Charles Spearin – The Happiness Project
I love this record, it’s such a beautiful idea, and despite the fact that the whole thing’s cranky as hell, it is charm made music.
Charles Spearin decided to record his neighbours’ views on happiness. He then set them to music, using the undulations, rhythms and underlying patterns in the recorded voices as the main inspiration for the additional musical accompaniment. Does that make sense to you, oh reader? If not, imagine someone talking, but with pianos, various brass and string instruments (not to mention occasional birdsong), reinforcing each vocal inflection.
Anna is a particularly uplifting piece of music, starting quietly before opening out into a very reaffirming ballad, whilst young Vittoria’s stop-start becomes a groovy spy theme. Spearin sometimes sets the listener up quite cleverly; Vanessa (the recording of a lady who uses lip-reading and then electro magnet therapy as an aid to overcome her hearing disability) begins with no musical accompaniment at all. Once Vanessa starts to talk about the startling effect electro-magnet therapy had, then the instruments kick in. It’s a simple conceit, and doubtless looks corny as you read it here, but is a tremendously effective one, and a very moving one, to this listener at least.
This is a varied LP too; Marisa turns out like something off Cale & Riley’s Church of Anthrax, whilst Ondine is, for all the world, a woozy psychedelic mood piece. At least until the kid’s voice kicks in… Mr Gowrie is my favourite, a bass line dividing a sixties instrumental (that bass line in Jaguar) and an echoing, heavily distorted mood piece. It’s wonderful.
A fabulous release and you should definitely check it out.