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The Sensual World

"Love And Anger" analysis

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Date: Fri, 3 Nov 1995 11:57:49 -0500 (EST)
From: Chris Smith at Indiana University <smithcj@indiana.edu>
Subject: Re: L&A Semiotic analysis paper

"Like a bell to a Southerly wind"

Kate Bush's Love and Anger

A Performance-Centered Analysis"

Chris Smith - Indiana University

Reading copy

(C) Copyright to the Author!!!


1) Dance
2) Spiritual Systems
3) Eros, Ecstasy and Transcendence
4) Depictions of Gender and Power
5) Community

Video Clip #1: "Love and Anger" complete
Video Clip #2: Baraka
Video Clip #3: Baraka
Video Clip #4: Baraka
Video Clip #5: Baraka
Video Clip #6: Baraka
Video Clip #7: Baraka

Music Example #1: frame drums, valiha, piano, bass on whole notes
Music Example #2: "And what would I do without you?"
Music Example #3: "But it would only take a moment to/Tell you what I'm feeling"
Music Example #4: "Hmmm"
Music Example #5: bass syncopated
Music Example #6: bass doubletiming
Music Example #7: "You come walking into this room/Like you're walking into my arms What would I do without you?"
Music Example #8: "We could be like two strings beating/Speaking in sympathy..."

I. Goal

This paper is a performance-centered analysis of a music video for a rock song called "Love and Anger" by Kate Bush, from her 1990 CD The Sensual World, which accomplishes its expressive goals by referencing and manipulating a vast array of symbolic systems. "Love and Anger" invokes an emotional, intuitive, and spiritual response to music and dance, constructed and explicitly informed by "woman's perspective." But how does this work?

Biography and History

Kate Bush was born in 1959 in Kent of a well-to-do musical family: as a child she studied violin formally and piano informally. While at Catholic school, an inheritance made it possible for her to record demonstrations of some early songs. At 18, she was signed to EMI; when released in 1978, her debut album The Kick Inside yielded the European hit single "Wuthering Heights."

Bush last toured in 1979, employing elaborate staging and production, and utilizing elements of theater, dance, and mime. Since 1982 she has produced her records herself in her own studio, her method being heavily dependent upon a small circle of collaborators and the special capacities of the Fairlight and Synclavier Computer Musical Instruments. The disc The Sensual World was released early in 1990; "Love and Anger" was the first U.S. single.

Bush described a heightened awareness of gender during this album's creative process:

"I just felt that I was exploring my female energy more musically... In the past I had wanted to emanate the kind of power that I've heard in male music. And I just felt maybe somewhere there is this female energy that's powerful."

[Diliberto, 1990, 76]

Bush is asking a question which has been raised by feminist scholars, and I have been wondering this as well. In "Love and Anger," what is the nature of the "female energy that's powerful?" Why am I moved by it?

Areas of Focus and Vocabulary

I have defined certain foci of artistic resources and vocabulary in "Love and Anger." I suggest that their constructed interaction creates an intentional perceptual "frame" [At this point you may wish to glance at the first page of your handout.]

1) Dance:

Dance and movement are central in this piece; multiple dance vocabularies are quoted, and movement conveys important messages.

2) Spiritual Systems:

Bush does not speak explicitly about specific spiritual or religious systems, but "Love and Anger" is shot through with language and images drawn from Catholicism, Sufism, Wicca, and the Tarot.

3) Eros, Ecstasy and Transcendence:

Much of this album speaks of transcending mundane experience: in various songs, Molly Bloom leaves the climactic soliloquy in Ulysses and steps out of the book into the "Sensual World;" a nameless visionary on Waterloo bridge straps a rocket to her back and takes off into the night, and a woman is so caught up in the ecstasy of dancing that she wakes next morning to discover she has been dancing with Adolf Hitler. In The Sensual World, and in "Love and Anger," transcendence is focal, and mysteriously powerful.

4) Depictions of Gender and Power

"Love and Anger" specifically invokes and subverts gendered expectations, behaviors, musical archetypes, and interpersonal relations.

5) Community

Bush frames communication in order to elicit particular reactions, and to depict a specific vision of community. The combined musical, visual and gestural materials exhibit a multi-layered referentiality which Bogatyrev has termed "plurisignation."

[play AV#1: complete piece]

Lewis, Bauman, Turner, and many others have described both religious and musical performance as involving the invocation of "ritual space," in which ordinary objects, juxtaposed within a heightened interpretive field, take on extraordinary associations. "Love and Anger" creates such a frame: in it, Kate Bush wants us to "see and feel" specific symbols' emotional and aesthetics implications. Her goal is depiction of a transcendent psychological experience.

