Jacquard Causeway

Revision as of 00:47, 14 July 2013 by (talk) (Samples / Lyrics)
Jacquard Causeway
Running time 6:35
Appears on Tomorrow's Harvest

Samples / Lyrics

KSC 653


  • The title likely refers to the Jacquard loom, a loom created in the early 19th century that used punchcards to control the loom's individual strings. As such, it is an extremely early example of binary programming. These cards would later be the inspiration for IBM's early mainframe punchcards.
  • Jacquard may also refer to Albert Jacquard, a geneticist well known for defending the concept of 'degrowth'. 'Degrowthists' aim to maximize happiness and well-being through non-consumptive means—sharing work, consuming less, while devoting more time to art, music, family, culture and community. Jacquard also took a strong stand against commercial use of the human genome in the 1990s.
  • A Causeway is a road or railway route across a broad body of water or wetland raised up on an embankment.


So first of all, it's a difficult song because it feels like it's in 3/2 time (though it has been suggested that it is basically in 4/4 (double-time), with kick on 4.5, snare on 3. The 3/2 feel is just a lazy superimposed polyrhythm). This is far from common in electronic music. You have to relax the part of your brain that's used to 4/4 time and just let the electro-waltz flow through you.

Now, when you listen past the beat, you'll hear loops, but they're different by just a little bit on each measure, with new patterns coming into play as old ones leave. In many ways, it's very much like a loom, with the starts of new patterns entering into the threading as the completion of old patterns winds its way out. In the end, you've basically gone through a tapestry of music.

Certainly the Jaquard mentioned is the loom-maker; he's one of the first people to make a program of any kind, and a machine that could use arbitrary programs to affect actions in reality. That's an amazing step forward for humanity and certainly paved the way for the development of stored-program computers. Without this criticial insight in some way or another, we might have been stuck on analogue patch computation for a long time. I think it would have happened without Jacquard, for sure, but nevertheless he was first, and so we should know his name.

The causeway is therefore his; and causeway is a perfect choice of words because the 'cause' at the beginning implies that there's a reason for it to exist, a starting point if you will, without saying anything about the end of it. They could have said "superhighway" ala the Information Superhighway that people sometimes call the Internet, but the Internet is merely an output of the causeway that we're on as a species: the progress of technological development. Also, it sounds better; BoC doesn't like to hit you with a hammer, subtlety is their game. I think the song weaves the themes of technological development like a loom.

Early in the song, it's a simple synth rhythm (that really harkens back to A Few Old Tunes style simplicity); this is the loom, and the barest indication of possibilities. As the song proceeds, new layers come in, some hopeful, some melancholic, some that sound almost weary, like a person burdened by a load. They fit together rhythmically like clockwork, different periods lining up with each other at common denominations, furthering the automation theme.

At around 3:50 or so we start to pick up on some newer-style BoC themes, particular musical keys we've heard before in their work. A sense of contentment and ease comes over the song, reducing the tension from before. If we extend the historical metaphor, could this be an age when technology was reducing work with no obvious downsides, a "golden age"?

Eventually, the beat dies away, and we're left with one of the most hopeful sounds on the entire album. In my view, this is BoC's comment on the promise of technology, not necessarily on the reality of it (as the album certainly gets darker from there).


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