink slips further into his dementia.

The ideas of conformity in revolution inherent in the song are further solidified in the accompanying film footage. Although the children in the second verse sing lyrics of personal rebellion, their unified singing coupled with their symmetrical seating in the film are as eerie and standardized as when they marched down the hall in oppressive unison. Despite their rebellious intentions, they have become just as homogeneous as when they were school clones. Furthermore, like the dual nature of the hammers, what begins as a productive revolution (the regaining of individuality) turns into destructive violence as the children destroy their school and create a bonfire with the instruments of their past educational repression that serves as a funeral pyre for their teacher whom they drag out of the school kicking and screaming. This scene of absolute anarchy spawned by the overthrow / absence of an authoritarian figure is evocative of William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies in which a group of school children revert to being savages when their plane crash lands on a deserted island. Similar to almost every theme in "the Wall," Waters alludes to both the creative and destructive forces of any one idea. While overly-domineering figures are destructive to personal development, the absence of any authority figure is just as caustic. The dictatorial teacher represses each individual child but the lack of any education whatsoever is just as harmful. In this sense, living life is like walking a thin wire between two polar but equally destructive forces; to live, one must either skate over the thin ice carrying the personal burdens of the past or break through the ice and drown in self-destruction.

One last interesting matter concerns the aforementioned blurring of reality with imagination. While the scenes of the children marching through the factory-like school are undoubtedly fantastical, the rebellion that takes place during the guitar is much more realistic, thus causing a bit of confusion as to whether these events are truly taking place. For a while, the viewer is completely submerged within Pink's mind wondering about the authenticity of what they are seeing. There are no fantastical elements to the set and the violence portrayed is certainly feasible albeit horrific. In the end, the viewer is instantaneously thrust out of these dark imaginings as the camera cuts to Pink rubbing his ruler-struck hand. It is at this point that we are fairly certain that what has just taken place was completely in Pink's mind, once again reminding us as the viewer to keep on our toes lest we fall for Pink's illusions. As the album and movie progress and Pink becomes further shut off behind his wall, his imaginative visions become much grander and much more dangerous, increasingly distorting the line between reality and fantasy.


The Happiest Days Of Our Lives

From the pain of birth to the acceptance of life's burdens, the grief of personal loss to alienation from society as a result of being deprived of a father, Pink proceeds to grade school, a period in life in which most, if not everyone, can sympathize with the downtrodden protagonist. Nearly everyone has had a bad experience at school and Pink is no exception. "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" is a truly acrimonious song with an equally ironic title recalling Pink's Grammar School days that were anything but happy. The brooding bass guitar and Waters taciturn vocals only add to the sinister effect created by the lyrics, as if he is schoolboy whispering in the school yard to his friends concerning what he sees to be the evils of the system. The lyrics are straightforward, telling about those "certain teachers" who would stop at nothing in order to break the children of their individuality, thus forcing them into a voiceless, faceless mold of "productive citizens" (Waters, DVD commentary). However, one must be careful not to take the song as a blanket statement of all educational systems. As with any institution there are "good" and "bad" members, those who truly care about what they are doing and those who take out their aggressions on the innocent. Waters commented in an interview that this song refers to those bad teachers who continually put their students down, never encourage or motivate them, and simply try to "crush them into the right shape, so that they would go to university and 'do well'" (Waters, DVD commentary). Yet for all the injustice delivered upon these unsuspecting children, the second half of the song finds the narrator in a sort of karmic bliss as he recounts the abuse these very same teachers face in their personal lives. While this is a perfect example of karma, of reaping what you sow, it is also another prime illustration of the theme of cycles in "the Wall." The teacher punishes the children because he is unfulfilled personally and punished by his wife in one way or another. Although it is great to see the teacher getting what he deserves, this uninterrupted cycle is just as disastrous as any other encountered in the album. One must keep in mind that the teacher is not inherently evil but that he is merely redirecting the pain and emptiness of his own life. Moreover, the torment that he doles out will undoubtedly influence one of the children who will mete that same pain in turn onto the next generation. So while the teacher is responsible for his actions, he is not completely at fault for he is just distributing to the rest of the world the suffering and the burdens that the past and present generations have transferred to him. Like Pink later in life, the teacher has the power to exterminate this vicious and violent cycle yet he is so entrenched behind his own wall that he chooses to defend his position and redirect the pain of life back into the world. Unfortunately, while he is defending his own wall, the teacher inadvertently provides some of the bricks for the walls of his students.

The accompanying movie scenes for this song perfectly highlight Pink Floyd's (and the filmmakers') ability to meld the every-day with a heightened sense of reality, both mentally and emotionally. A perfect example is the sequence of film before the song actually starts when Pink and his two cronies go down to the railroad track to lay bullets on the rails and watch them explode as the passing engine rolls over and ignites the ammunition. First Pink lays a bullet on the rail in a tunnel as a train approaches and then backs himself against the tunnel wall as the locomotive and train cars explode the bullet and pass him by. Whether sparked by the exploding bullet (a leftover from the violence of World War II) or his day at school, Pink imagines both the train cars as being packed with faceless people and his school teacher at the other end of the tunnel yelling for him to "stand still, laddie!" The transition between external reality and Pink's imaginings is so seamless and void of any transitional clues that the viewer (and perhaps Pink himself) is a bit perplexed as to the reality of the horrific train procession. The effect of such blurring between fantasy and reality creates a bond between the viewer and Pink (we experience firsthand what Pink alone has seen and so can feel his confusion) but it also reminds us to stay on our toes, to be wary of accepting the story as an undeviating narrative. What appears to be "real" on the screen may be the most fantastical conjuring of Pink's splintering mind. While the hallucinatory aspect of this example is fairly obvious, other instances further in the film are far less discernible and if taken as reality will no doubt throw the viewer into a state of confusion similar to Pink's own mind. This film segment is merely a stepping stone, in a sense; it is something that reminds us as the viewer that not everything we will see is real and that in order to make sense of the story, we must be able to separate the elements accordingly.