[play AV#1: short excerpt]

In the opening sequence [See Music Example #1], Mevlevi Sufi kettledrums play, and are joined by a Malagasay valiha playing 16th-note modal figures, and then by acoustic piano. As the piano strikes its first harmonically-ambiguous chord, the shot focuses to a view of Kate, clad in black, kneeling in the center of a small spotlight against a black background, and she sings the opening lines "It lay buried here, it lay deep inside me."

In many symbolic traditions, this opening posture, kneeling with eyes closed, is associated with supplication. However, such a posture inside a circle of light references very old, powerful and archetypi-cally feminine symbolic systems.

Quoting the modern witch Starhawk:

"We define a new space and a new time whenever we cast a circle to begin a ritual. The circle exists on the boundaries of ordinary space and time; it is "between the worlds" of the seen and the unseen...a space in which alternate realities meet, in which the past and future are open to us. Time is no longer measured out, it becomes elastic, fluid...The restrictions and distinctions of our socially defined roles no longer apply...

"Casting the circle is an enacted meditation. Each gesture we make, each tool we use, each power we invoke, resonates through layers of meaning to awaken an awareness of ourselves... "The casting of the circle is...the complex "cue" that tells us to switch awareness into a deeper mode." [Starhawk, 57-58]


[play V#2]

The piece begins and ends with what strikes me as a crucial visual metaphor:

1) As Bush sings the line "But it would only take a moment to/Tell you what I'm feeling," [See Music Example #3] and the drum set enters, a shower of golden dust begins to fall upon her from above. She shakes her head, the camera continues its traverse, and she begins to sway from side to side. The camera completes its second circle, to frame her full-face, and she begins to rise, singing "What would I do without you?" [See Music Example #2]]

[play V#3]

2) During the instrumental section before the first chorus, we see her erect, head down, whirling in place as the golden dust falls upon her.

[play V#3]

3) In the second verse, shots of Bush in stylized posture are intercut with perspectives on the dervish dancers, and the golden dust begins to fall over the entire scene. As she enters the second chorus, shots of the dervishes' faces are intercut with shots of the ballerina's feet, the bass guitar begins a double-timed figure, and gold begins to fall on the ballerinas as well.

[play V#4]

4) After the second chorus, the orb and sceptre are snatched away, and, in a beautiful, convulsive gesture, Bush begins to dance in reverse away from the camera, eyes closed, gold dust falling around her, singing wordlessly. [See Music Example #4]

[play V#5]

5) In the final section, as the chorus repeats, a series of quick cuts move from Bush, to close portraits of the individual male musicians, gold dust falling on all the participants, individually and collectively.

[play V#6]

6) At the final tacet she turns, her first direct eye-contact shocking us with its immediacy, and flings a handful of gold dust directly at us, as the frame freezes. She whispers "Yeah!"

In Sufism, mystical Islam, the image of a shower of golden dust is sometimes associated with a phenomenon called baraka [insert citation from Idries Shah The Sufis]: the spark of transcendence which is bestowed upon and passed between spiritual aspirants through the touch of God. ?[The experience comes from outside, not within; from grace, not reason; but through music, dance, and prayer, the aspirant can make herself a willing vessel, and a conduit for others.]?

"Love and Anger" begins with Kate's individual experience of grace, and culminates with all present, even we the audience, being touched by baraka. In essentially unbroken chronology, she moves from a magic circle, to dervish dance, to personal transport, to rock & roll stage collaboration and finally outside the frame. We are the final beneficiaries of the ecstasy which can be attained only when the aspirant accepts intuitive, not rational, insight. Through ecstatic dance and rock & roll music, Bush creates the possibility of transcendence, joy, and human connection.

Kate is explicit about her reliance on intuitive creative processes:

"When I'm working on my own things...I summon up a kind of confidence from somewhere that in a way is quite blind and has faith in the thing turning out in the end." [Gillis, 42]

Feminist psychologist Jean Shindoa Bolen describes this type of procedure as "creative conception," and contrasts it with more linear, verbalized, or rationalist approaches:

"The function of creative insight is... similar to the transcendent function. In a creative process, when there is as yet no known solution to a problem, the artist-inventor- problem solver has faith that an answer exists, and stays with the situation until the solution comes... The person... trusts a process of incubation, out of which something new can emerge." [Bolen, 292]

Or, as Kate puts it in "Love and Anger:" "Someone will come to help you." She goes further, disavowing the possibility of putting the experience into words: "It's so deep I don't think that I can/Speak about it."

