I can’t express how much I love Classic vs.Pop music, that is, when classic music is blended into pop songs. If you are someone like me, you would definitely fall in love with this song I am going to talk about: “灵魂的共鸣/ Clash of Souls” by JJ Lin (林俊杰).
From the very first second of the song, I am stunned. Instead of just adding some orchestra chords at the back, JJ Lin chose to incorporate an actual amazing piece – Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff!! The MIDI electrical sound effects, cello tapping and violin then come in, seamlessly matching with the pure piano, building a perfect transition from classical music to pop.
The melody of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini penetrates through the whole song, and the piano part of the instrumental not only accompanies the singing but also becomes part of the major melody as well – I can say, this song isn’t simply a pop song mixed with some classical music; it is a duet, a duet made of an unusual instrument combination: human vocal and piano. The melody for the vocal part is not too catchy or pop-styled, which is another great gem of this song: the singing parts blend so well with the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini that there is not even one point when the combination sounds disconnected. The string instruments, in addition, play a great role in the song as well. The melody for the string instruments is complicated enough to decorate the major melody of the vocal and the piano, but at the same time it’s also simple enough to not to dominate the pace of the song and not to mess up the duet; it’s just right – a little bit less or more would ruin the vibe.
The dynamics of “Clash of Souls” are clear and powerful. In addition to the rise and falls between verses and chorus, the bridge (2:51) pushes the song further to achieve the feeling of “clash of souls”: by sliding up to the pitch smoothly and using the back of the throat and a bit of nose to sing, JJ Lin skillfully delivers the call out of the appealing lyrics:” I hear your soul clashing with mine!” (It gave me goose bumps.)
After JJ Lin finishes his last line, the piano powerfully takes over the song – and notice that this complicated-sounding part is NOT in the original Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Yes, JJ Lin and Lang Lang had composed “Variation 25” for Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, which has originally 24 variations! Just like countless other composers, such as Schumann, Liszt, and the author of The Phantom of the Opera: Andrew Loewe Webber, JJ Lin rearranged the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, giving the piece a new form and new life – and this time, it has even crossed the rigid line of classical music!
Unlike many other pop songs, “Clash of Souls” didn’t grab some classical instrumental just to give it an “epic” feeling. By delicately incorporating in the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini seamlessly, creating a unique and impressive duet of human-vocal and piano, expressing the emotion skillfully through singing and playing the piano, and even rearranging the original rhapsody, JJ Lin and Lang Lang have made “Clash of Souls” epic by itself.
* Note on the meaning of the title: Personally, I don’t really like how the translation of the title becomes “Clash of Souls”. It should really be “Resonance of Souls”. The original Chinese title “灵魂的共鸣” indicates the situation when one person, specified as a desperate and complete music lover in this song, meets this one and only one other person (despite of gender, language, age, or anything else) who understands his music, his works, and what he tries to convey through his music completely, and their souls “clash” together and “resonate” to each other so well that their souls become “connected”. Of course the meaning of this phrase is symbolic, but that’s the feeling JJ Lin is trying to convey in the song.
** Note on the meaning of the lyrics: I love the lyrics. However, since the lyrics are rather symbolic and poetic, it’s very hard to translate it line to line and to keep the literal elements while not ruining the meaning and feeling, and the translations I can find all failed to preserve its values. So I will just explain it a bit here.
The speaker of the lyrics goes through the history, time and karma; he travels from Ancient Egypt to Ancient China, to Renaissance, to modern time, carrying his great music and dreams, searching for the one who can fully comprehend his dream and music and can resonate with his soul. Even though his body may have rotted, his music would never cease. Even though he could have given up, his determination has made him (his music in this sense) the fittest to survive (this means that the speaker is indeed a very great musician, it’s just that even though his music is popular, nobody can fully understand it). No matter how far apart the two souls are (in terms of time, place, and even dimension), the speaker WILL find the other person in the timeless music – “I can already hear, that resonance of souls!”
*** JJ Lin has many great music works. In this album that “Clash of Souls” come from, “Lost N Found”, I also recommend the following songs: “学不会/ Never Learn“, “故事细腻/ Romantic Mystery“, “那些你很冒险的梦/ Those Bold Dreams of You“, “Cinderella” (I especially like this purely English song with its lazy and relaxing blues style), “白兰花/ Streets of Old Shanghai” (a bit of traditional Chinese instruments, great blend). Please, check them out if you have time.
**** Pictures come from yinyuetai.com, musicwrite.blogpost.com, and yue.ifeng.com. All rights about music, video, or pictures reserved to original authors and Warner Music Taiwan.