Another interesting aspect about this pre-song scene is the blatant parallel between the faceless passengers in the train (presumably school children as evidenced in the next song as well as the brief mask seen on Pink between the passing train cars) and the millions of "faceless" Jews transported to concentration camps during WWII. While I seriously doubt that Waters is suggesting that the plight of school children is just as ominous and grave as the deaths of millions of Jews, I think that he is suggesting that both institutions (certain schools / concentration camps) were machines that sought to repress all "participants" and rob them of their human rights and individuality. With just roughly cut out eyes and mouths, the mask-people are rendered into things rather than people with recognizable human qualities. Fear and hate-based systems operate largely in this way, robbing people of their identities in order to break that people's spirit as well as to turn others against them. By this reading, the school master at the end of the tunnel takes on a greater weight as a Nazi-esque type dictator whose sole intent is to force the teeming masses of youth into a unified mold void of personal identity. And just as the soldiers march into the consuming fog of self-erasure in "the Thin Ice," Pink begins to walk out of the tunnel into the smoke left by the train as the song begins, paralleling his loss of identity with that of the soldiers earlier in the movie. Nor do the war/dictator allusions end there. Directly following the tunnel scene, the viewer is privy to the faculty lounge of the school where the teachers are preparing for class when the school bell rings. As they stand, each teacher adjusts his or her garments as if straightening a military uniform in preparation for war. They then march out of the room in single file and, in military style, march down the hallway in two columns with Pink's teacher in lead as the "commanding officer," so to speak. A little interesting and often overlooked subtlety is the color scheme of the walls in the hall that the teachers march down. The half white (on top) and red (on bottom) parallel the color scheme of the insignia in Pink's later dictatorial dementia. The symbol, found both on the flags and Pink's armband, depict two hammers set against a backdrop of white (on top) and red (bottom). For those of you with the most recent release of the DVD and VHS versions, check out the spine of the covers to see what I mean or simply fast-forward to "In the Flesh." While the colors of the hall and Pink's insignia later in the movie may simply be coincidence, I think that this occurrence of the white and red subtly foreshadow what is to come by showing part of the cause of Pink's later breakdown. It's also interesting to note that white is generally the symbolic color of innocence and red the color of blood and sin. Mixing the two together, red and white / sin and innocence, the resulting color is none other than Pink.

In the next scene, the teacher discovers Pink writing poems and disciplines him by public ridicule (reading the poem aloud for the class to laugh at) and a quick slap on the hand with a ruler. (Note: the poem the teacher reads is part of a lyric from the song "Money" off of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," possibly foreshadowing Pink's future success as a rock star.) Little time is wasted by Pink's display of individuality and the teacher automatically resumes the rote Geometry lesson, pounding the definitions into the heads of the children by means of constant repetition. This "learning" is very similar to the "hypnopedia" of Aldous Huxley's A Brave New World in which lessons are repeated to sleeping infants by a machine so that, after hearing the lesson countless times in their sleep, the young children will accept the formulas as fact. Such subtle brainwashing, much like the techniques used by Pink's teacher to mold the children into "proper members of society," results in a strictly enforced caste system and shapes the bio-engineered children into the "model" citizens.

The exultant joy of Waters voice as he imaginatively recalls the punishments meted on the teachers is reflected in the following scenes showing the teacher eating with his wife who, while not being physically overweight as the lyrics suggest, is certainly a very domineering presence in the teacher's personal life. The room cluttered with pictures and other minutiae of home life, the larger-than-life shadows on the wall, the vibrant blue wall paper and purple light in the window behind the wife; all contribute to the surrealistic, slightly-skewed atmosphere of the scene which causes the viewer to wonder, once again, if we are seeing reality, the imagination of young Pink, or a mixture of both. Whatever conclusion one comes to, the reality or fantasy of the scene is not as important as the previously mentioned idea of the karmic cycle. The punishments the teacher issues to the schoolchildren are equally issued back onto him by his wife (and vice versa) as evidenced by the alternating shots of the teacher swallowing down a piece of hard meat at his wife's command and shots of him spanking a child with a belt.

At the risk of sounding flippant, the teacher is not allowed to continue with his meal without first eating the parts of the meat that he doesn't wish to eat; and so he bellows at the end of "Brick, Part 2" that "[i]f you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding." Because he can't have his metaphorical dessert without first enduring the hardships of life, then he will make sure that the same applies to the next generation. The result is that the vicious cycle of pain and frustration perseveres.


sâmbătă, 5 iulie 2008

Goodbye Blue Sky

Aside from the extra songs such as "When the Tigers Broke Free" and alternate versions of tunes like "In the Flesh?," "Goodbye Blue Sky" marks the first prominent variation between the album and the film. While the song acts as a continuation of sorts for "Tigers" in the movie, it immediately follows "Mother" on the album. Although many have argued about the best possible position for the song, whether after "Tigers" or "Mother," I think the order for each respective project is perfectly suited for the song's multifaceted implications.