Analogously paradoxical communicative language is evoked in numerous mystic traditions: Leonard Lewin refers to a story of the Sufi teacher Nasruddin, who, asked to preach a sermon, inquires of the congregation, "Do you know what I am going to say?" They reply "No," and he answers, "Then it would take too long to explain."


Gender is a central issue here. Bush alludes to a "female energy" that is different from the typically masculine paradigms of rock music, and of her desire to explore this energy. "I didn't want to do that on this album. I wanted to do it as a woman, not as a woman working around a man's world." [Sutherland, 34. Emphasis added]

"Love and Anger" manipulates gender associations by evoking an archetype of feminine power and experience. In effect, Bush sets up an alternate paradigm; to the issue of rock music's powerful, transforming sexuality she proposes a response which is not phallic but celebratory, not dictatorial but joyfully receptive. Dancing, she brings baraka, transcendent experience, from the intimate femininity of a witch's circle to the masculinity of the rock and roll stage; she is the vessel, the medium of reconciliation. Ecker calls this Sanftmut, the "courage to be gentle."

Eros, ecstasy and transcendence

[finetune this/connect to baraka]

The bass guitar part presents a particularly interesting example of complex semiotics; its overall construction forming a sonic parallel to the visual model of baraka.

The bass guitar enters after the piano [See Music Example #1] playing double whole notes. Subsequently it intensifies to a syncopated figure [See Music Example #5] which locks with the bass drum part. At the second chorus, as baraka falls over the ballerinas, the bass part begins to "double-time" in 16th notes [See Music Example #6]. It drops out precipitately at the tacet/freeze frame.

An analogous arching metaphor is often cited in ecstatic literature: that of the cresting wave. The aspirant performs exercises of cleansing and preparation. If all conditions are right, the wave of transcendence lifts her above normal experience with an implacable power beyond her own. Similarly, the tremendous rhythmic impetus supplied by the bass part lifts the entire piece, until the bass tacets and the wave of experience rolls away, leaving only the recollection of transformation.

Bush employs a complex and multireferential symbolic vocabulary. Time constraints preclude a comprehensive exploration, but we may say that in visual, sonic, and textual areas symbolism is equivalently dense and consistent. [At this point you may wish to glance at the comparisons of selected text from "Love and Anger" and the Sufi poet Kahlil Gibran.]

Again quoting the Sufi scholar Leonard Lewin: "We are dealing here with an extra, if hidden dimension; linear exposition cannot adequately cover the ground, and a different process is necessary if the multiple interrelationships between what would otherwise be the fragments of a piecemeal approach are to be developed and understood." [Lewin, in Shah, 249]

Kates realizes that dense symbolic techniques can activate an intuitive experiential response. Such a ritual response results not from clearly grasped linear associations but rather from the dynamic tension such symbolic overload creates. So the experience of ritual art can actually invoke the experience of transcendence.

Yet intuition is not necessarily, or even most commonly, a solitary phenomenon: it has potent capacities for creating communion. Bush described this album's creative process as built upon what Belenky calls "Women's Ways of Knowing:"

"I think the hardest thing about working with the Trio Bulgarka [a women's choral group] was just having enough courage to go ahead and do it... In terms of music it was not a problem. We just communicated emotionally and just kind of cuddled each other and sang to each other. It was just the most incredible experience to...work with women like that-- on a creative level." [Sarnoff, 60]

In Music of the Common Tongue, Christopher Small has suggested that the ultimate goal of music performance in a specific cultural context can consist of momentarily bringing the ideal society into being, whether this vision of an ideal society is modelled by a symphony orchestra, a chamber group, a rock band, a percussion ensemble, or a gamelan.

Hence music performance is also ritual performance, and ecstatic procedures, chant, music, dance, etc., both construct and reflect ritual perception. In "Love and Anger," Kate Bush models a social interaction which embraces intuition, intimacy, shared creative experience, individuality, and a close connection with the subconscious. Belenky has described this deeply personal approach to communication as "passionate knowing."

This piece of music offers an extraordinary spectrum of experiential possibilities, revealing different layers of meaning to different listeners. Most importantly, like the fables of the Sufi Nasruddin, the ancient traditions of women's creativity, the archetypes of Jung, and the metaphorical richness of Catholicism, Wicca, and the Tarot, the composition "Love and Anger" invokes and celebrates a transformation of human experience.



