Pet Sounds: A series in which teaching staff and students from the English Department reflect on a piece of music or song. [Read all entries.] [Revisit the “Headspace” series.] [Revisit the “Ongoing” series.] [Revisit the “Interrogative” series.]
I have to confess that when I first read the title of this series, I thought “Well, I ain’t got no pet, so that rules me out, I guess”. It soon transpired that no animals, domesticated or otherwise, are required to be eligible, so here we go. Two songs that I have grown very fond of in the last year are from Poland, a country I am equally fond of. I studied there for one semester in the latter part of the 2000s and started learning Polish, partly because a fair number of Poles speak German and hardly anyone in Germany speaks even a word of Polish (except those whose parents immigrated from Poland). I also chose Polish over Russian because I was slightly intimidated by the idea of learning a new alphabet – a conceit that, in hindsight, I would charitably describe as a bit silly. In any case, the Polish language must be a Chinese speaker’s nightmare to learn, with seven cases (German makes do with four) and a declension and conjugation system with so many semi-regular subclasses that I think everybody outside Poland agrees they overdid it a bit. While my fondness for the Polish language remains undimmed, my feelings for the Polish nation as such have suffered recently through political developments that brought to power someone like their own version of Trump. The comparison isn’t quite justified in some ways, not least because the Polish government might have a more conscious desire to destroy democracy and has, at any rate, already had a good deal of success in this project.
The two songs, by Czesław Śpiewa, are “W Sam Raz” (Just right):
And “Maszynka do Świerkania” (A machine for going insane):
To me, these two songs are quintessentially Polish in a number of ways. The architecture shown, the instruments and the melancholy (disclaimer: it should be obvious that modern Polish cities do not look like this and that many Poles are safely anchored in non-melancholic waters). I also find the videos very powerful in a visual sense. I don’t necessarily, um, see a link between the lyrics and the videos but find them artistically impressive nonetheless.
Finally, I feel I wouldn’t be doing justice to the Polish music scene if I didn’t share at least one more song with you: Cool Kids of Death’s “To nie zdarza się nam” (Things like that don’t happen to us):
Robert Fuchs is Research Assistant Professor working in the Department of English Language and Literature.