On the original vinyl version of the album, "Goodbye Blue Sky" occupied the last slot on the first side of album one (remember that it was a double album). In an interview around the album's release, Waters described the song as being a recap of the first side of album one summing up Pink's life to that point. As Waters says, in it's most simplistic form "it's remembering one's childhood and then getting ready to set off into the rest of one's life." In this position, the song acts as the transition between "Mother" and the more grown up, more world-weary "Empty Spaces." The music is still very peaceful and beautiful, a reflection of the youth Pink is leaving behind, while the lyrics are more of a lament and arguably slightly paranoid. The very vocal stutter on the "Di' di' di' did" part of the verse belies any sort of composed identity Pink might have created for himself, revealing, if anything, his apprehension at bidding farewell to his own innocence by stepping into the sinful world where he will become an adult. By this interpretation and remembering the symbolism of the color blue as discussed in "the Thin Ice," Pink is saying "goodbye" to the "blue sky" of his childhood innocence and the protection of his mother. Also keeping in mind that Pink was once called "baby blue," his departure from his simplistic and inexperienced infancy is further underscored, specifically marking the transition between his appellation of "Baby Blue" to the more emotionally experienced and sexually charged color (and name) "Pink." As is true until now and for the rest of Pink's life, "the flames are all long gone but the pain lingers on." In other words, while those things which hurt Pink physically, mentally, and emotionally are no longer present in his life (the death of his father is a memory, his schooling days are over [at least in the song's position in the album], he is finally moving away from his mother's protective arms), the scars caused by these wounds are still present and just as painful; each of these pains are more bricks in his wall.

The problem with placing "Goodbye Blue Sky" after "Mother" is that the lyrically charged war images aren't especially applicable. The "frightened ones," "falling bombs," and running "for shelter" just don't carry across that overwhelming sense of war-time immediacy and forced transition when placed directly after "Mother." While the song works on the level of Pink's transition, the war lyrics seem out of place and drawing the usual parallels between Pink and World War II seems strained. Personally speaking, the song works best following "Tigers" in that it acts as both a continuation of the themes of war and loss dealt with in the previous song as well as Pink's own realization of the burdens placed on him by his father, mother, and society as a whole. Directly following the highly emotional account of the father's death, the fear of war is palpable in the lyrics of "Goodbye Blue Sky." Just as England and the rest of the world bid farewell to whatever innocence remained before World War II, Pink, although still a child, bids farewell to his childhood ignorance. Similar to its meaning after "Mother," the song is another transition in Pink's life, between that of youthful unawareness and the self-consciousness of young adulthood. Although Pink is not bidding farewell to everything in his childhood (he still lives with his mother during this positioning of the song), he is saying "goodbye" to what he was once while apprehensively stepping into what he will become.

As with most Pink Floyd songs, "Goodbye Blue Sky" is musically and lyrically deceptive in its seeming simplicity. The quiet music and vocals and the seemingly forthright lyrics can be viewed as the components of a simple transitional song…but narrow interpretation would rob the song and its artistic movie representation of its complex beauty. For me, the most interesting complexity lies in the duality of the lyric "promise of a brave, new world." The most commonly accepted reading of this line equates the "brave, new world" with the positive effects of World War II. Hitler and his fascist regime will be obliterated, thus allowing for the world to technologically progress and mature, becoming a safe haven for all peoples. Yet no matter how intentional, there is a sinister ring to the very same line recalling Aldous Huxley's 1931 novel "Brave New World" that tells of a futuristic utopia in which babies are born from test tubes, trained for their future jobs at birth, and pushed into a homogenized, capitalistic world that has all but destroyed individuality. Such an allusion offers a plethora of interpretations. The "brave, new world" could be a reference to the standardized, Aryan nation that Hitler sought to introduce with his Third Reich. Simultaneously, the very same words could reference what our world has become after World War II, referring to the over-abundance of technology in a worldwide capitalist community as predicted by Huxley in 1931. Every computerized sale at global corporations such as McDonald's, GAP, and Starbucks brings the world one step closer to Huxley's vision of a false utopia. As a result, the individuality of the world's inhabitants is made uniform through technology and the media. The very same technology that produced the atomic bomb that took the lives of millions of Japanese people (and continues to show effects on Hiroshima and Nagasaki) is the same technology that allows us to microwave a burrito and watch the latest episode of our favorite television show. I don't mean to launch into a diatribe but rather demonstrate the fear behind our technological world as illustrated in both Huxley's novel and "Goodbye Blue Sky." So when the narrator innocently asks why "we had to run for shelter when the promise of a brave, new world unfurled beneath the clear, blue sky," the answer is that because that "brave, new world" has the potential for being just as flawed and narrow-sighted as the corrupt power we were fighting against. Arguably, the slaughter of millions of Jews by Hitler is nearly equivalent to the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the sterile world being produced by the very same technology that helped the Allied forces triumph. Such ideas of "mixed blessings" (Huxley - the world is a utopia only in that it erases personal identity; WWII - the atomic bomb ended the war but created moral discord) tie in perfectly with Pink's personal situation. While focusing on constructing his wall, adding each brick as a protection from the outside world, Pink fails to recognize the long-term effects of his self-imposed isolation and his eventual destruction from within his erected barrier.