KB=Kate Bush; C=camera perspective; LP/RP=left-profile/right-profile; T=traverse; FF=full-face; DS/US=down-stage/up-stage

Kettledrums. Add valiha; piano strikes first "chord" (no 3rd).

KB ("Kate Bush") in black, kneeling in spotlight (LP). T ("Traverse") behind. Begin slow T.

T behind.

Continue T.

RP ("Right profile"). T.


Bass enters. Baraka. Continue T. KB shakes head.

KB sways. T behind.

Completed T.

FF ("Full front"), KB looks to C ("Camera"), begins to stand.

3mm vamp (drums & piano). CU ("close-up") of rosary dropping from hand, CU of orb & sceptre being grasped. FF KB twirling, baraka.

KB FF (standing), arms crossed, holding orb & sceptre.

Add snare on backbeat and distorted guitar. Backlight reveals ballerinas.

Dancing in unison.

Cut to P ("Portrait") from oblique/above.

Mix 2 shots

Mix 2 shots

Mix 2 shots

2mm vamp (drums, piano, guitar). Ballerinas FTB US. Flash of white light. Guitar tacet

Dervishes enter

Dervishes move DS and begin to whirl.

KB P oblique/above.

Dervishes whirling.

Mix 2 shots.

KB P. Baraka.

Mix 2 shots.

Dervishes' feet.

Dervishes whirl.

3mm vamp (drums, bass, guitar, piano). Ballerinas' feet.

KB P oblique/above.

Children's chorus.

Add guitar. Ballerinas w/ KB holding orb & sceptre.

Ballerinas' feet.

Bass begins doubletime/slapping.

Ballerinas' feet and baraka.

KB extends arms holding orb & sceptre.

Children's choir. Ballerinas snatch orb & sceptre away. Convulsion.

8mm vamp (all rhythm section), "Hmmm" vocals. KB FF into frame, dancing backwards. T keeping her FF. Baraka. C pans past toward stage. 4mm Guitar solo begins.

Children's choir.

C to KB FF (upside down), carried toward stage. KB stands, whirls, begins dancing. Baraka.

Children's chorus.

4mm guitar solo continues. Duet with "hmm" vocals.

Children's choir. Shifting/traversing/panning portraits of faces & instruments. Baraka. Pan/Traverse around keyboards & valiha. KB dancing, frame stage.

Vocal duet w/ guitar solo. "Hooo" vocals. Dance, frame stage. Ballerinas w/ baraka.

Vamp, guitar solo/obbligatto continues. "Hoo" vocals. KB dance, frame stage. P/T portraits

Wide P, KB dancing, frame stage, full portraits.

Cut out all instruments except valiha and "Hmmm" vocals.

Eye contact, hurl baraka, freeze frame.


"I have been wondering...whether there is a way of re-hearing as well as revisioning, a way of listening from a woman's point of view that will cause us to hear anew." [Betty E.M. Ch'maj. American women and American studies. Pittsburgh, PA: Women's Free Press, 1972. 56]

"Plurisignation...is increased by the fact that different spectators comprehend the same scene differently... [This] makes it possible for theatrical action to be comprehended simultaneously by spectators of various tastes, various aesthetic standards." [Petr Bogatyrev "Scenery, Artistic Place, and Artistic Time in Folk Theater." (Tr. by Peter Voorheis and Ronald J. Meyer). In Folklore Forum, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Spring 1981), 44.]

"We define a new space and a new time whenever we cast a circle to begin a ritual. The circle exists on the boundaries of ordinary space and time; it is "between the worlds" of the seen and the unseen...a space in which alternate realities meet, in which the past and future are open to us. Time is no longer measured out, it becomes elastic, fluid...The restrictions and distinctions of our socially defined roles no longer apply...

Casting the circle is an enacted meditation. Each gesture we make, each tool we use, each power we invoke, resonates through layers of meaning to awaken an awareness of ourselves...

The casting of the circle is...the complex "cue" that tells us to switch awareness into a deeper mode." [Starhawk. The spiral dance: a rebirth of the ancient religion of the great goddess. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979, 57-58]


[Idries Shah. The Sufis. (Introduction by Robert Graves) New York: Anchor Books, 1964]

"ba-ra-ka...[Ar barakah]: a blessing that is regarded...as an indwelling spiritual force and divine gift inhering in saints, charismatic leaders, and natural objects." [Philip Babcock Gove (Ed). Webster's Third New Interational Dictionary of the English Language (Unabridged). Springfield, MA: G.&C. Merriam, 1981.]

