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What's Inside a Song

A review of one of Harvard's freshest talents. By CURTIS LAHAIE

F

ingers meticulously pluck and

rhythmically brush against strings while a microphone amplifies vocal-cord vibrations, culminating in what we know as a song. As someone who’s not exactly musically inclined, I am incredibly baffled by a guitarist’s ability to handle complex tasks with her hands and lips. I am extremely fascinated by music in general despite my limited knowledge of its scope. But it doesn’t take a Mozart or a Bach to recognize the power in a song. Music creates an impact that is amazingly distinct from other artistic mediums poem like a novel, a photograph, or a painting. For a musical ignoramus like me, the power of music is mystifying and difficult to dissect. On August 30, Sophia Wennstedt ’15 helped demystify the power of music with her remarkable performance at the Freshman Talent Show. Competing against acts that ranged from improvisation to comedy to beat-boxing, Sophia placed third with her original composition, “Inside a Song,” a musical piece that celebrates the power of music, explaining what exactly has kept her playing piano since 5, playing guitar since 10, and singing since birth. After blowing away hundreds of members of the Class of 2015, Sophia performed at the Café Gato Rojo on September 16th, playing more original pieces like “Inside a Song” in addition to creative covers of other artists. Attending both the Freshman Talent Show and her concert at the café helped a non-musician like me discover what exactly is “inside a song” that makes music, especially Sophia’s, so extraordinarily powerful.

and enthusiasm as she would with only the best of romantic partners. At her performance at the Café Gato Rojo, Sophia made her musical romance clear: After the moving performances of an original song “In the Rain” followed by a Joseph Arthur cover, “In the Sun.” Sophia lamented that she couldn’t play the songs as originally written because she wasn’t able to bring her keyboard to Cambridge from home in Lincoln, Nebraska. “It’s kind of lonely without Charlotte,” she remarked, causing a chuckle from the packed audience in the café. A Stimulator of Senses “Note after note after glorious note, it sounds so sweet.” Though Sophia emphasizes the impact that music has on herself, the lyrics of “Inside a Song” also explain another aspect of the power of music: the almost inexplicable pleasure caused by a good melody. At the Café Gato Rojo, Sophia began her performance with a cover of “Wonderwall” by Oasis,

a song heard by only a small audience, but as she continued through the night, she attracted more and more listeners until all the seats were taken. A voice with perfect pitch coupled with just the right guitar-string plucks is undeniably emotional: sound waves travel through our auditory canals, transforming into chemical signals and ultimately the best of pleasure. Sophia melodiously manipulated the chemical reactions in our brains — smiles were plastered to the faces of every audience member. She ended every song to resounding applause. A Way to Express “I speak your language: I do what I want you to.” While the sound of Sophia’s music is pleasant to the ears, what makes music especially powerful is the meaning behind every note. Though a simple story or spoken sentence could successfully convey a message, an idea is most powerful when communicated through rhyme and in front of music. Behind all of her original songs such

as “Home” and “The Story,” Sophia had a message that she successfully passed on through clever rhymes and song structures. Even in her covers such as “Chariot” by Gavin DeGraw, she added her own creative twist, making the song distinctly hers. Sophia’s performances at the Freshman Talent Show and the Café Gato Rojo gave clarity to the nature of the power of music. Music is like a loving relationship, it elicits the best of emotions, and it coveys meaning remarkably well. Of course, I will forever be baffled and impressed by the talent of those who, like Sophia, can tangle their fingers within guitar frets and perfectly vibrate their vocal chord. If you haven’t already, I enthusiastically recommend that you check out Sophia’s music on iTunes and feel the power for yourself. Curtis Lahaie ’15 (clahaie@college.harvard. edu) is looking forward to expanding his musical horizons this year.

Photo by Curtis Lahaie

A Relationship “You keep me sane. You own my brain. You know my name.” In her prize-winning performance at the Freshman Talent Show, Sophia beautifully articulated that she and music are essentially in a committed relationship. For musicians, music is powerful because a good song is like a good lover: calm and collected w h e n n e c e s s a r y, i n e x p l i c a b l y fascinating, and somehow capable of understanding. Performing or writing a song allows Sophia, and all musicians, to step momentarily out of reality, letting her show energy, love, 10

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09.22.11 • The Harvard Independent

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The Indy is falling back into the swing of things.

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