The movie's depiction of this song is an example of just how powerful animation can be as a medium, allowing for scenes and events that could not be depicted by regular photography. The beginning shots of baby Pink and his Mother both set the time for the war-imagery of the song (the war is still being waged) as well as offer a contradiction between the innocence of England and the world as it was and the destruction that war has brought to the land as illustrated in the animation. As a dove flies into the air, the scene switches to animation and the bird of peace is symbolically torn apart by the German war eagle which gouges a bloody wound in the land and leaves a sulfurous trail in its wake. The eagle gives way to a domineering war-lord that morphs into a metallic factory churning out legions of bombers flying over London and scaring the gasmask-wearing "frightened ones" (portrayed as naked perhaps to illustrate their innocence) into shelters. The bombers turn into crosses just as the Union Jack (the British Flag) sheds its stripes to reveal a crucifix, both suggesting the needless sacrifices made on both sides in the name of war. The brainwashed, mob mentality of the Germans created by the warlord (Hitler and the "higher-ups") sent German youths to their deaths in the name of moral right just as the leaders of the Allies sacrificed the young men of their countries. This is in no way a justification of the actions taken by both sides. Instead, it is a vehement anti-war argument. It's only when the dove of peace reemerges from the shattered ruins of the metal factory / warlord that the dead soldiers are able to find peace in death. Like the blood from the cross running down the hill into the drain, the sacrifices of all the men involved are in vain. Gerald Scarfe's animation adds another dimension to the song portraying his strongly anti-war sentiments. For Scarfe and Waters (as illustrated in "the Wall" and the follow-up album, "the Final Cut"), war is little more than glorified chess between two enemies, a battle between political giants displaying the "might" and "power" of one leader over his people; it is a narcissistic fight for "moral right, superiority," and property. The only hope one can have is that in the end, as the dove's rebirth suggests, peace will prevail.


When the Tigers Broke Free, Part 2

On the DVD commentary, Waters purports that "in some generation you break the cycle for some people." Waters' comments are a perfect foundation for the second part of "When the Tigers Broke Free," a song that serves as both Waters' and Pink's most emotional lament for the loss of a father. Unfortunately for Pink, Waters' comments about the cycle being broken are far from true at this point in the album. Chronologically speaking, young Pink is still erecting his wall brick by brick when he finds a drawer full of war memorabilia containing his father's death certificate sent by "kind old King George." Interestingly, the song's point of view is a departure from that of previous songs, written as a sort of present recollection of past events. Although the events of the song are in the past, it is being told from a present and almost omniscient (i.e. Godlike) point of view, taking into account the third person description of the battle that took Pink's father's life as recounted in the "Tigers, part 1" and a few verses in this second half. Such conflation between the first person personal point of view and the narrator-like third person illustrates just how much of Waters story and personality are tied up with Pink. The creator, while writing a story from the viewpoint of his character, just can't help but slip in his own point of view and experiences. Such an idea is further supported by Waters' real recollections of finding his father's death scroll in a drawer along with a collection of other war memorabilia such as service pistols and ammunition. Accordingly, the emotion of this song is perhaps the most pure of any song on the album in that it stems directly from the creator's own psyche. Whereas other songs mix true events with fiction or combine the lives of a few people into one story, "When the Tigers Broke Free" is an unadultered account of Water's childhood and his father's death, making it, at least for me, the most haunting song on the record…even if it wasn't on the original album!

As with the first "Tigers," there is little need for a symbolic discussion of the song's lyrics being that they are fairly straightforward. Young Pink finds a scroll sent by the British government announcing his father's death, sparking the conclusion of the war story begun in the "Tigers, part 1." The most interesting aspects about this second part, as with the first, are the subtle connotations in the lyrics that give a bit of emotional insight into the narrator's mind. With the first part, words like "miserable" and "ordinary" belie the narrator's seemingly detached point of view, hinting at the cynicism and grief behind the composed voice. The second part is no different though perhaps much more effective in that the narrator is finally given an identity and the grief hinted at in the first part is fully and painfully evident towards the end of the song. The narrator's pain builds as he recalls finding physical proof of his father's death and is conceivably compounded by the fact that his father's death was nothing more than routine for the English government. The honor inherent in the scroll form and gold leaf is tainted by the king's signature in the form of a rubber stamp, implying that the father's life and the lives destroyed by the war are merely inconsequential and replaceable components of the factory-like workings of the English government. Not only did the King not sign the death certificate of one who gave his life for the crown but also some lesser government employee, another cog in the great metaphorical machine of politics, most likely stamped the king's insignia on the scroll. As a result, there is little wonder why Pink vehemently attacks the High Command for taking "my daddy from me," a feeling of personal betrayal by the social systems that resurfaces later in the album in songs like "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2" and "Mother." The accusations of governmental betrayal continue when Pink recounts that "they [the soldiers] were all left behind," either dead or dying after the Tigers (the German war tanks) attacked the Anzio bridgehead. Although it's most likely improbable that the British government candidly betrayed its own forces, it is certainly reasonable for Pink to feel such overwhelming bitterness towards the government for sending his father to death and subsequently treating that death as simply another statistic.

