Institute of Art Design + Technology
Dún Laoghaire

Owen Moore 

BA [Hons] Creative Music Production

I am a 23 year old music producer from Galway. I love all music, but particularly Hip-Hop and Electronic music. I have a keen interest in how people approach "challenging" art that isn't easily understood.

Project Description

This project proposes a concrete method of generating interpretations of song lyrics, particularly those of an abstract nature. The album Strawberry Jam by Animal Collective was chosen as it contained the right amount of abstraction. The album was listened to several times with lyrics on hand to avoid misunderstanding them. Then, research was undertaken to understand more about the band and the circumstances surrounding the making of their album. Academic sources were also used to look at theoretical frameworks used to examine art, e.g. Dadaism. Then, a reflective essay was written based on the interpretations generated from the project's methodology. Finally, an accompanying survey and interviews were used to help validate the success of the project in providing a concrete method of interpreting song lyrics.

Project Objectives

The objective of this project was to find a method of interpreting abstract song lyrics. The success of this project would be determined by whether this method would enable me to generate enough ideas to write a reflective essay about this album. It would also be determined by feedback from fans of the album. This feedback took the shape of a survey and interviews with 3 of the respondents. By analysing the responses, it could be seen whether the method of interpreting song lyrics was mirrored in the listening habits of the respondents. It would also be seen where fans' interpretations of the album's lyrics differed.

Project Outcomes

The project was a success. The feedback the reflective essay received was positive, garnering many upvotes across various subreddits and forums, as well as enthusiastic comments. The response to the survey suggested a general agreement with the points made in my essay, as well as aspects of my methodology. For example, Genius was considered to be more accurate than other lyric transcription websites according to respondents, which was the opinion I had arrived at earlier in my thesis, that then informed my methodology. Some of the respondents found that researching the artist helped them better understand their lyrics, which was a step suggested in my proposed methodology

How To Interpret Song Lyrics: A Method of Generating Interpretations Through Research and Feedback

The aim of this project was to find a concrete way of interpreting song lyrics. The reason I wanted to do this was that there was very little material out there on how one might try to engage with abstract or hard-to-understand song lyrics. I chose the album Strawberry Jam by Animal Collective as I found it struck the right balance between accessible and impenetrable. After the idea was chosen, I listened to the album numerous times, recorded my ideas about what the lyrics meant and researched band interviews, academic sources and other sources for inspiration. Then, I translated my ideas into a reflective essay and created an accompanying survey to garner feedback. These were posted in various forums and subreddits where fans of the album reside. A couple of those who responded were chosen for a Zoom interview to gather even more feedback. From this, I was able to determine the success of my methodology and project, as well as outline areas that could be further researched in the future.