(****) “Busstra’s willingness to let his music speak to listeners on their own terms, rather than what’s dictated to them.”
Can a single word sum up the meaning and magic of a song? In the large majority of cases, the answer is no. But that doesn’t mean a brief descriptor can’t serve as a window into a composition’s bearing. Just look at the track titles on the latest release from Dutch guitarist-composer Marnix Busstra: each song on Firm Fragile Fun gets its name from a single word assigned to it by some of Busstra’s non-musician friends, instantaneously bringing to light the perceived heart of the matter(s).
While some may say that the method of creation behind these song titles is merely a gimmick, those same people would be missing the point: if music is a tool of expression and communication, why shouldn’t those on the receiving end be given a say in explaining the feel(ing) of a song? The title of a song does absolutely nothing to change the music itself, but the naming method behind these songs says a lot about Busstra’s willingness to let his music speak to listeners on their own terms, rather than what’s dictated to them. And in many cases, Busstra’s buddies do a fine job of summing up the central tenets of his music. “Joy,” for example, is a perfect encapsulation of a four-minute number in three letters. Consonance wins out as Busstra strums in sunny fashion and pianist Rembrandt Frerichsdelivers uplifting chording with hints of spirited South African Goema. Whoever was charged with naming that one hit the nail on the head.
In other places, it’s tempting to argue with the title choices: the guitar-piano performance dubbed “Fragile” may have been better served with a title like “Peaceful”; the swaggering “Fun” could just as easily be “Swampy” or “Chipper,” depending largely on whether drummer Pieter Bast’s NOLA-ish groove or the melodic content is seen as the defining trait; “Deep” might be deemed “Meditative” by another set of ears; and “Crazy” could be “Intense” or “Ominous,” as danger seems to lurk around the corner thanks to Arnold Dooyeweerd’s bass lines and Busstra’s suspenseful soloing. But those thoughts are only the semi-argumentative musings of one man. Meaning is in the mind of the beholder, and you can’t blame somebody or second guess them for gleaning what they glean from a song. Ultimately, the substance is more important than the title(s), and there’s plenty of substance to soak in on this one.