Another interesting lyrical aspect in the song is the apparent allusions, whether intentional or not, to the imagery in previous songs and the larger themes of the album. Pink finds the scroll in "a drawer of old photographs, hidden away," a lyric reminiscent of the memory of Pink's father as "a snapshot in the family album" from "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1." Ideas of the subconscious and repression are immediately recalled with the "old photographs" symbolically representing the memories hidden and forgotten in the "drawer" of one's mind. In other words, Pink's discovery of the scroll symbolizes the repressed emotions and memories that must eventually resurface, spawning the emotional outburst in the latter part of "Tigers, Part 2." As mentioned before, this cycle of repression, remembering, and emotional outburst is found throughout the album with "Tigers" acting as an example of just how early these cycles start. Another possible allusion is the "frost in the ground" during the Anzio battle, recalling the images of frozenness and sterility from "the Thin Ice." As with this previous song, the frost in "Tigers" reminds the viewer of the futility and fragility of Life, the burdens placed on us all (in this case, the burden of war), and every man's eventual demise.

There is little narrative development during the movie scenes for this song although the emotional impact is immense. True to the song's narrative, Young Pink (now around the age of 12 - 13) comes home from school and finds his father's death certificate in the bottom drawer of a dresser in his mother's room. Along with the scroll he finds a shaving razor, a very male symbol, Waters muses on the DVD, and one that is missing from his life, as well as a box of bullets. Beneath it all he finds his father's military uniform, which he puts on in front of the mirrors of his mother's bureau. The following shots are equally haunting and powerful, cutting between shots of Young Pink and his father in the same outfit. These shots further illustrate Waters' ideas of cycles with the young taking the place (and the burdens) of the old. Pink's father wears the uniform of his country and takes on the burden of the war being waged. Pink wears the uniform of his father and takes on both the burden of losing that very same father as well as the effects the war has had on the country and the world. In a strict metaphorical sense, the father is Pink's doppelganger (and vice versa), acting as the ghostly double of Pink. In other words, Pink and his father are mirror images of each other, fighting a war neither asked for (whether real or metaphorical) and carrying the burdens of the previous generation. This idea of the doubled self is further compounded by the fact that the viewer sees the subjects (Pink / Father) through the mirrors of the bedroom bureau rather than by actually looking at the subjects themselves. It's also interesting to note that the shots of Pink's father are mainly stationary while the shots of Pink in the uniform pan his image in the side and main mirrors of the bureau, hinting at Pink's more fractured identity. Perhaps this is a result of the looking at himself through his mother's mirror. Symbolically, mirrors represent anything from the true self, the way one views oneself, or the way one wants others to view one. The mirror images of Pink reveal all of the above, revealing Pink as he is (the young boy beneath the uniform), Pink as the metaphorical extension of his father (Pink in uniform), and the way Pink's mother views Pink as both child and vessel for her feelings over the loss of her husband (Pink in uniform as reflected in mother's mirror). Each separate mirror image is another fracture in Pink's persona, another brick in his ever-growing wall accounting for the split of his identity later in the album and movie.


The Thin Ice

On the album, "the Thin Ice" begins with the wails of young Pink newly born intotheworld. Although "In the Flesh?" can be interpreted as both the start of Pink's story as an adult as well as the start of Pink's physical life, "the Thin Ice" is the first "true" flashback of the album. The song abandons the present story (Pink as an adult) and begins to acquaint the listener/viewer with the events of Pink's early life starting with his birth. However, the song itself is not a traditional flashback (a recollection of past events) as it is an instructional lullaby of sorts sung by either Pink's mother, Life itself, or perhaps both. While the song may first appear as a simple little tune, it is as multifaceted and both musically and lyrically schizophrenic as are most of the songs in the Floyd catalogue.

After being bombarded by the pounding music and assaulting sounds of the destructive war from "In the Flesh?," the listener is immediately lulled by the soothing chords of "the Thin Ice's" wispy piano and synthesizers. Gilmour's soft, almost feminine voice in the first half further creates this feeling of peace and comfort. Whether singing as Pink's mom or as Life, Gilmour's maternal reminders that young Pink is loved by both mother and father instill a sense of hope in both the listener and Pink, especially after the unsettling instructions of "In the Flesh?" concerning the disguises of life. This feeling of peace is further compounded by the introduction of "Blue" into the album, an incredibly important color and symbol in the album's first half. Psychoanalytically speaking, blue is considered to be a color of purity, innocence, and life. In dream and literary analysis, the color is often associated with the ocean and sky, both symbols of life and creation. Evolutionists purport that life arose from the oceans, an idea that sparked psychoanalysts to view the ocean and water as symbols of the maternal, of life's origin. The blue sky is similarly procreative in that it produces the rain which creates and sustains all life on earth, once again feeding the cycle of water=creation=life. Being that blue is most often associated with the color of water, the color frequently takes on the connotations of the water symbolism. Getting back to the song, young Pink's appellation "Baby Blue" given to him by his mother / Life reinforces his emergence into life and his natural innocence. Yet despite the seemingly straight-forward music and lyrics concerning birth and innocence, there are little disturbances in the first half of the song; these little ripples on the water's surface, so to speak, not only foreshadow the song's second, more acrimonious half but also the rest of Pink's life to date. Although the inclusion of such words like "may" and "but" ("and the sea may look warm to you, babe"…"But oooh babe") may seem casual, they nevertheless plant seeds of doubt and false-appearances that disrupt the complete peacefulness of the song's first half. Linguistically speaking, when we as a listener hear "the sky may look blue," we are trained to listen for a "but" to finish the concession, something that negates the previous statement as in "The sky may look blue but it's actually purple" (or something of that nature). The "but" that continues the concession does come but the rest of the phrase is cut off with the maternal address of "oooh Baby Blue," as if the speaker is hesitant to continue, allowing the caustic voice of the second half of the song to fill in the missing gaps.

