Week 40: “Vittoria” by Charles Spearin

The Happiness Project was a brilliant experiment in the music of everyday life, created by Broken Social Scene-ster Charles Spearin in 2009.

The idea was that when people speak, their tones of voice create unintentional melodies, and these melodies vary depending on the topic of conversation. Spearin’s project was to interview various people in his neighbourhood, the topic of discussion being happiness. He then scoured the audio for snippets of conversational melody, and built songs around them, each one named after the featured interviewee.

The album was released precisely two years ago today, on Valentine’s Day 2009. Considering that it had the indie music triple-threat of great concept, lo-fi recording quality, and a link to Broken Social Scene, I was surprised the album didn’t win all the indie awards out there. But I guess that’s why I’m not on the Polaris judging panel. But don’t feel bad for Spearin. The Happiness Project ended up winning something way more mainstream than most indie bands could ever dream of: Best Contemporary Jazz at the 2010 Juno awards.

What makes this a beautiful song:

1. The dialogue at the beginning. Although she struggles for a few seconds to remember the words “Valentine’s Day”, Vittoria accurately summarized a typical elementary school day on February 14th: “You don’t do, like, work…you only do, like, art.” Perfect. Makes you want to grab a paper bag, a doily, red construction paper, and some scissors.

2. The horn line that makes a great melody out of Vittoria’s stream of likes and ums.

3. The mental image the song gives, of an 8-year-old girl leading a big band. Hilarious. Joyful. Cute. Whichever adjective you choose, if Spearin’s goal was to spread the happiness, he succeeded.

Recommended listening activity:

Licking cinnamon heart residue off your fingers.

Buy it here.