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The sounds of people

In Random Access Memories the sounds of people talking are used twice: once at the end of Give Life Back to Music and once at the beginning of Giorgio by Moroder.


On Give Life Back to Music people's voices come in towards the tail end of the song. After all the instruments build up and up, the sounds disperse and are met with a celebrational tone that's made from noises like people yelling out across a room or laughing into the sky. It fades out after a few bars. I can't make out what the people are saying (maybe someone says, "Yeah? Louder!") but it does seem that everyone is primarily speaking in English with no noticeable French accent.


It's a pretty straightforward effect. It's a party! Give life back to music!


On Giorgio by Moroder, the effect of people talking is a little stranger. The first sounds on the song establish a location, which seems to be a nice restaurant. Why a nice restaurant and not a shitty one? Well you can hear what sounds like dishes clinking together as if a waiter is gathering them and also this album cost over one million dollars to produce.


This set up is interesting because it gives the impression that Giorgio is talking to the listener while they both dine in a restaurant. More of a conversation than an interview. More of a conversation that Giorgio sitting in a booth completely unaware of what he was doing.


After the intro is set up, the music kicks into gear. A sound like a champagne bottle opening (or maybe an actual champagne bottle) goes off. A couple of people go, "Ow!" like they're starting to move. The bass and guitar come into the song while the keys and the drum are now up in volume. We really start to groove.


Here's something I didn't notice until listening closely to this album; even after the music picks up, there is still the sound of people talking in the background. It's faint enough that you can only really catch it when Giorgio pauses his speech or someone's voice crests above the rest of the instrumentation. I can hear the voices until the next musical transition, which occurs around 1:05 on the track.


So the reason that is strange is because there is now this musical implication of a spatial and chronological overlap. We are not leaving the conversation to enter the rest of the song, we are now in between conversation and song, between memory and present experience. It feels like we are gradually pulling out of the restaurant setting instead of just abruptly switching musical ideas. To that point, while it would initially seem that people were saying "Ow!" in this restaurant setting, maybe those voices came from another space, one closer to where the bass and funky guitars came from.


Daft Punk has used the sounds of crowds before on their records. Notably on Homework, the track Revolution 909 starts off with what sounds like people conversing at a party before the police come and try to break up the gathering. Even more notably than that, Daft Punk's album Alive 2007 is a live album that is famous for the way it captures the sounds of the audience screaming and singing along to the music.


There's a lot that can be said about people talking at concerts. Any musician will tell you that it is bound to happen and I can attest personally that people will really talk through anything. It's kinda a sign of disrespect to the performer, but it also is the inevitable result of concerts being a social gathering.


That's what makes this moment on Giorgio by Moroder so magical. Not only are we lingering in this made up space between civility and music, there is a direct sonic reference to the idea of people talking at a show.


Most people when you say the name Giorgio Moroder have no idea who you are talking about. But they certainly know his music or at least, the people who were influenced by his music (almost every single musicians you've ever listened to who was alive after 1977). Even if you know the name, you might not recognize him if you saw him sitting at the neighboring table.


In those 30 or so seconds between the music turning up and the voices going off, we are being told a very rich story about songs and memory and the presence of disco both in our minds and in the people who were pioneers for it. What does Giorgio remember? What will we remember of him?