Roger Waters launches into the second half of the song with all the sarcasm of onejaded by life. This masochistic Life-voice (I happen to think that this is Life and/or Experience addressing Pink at this point) does not bother with word play but rather dives (excuse the pun) straight into the insignificance and treachery of "modern life." Although the symbolism of the second half borrows from that of the first, the symbols negate or possibly redefine the previous connotations of "blue" and water. As previously mentioned, the symbol of water often carries implications of life, innocence, and creation. However, changing the form of water or even the way it's presented drastically changes its meaning. It is a symbol of both procreation and destruction in that the very thing that gives you life can also take that life away. The rain that causes plants to grow can wipe out a mass of living things through one massive flood. The water that gives man life can drown him. The maternal waters that foster a new life can change, freeze over, and abort or abandon the life it has just created. Such is the life into which Pink enters. What he thought to be a warm, nurturing ocean turned out to be cold and sterile; the loving mother and the embracing life have become frozen and unyielding. The "sea may look warm" but it is, in all actuality, a layer of thin ice covering a frigid, aqueous landscape.

According to psychoanalytic theory, water symbolism also connotes ideas of the self. While water is often a symbol of a person's mind, images of deep, unfathomable water are frequently connected with the unconscious mind, the part of the psyche that houses the majority of a person's most basic and unrealized self. In this sense, a person's mind has been compared to an iceberg: he is conscious of the 1/8th of his persona that juts out from the water and oblivious to the 7/8th of his personality's submerged base. Accordingly, the upper part of Pink's psyche is frozen over with thin ice, illustrating (or perhaps foreshadowing) the rigid and unemotional person he is or will become. Yet at the same time it's this very thin layer of ice that keeps him from slipping into the uncharted depths of his subconscious, an action that would (and will) lead to insanity as a result of being submerged in his repressed and unrealized emotions.

Yet it's not just his weight on the ice that causes the cracks and pitfalls of life to appear. By being born, one is automatically subject to the "silent reproach of a million tear-stained eyes." With Life comes the fact that one will be despised, envied, and blamed for a multitude of things; a plethora of expectations that, whether justifiable or not, lead to an even greater number of weights to drag one down. Each expectation adds another burden and brings the fragile ice of our lives closer to the breaking point, each time bringing us, like Pink, closer to the seething waters below. However the difference between Pink's life and the majority of the population is that, as we will see (or have already seen in "In the Flesh?"), Pink's ice finally cracks and he is instantly consumed by the waters of his unconscious mind as a result of all the bricks that he has collected over the years. Correspondingly, the knowledge that Pink will spiral out of control into an all-consuming depression and dementia redefines the earlier appearance of "blue" in the song, transforming the innocent color of Pink's childhood into a premonition of Pink's depression later in life. In a sense, Pink is destined for a blue, melancholic existence from the very first utterance of his childhood nickname, Baby Blue.

True to the disjointed and contradictory maternal/caustic tone of the song, the images of the movie further explore the effects of war and Pink's present state. According to Gerald Scarfe on the DVD commentary, the post-war scenes were directly inspired by the work of Robert Capa, a World War II photographer famous for unflinching war photographs, most notably his pictures from the D-Day invasion at Normandy. Using Capa's photos as a base, Alan Parker captures the absolute brutality of war while focusing on the human subtleties of the individuals who make up an army. One of my favorite examples of this macrocosm / microcosm effect takes place at the beginning of the song. As the haunting piano chords creep in, the scene switches from a pool of collective blood of soldiers to a landscape desolated by war. When Gilmour begins with "Mama loves her baby," the scene switches from the desolated landscape to a shot of a man pulling a blanket over the exposed arm of another wounded man being carried off on a stretcher. The scene of nurturing counteracts the previous and subsequent shots of devastation and ruin, reflecting the contradiction between comfort and pain in the lyrics of the first half of the song. The final war shot (towards the end of the song's first half) shows the soldiers marching single file from screen left to right, walking from daylight into a consuming mist that blurs them from sight. The scene appropriately fades into a shot of Pink's hotel room and the rock star's current state of an all-consuming depression and dementia, being erased of all identity much like the soldiers marching one by one into the unrelenting mist.

Fading between the two scenes offers another comparison paralleling the destruction and desolation of war to the emptiness and personal devastation of Pink's life. Although it might seem flippant to compare the gravity of war with the triviality of one man's life, war itself is spawned from personal instabilities (eg. Hitler's own obsessions) and is little more than "glorified" killing over property and "moral right." And so the violence of war is no different than that in an individual's life, a violence instilled from the earliest of ages as apparent by the cartoon cat and mouse in "Tom & Jerry" battling on the television in Pink's hotel room.

