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Recently, and along with throngs of other listeners, I’ve been enjoying Lorde’s album, Pure Heroine. I admire its restraint. Lorde’s songs carry a weird, authentic-feeling weariness, and the production sounds fresh but not at all heavy-handed.

I just want to keep listening to it, especially “400 Lux” and “Ribs.” While listening to “Ribs,” I was thinking about what makes this song so appealing–my favorite part is how each verse gets reinvented after the chorus, becoming more insistent, energetic, and high-pitched. The growling opening lines, “The drink you spilt all over me/“Lover’s Spit” left on repeat…” get transformed by that chorus, speeding up, gaining a new, octave-higher layer.


In this TED talk (from TEDx MIA), professor and mathematician Scott Rickard discusses where “beauty” and “ugliness” come from in music (from a mathematical standpoint). He attributes these qualities to a song’s repetition, and argues that repetition (and pattern) is beautiful. Toward the end of the video, he has a pianist play a song that has been designed to be “ugly”–that is, without pattern.

Thinking back to “Ribs,” what is most enjoyable is that we, as listeners, can appreciate the slight variation within the repetition (and how this repeats throughout the song as a pattern).

I’m wondering: is repetition necessarily inherent within every song (if it has a melody or rhyme, there must be repetition)?

Why is the ear so pleased by what repeats?


Bonus: Here’s a delightful conversation between Lorde and Tavi Gevinson.

In these interludes, poet and singer-songwriter Hannah Stephenson invites you to eavesdrop on the music bouncing around her brain. She’d love to hear your thoughts, your inner soundtrack, and what band inspired that shrine in your bedroom.

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