Just as Gilmour's soothing voice contrasted with the images of war's bloody aftermath, the slow, composed shot through Pink's hotel room contrasts with Waters' scathing singing while offering a bit of calm before the storm of the guitar solo. Interestingly, as the shot proceeds from inside the room to the patio area, the viewer finds Pink floating on the surface of a crystal blue pool, recalling the "blue" and "water" symbolism mentioned above. With the onslaught of the blistering guitar solo, the water stylistically turns from blue to red while Pink thrashes around, drowning on thoughts of the war and his father. As with the color blue, red can signify a variety of different things, most of which, if not all, arguably apply to the song. Red is usually a symbol of raw emotions: passion, anger, frustration, lust, insecurity. It's fairly easy to see how all of these fit within the scope of Pink's mind as both a child and an adult. These feelings created out of a loss of his father and every other "brick" are just as resonant in his current state of mind as they are in his past, if not more. As he grows, these repressed feelings begin to boil to surface more and more, resulting in his infamous "fits" made popular in songs/scenes like "One of My Turns." The fit in "the Thin Ice" is far from that in "One of My Turns" but nonetheless important in that it indicates the indomitable nature of one's confined feelings. Repressed emotion will only lie in the subconscious for a certain period of time before erupting onto the surface. The pool scene in "the Thin Ice" is just one tiny crack, one minor eruption of the very emotions that will ultimately cost Pink his sanity.

Just as the water carries with it ideas of creation and life, so too does the color red, evoking ideas of life-giving blood. Therefore the red water of the pool takes on a womb-like quality, recalling Pink's violent issue into the world (ripped from the tranquil womb, born to a fatherless family, etc.). The blood red may also signify the birth / continual life given to Pink's dementia and his final "birth" into madness. Simultaneously, red also conveys ideas of death similar to the creative / destructive nature of water. The loss of blood can take one's life just as quickly as any number of blood-related problems. As memories of his father and the war bombard his mind, Pink frantically flails in the blood-red water possibly out of a fear of sinking / death. And so the red pool is both a symbol of the birth of Pink's unbalanced self as well as the death of his former self. While the transformation doesn't fully take place until his wall is complete, the process has already started. The origin of the transformation (cycle of water=origin=life=death) is once again shown in the quick cuts to memories of the war and more specifically the absence of Pink's father. It is his "snapshot in the family album" as shown in this scene and sung about in the next song that provides Pink with his first brick.

Another interesting aspect of the pool scene in the movie are the theological undertones of Pink's swimming (or sinking) episode. Lying in the water, Pink's prostrate form is reminiscent of the classical depiction of Jesus' crucifixion. The blood-red pool further emphasizes the Christological sacrifice, seemingly equating Pink with Christ on some symbolic level. However, I personally don't agree with the idea that Pink is a Christ figure. Christian theology teaches that Jesus was a selfless man / deity who devoted himself to the world and absolved sinners by means of his death on the cross. Furthermore, Christians believe that Christ arose three days after his crucifixion, thereby conquering death and reaffirming his disciples' faith in God. Even a cursory glance shows that none of these distinctly Christ-like features are evident in Pink. Contrarily, Pink is completely selfish (as we will see later in the album / movie), building his wall out of a need to escape rather than aid the world. Furthermore, he dies metaphorically in "Goodbye Cruel World" in an attempt to elude the external world and is arguably never fully resurrected (I'll get into that later with my brief analysis of the song "The Final Cut" off of the album of the same name). Accordingly, Pink is the antithesis of everything the Scriptural Christ is; therefore Pink becomes a mock-Christ, an anti-Christ of sorts (not the literal Anti-Christ in Revelation, but rather someone who is opposite of Jesus). In this light, the sacrificial elements inherent in the blood-red pool become tainted. Pink's "sacrifice" (his building and completion of the wall) is only made for personal reasons. Pink is the only one covered by his sacrificial blood in the pool; his sacrifice is in vain. In addition, the color red in the New Testament is often linked with Judas Iscariot who, according to tradition, possessed flame-red hair. And so the red pool emphasizes both Pink's selfish "sacrifice" as well as his past, present, and future betrayals (as seen later in the album and movie), the ultimate betrayal being that he completely turns his back on the world and those who love him by escaping behind his wall.


Another Brick In The Wall, Part 1

The segue between "the Thin Ice's" guitar solo to the quiet and repetitive guitar rhythm in "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1" is one of the most flawless yet subtle transitions on the album…and rightly so. There is no pause, no quiet break between songs for the realization of life's hardships and one's awareness of self-alienation. In fact, transition is almost simultaneous: once one comprehends the hardships of life (the cracks beneath one's feet), mental alienation has most likely already started. And so it is with "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 1," the first and most restrained of the "Brick in the Wall" trilogy. With the groundwork and ideas already laid out by the preceding songs, the metaphor of "the wall" is first introduced here specifically. Whereas the previous songs addressed life's misfortunes and alluded to the disguises that are crucial in order to live, "ABITW 1" compiles all of these instructions and warnings into one uniform and universal symbol.

The metaphor of "the wall" is not entirely difficult to parse, especially after having been lead up to it by the previous songs on the album. I've received much e-mail asking me to explain the metaphor in full, but in all actuality, there is little address. The album is so grand and intricate that many people are intimidated by the thought of interpreting the main symbol of the piece, thinking that there is more to the simple image than meets the eye. While some might argue that the metaphor is incredibly tricky, I believe that it's the very opposite. If anything, the main idea of the "wall" is quite simple. In the physical world, a wall is simply a collection of material that is used as a partition to separate two or more things. The metaphor of the wall in the album and in life holds to this definition. Because life is so daunting at times, we all have a tendency to distance ourselves from it. Television takes our minds off it, alcohol dulls it, drugs alter the reality of it; in each example, we use everything at our disposal to prevent us from truly connecting with our feelings, from fully experiencing life as both good and bad. As a society, and equally as humans, we have been conditioned to distance ourselves from pain, even if that pain helps us in the long run. As a result, we create metaphorical bricks in our minds for every disturbing situation in an attempt to distance ourselves from being hurt again, from feeling raw and vulnerable. Over time, our personal walls in our minds grow higher and we become more cynical, more jaded towards life and our connections with it. In a sense, every brick is another defense mechanism, something that dulls the pain of a bad situation and disconnects us from ever having to feel that way again. Simply put, the metaphorical wall is nothing more than its real counterpart: a collection of bricks that separate us from something else. Just as the walls of your house protect you from the environment (both rain and sunshine, the good and bad), the mental walls we erect protect us from being completely vulnerable to Life (once again, both the good and bad).

Such is the state in which we find young Pink in "ABITW 1," coming straight from the realization of life's burden ("the Thin Ice") into an awareness of his wall without a breath in between. The transition even hints at a subtle nihilism finely woven into the album. There is no decision between one realization and the next. From the moment Pink's dad flew "across the ocean" (both to war as well as to death, recalling ideas of the bodies of water separating the living and the dead such as the six rivers of the Greek and Roman Underworld), Pink's wall had already been started without his consent. It most likely is started before he is even fully cognizant of being an entity unto himself, his father gone and dead before Pink was born. "All in all," Pink muses, "it was just a brick in the wall" (emphasis mine). By referring to the brick(s) in the past tense, Pink displays a nihilistic resignation to accept his fate. His wall was started in the past and it's something that he cannot change, or so he believes. In other words, he believes that he was born to his wall which was created the very second his father left and was killed; he was conditioned to continue adding to his wall from birth, unable to ever escape the Sisyphus-ian burden sparked by the loss of his father.

Not only does "ABITW 1" introduce the idea of the metaphorical wall, it also establishes the musical thread used by the rest of the "Brick in the Wall" songs. The use of this common guitar riff as well as the deviation from it in later songs reflects the changing personality of Pink throughout the first half of his journey (disc 1). It can be argued that the repetitious D note played with little derivation in this first song is directly proportional to Pink's persona at the time. Just as the repetitious note gradually emerges out of the final chords of "the Thin Ice," Pink slowly emerges into self-awareness, realizing the burden that has been placed on him by the very act of living while also continuing to construct his wall out of the tedium of his life. It's almost as if he adds a brick with each note, one after the other after the other; each brick is all the same in this monotonous life. Yet such monotony is still unable to repress brief moments of emotional outburst. The absolute bitterness in Waters' voice as he sings "Daddy, what d'ya leave behind for me?" coupled with the biting accent of the second guitar really illustrate the raw emotions Pink is feeling even at this early age while also foreshadowing a time when these emotions will explode. It's also interesting to note the anger in his voice when he asks his father what was left behind, aside from the "snapshot in the family album." It's almost as if young Pink is undergoing the psychological stages of grief when he unjustifiably lashes out at his father's memory. It's similar to when one loses a loved one and selfishly blames the person for dying or blames God or some higher power for taking that person from their lives. Although such anger is pointless and in a sense selfish, it is nevertheless crucial for the healing process. While one might argue that Pink proceeds beyond blaming his father in particular, he arguably is never able to move past his bitterness over his father's death. As he grows older, he continually points fingers at England, the War, Hitler, and all involved until he is consumed by that anger and ultimately transformed by it into the very thing that he hates most…but we won't get to that until the second disc.

The movie sequence for "ABITW 1" is just as haunting and subtle as the song itself. While the songs never really give Pink an age, the movie portrays Pink as being around 5 to 7 years of age, making his musical soliloquy all the more valid, psychologically considering that it is around this time that a person's psyche really starts to develop a sense of self. According the DVD commentary, Waters said that the scenes within the church were slightly altered from a real event in his life. As a young child, Waters' grandfather (not mother, as depicted in the movie) takes Pink to the Chapel of the Royal Fusiliers in London to look at the memorial for those fusiliers who lost their lives in World Wars I and II. The event must have left an indelible mark on the young Waters who remembered finding his father's name in a book in the chapel.

It is interesting to note the bits of metaphorical brick chained to Pink even at this early age. Symbols of the war abound in the model Lancaster Pink plays with, the General Service and Italy Star medals that he wears, even the chapel itself that serves as a memorial for those Fusiliers who lost their lives in the war. Pink's mother, whom we will later discover to be overprotective, is also present as she prays quite possibly for the repose of her husband's soul. Although this simple act of prayer is little indication of the mother's sheltering personality, it does introduce her devotion to her husband which eventually leads to her overprotective attitude towards Pink stemming from the sorrow of losing a loved one and defense from losing another. The next scene of Pink in the playground is, in my opinion, one of the saddest of the film. His longing to have a father, the joy on his face when another child's father briefly "adopts" him by putting Pink on the merry-go-round, and the subsequent sorrow and aching submission on Pink's face when he sits on the swing after the "adoptive" father rejects him; all are played out beautifully in Little Pink's subtle facial gestures. Much like his nihilistic resignation concerning the burden he was born with, Little Pink resigns himself to a lonely swing while watching the other father's push their children on the swing set. The emotion is delicate yet raw, a perfect precursor to unbridled grievousness of "When the Tigers Broke Free, Part 2."