"The compound word Sanftmut generally means 'gentleness. When taken literally it means 'gentle courage' or 'the courage to be gentle' (sanft=gentle; mut=courage)." [Gisela Ecker. Feminist aesthetics (Translated by Harriet Anderson) Boston: Beacon Press, 1985, 35]

Bush: "We could be like two strings beating/Speaking in sympathy..."

Gibran: "Let each of you be alone/Even as the strings of a lute are alone although they quiver with the same music." [Kahlil Gibran. The Prophet. New York: Knopf, 1979, 16]

Bush: "If it's so deep you don't think that you can speak about it to anyone...Can you tell it to your heart?"

Gibran: "There are those who have the truth within them, but they tell it not in words." [Gibran, 60]

Bush: "We're building a house of the future together"

Gibran: "To work with love...is to build a house with affection, even as if your beloved were to dwell [there]." [Gibran, 27]

"I think the hardest thing about working with the Trio Bulgarka was just having enough courage to go ahead and do it...In terms of music it was not a problem. We just communicated emotionally and just kind of cuddled each other and sang to each other. It was just the most incredible experience to...work with women like that--on a creative level." [Sarnoff, 60]

"Musicking creates the public image of our most inwardly desired relationships...actually bringing them into existence for the duration of the performance...The musicking can exhilarate us with a vision of that ideal which is not just intimated...but actually brought into being." [Christopher Small. Music of the common tongue: survival and celebration in Afro-American music. New York: Riverrun Press, 1987, 69-70]

"Passionate knowing is the elaborated form [which] connected knowing takes after women learn to use the self as an instrument of understanding...connected knowing is not simply an "objective" procedure but a way of weaving their passions and intellectual life into some recognizable whole." [Mary Field Belenky. Women's ways of knowing: the development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic Books, 1986, 141. Emphasis added.]

[end text]

have fun!

Chris Smith - Lecturer, IU S.O.M.: "Popular Musics of the Non-Western World;" Radio Producer:"One World" WFIU-Bloomington, IN 103.7; Musician: "Altramar," "Amandla Ugetsi," "TAARAB" and "B.O.M.B.;" Martial Artist: Shaolin Kung Fu

WWW: http://bronze.ucs.indiana.edu/~smithcj/cjshome.html


Date: Tue, 9 Jan 1996 11:51:32 -0500
From: christopher john smith <smithcj@nickel.ucs.indiana.edu>
Subject: Re: Paper on Love and Anger

Wieland Willker wrote:

>Chris wrote:

>> LYRICA. The paper is entitled "'Like a Bell to a Southerly Wind:' Kate Bush's 'Love and Anger,' a Performance-Centered Analysis."


>Still unanswered:


>Do you think, she did all the stuff you've discovered intentionally?

ok, very brief response (i mean, this reply could be a whole OTHER paper! :-))

i think that the song is about transcendent experience, referencing the psychological and spiritual transformation which can be precipitated by ecstatic religion (sufism, wicca, etc), by intuitive creativity (eg in this case "women's ways of knowing"), by dance (both sufi and free-form), and by yes, even male-energy-oriented rock & roll. i think the genius of the piece (both video and music working together) is that it draws connections between all of these transcendent media, pulling them together inclusively, showing both the desirability and the achievei-ability of the transcendent experience, and including male/female, "classical"/"vernacular", "dance/ music", "sound/image", "christian/pagan/muslim" dichotomies in an inclusive view of human experience.

i think that the performance is a representation of an ecstatic experience, which begins quietly with invocation and preparation of the self for transformation, moves into a "ritual space" constructed by evocative dance, movement, images, and language, moves further into the ecstatic experience that results, peaks out in ecstasy, and then "de-crescendos" musically, sonically, visually, and experientially.

finally, i think that the GOAL of the piece is

a) to show the threads of psychological, spiritual, and experiential connection between these widely contrasted media and symbolic systems;

b) to validate a life lived according to experience and intuition, not only linearity;

c) to depict these connections, and the enormous transformative power of these experiences, and

d) finally, and most radically, i believe that the piece not only is intended to depict such an experience, but actually to invoke it in the listener/ viewer.

next time you watch that video, stand up, turn the sound up, let your body move if it's impelled to, and feel the reactions in your own body at the following points:

a) when the first course comes in and kate stands up

b) when she stretches out her arms, holding the orb and sceptre, the ballerinas snatch them away, and she convulses;

c) when she comes up into the camera, humming, and dances away with her eyes closed;

d) when she is carried to the stage, and comes up dancing ecstatically;

e) as the camera swings around showing all the men in her band, (and how loving these portraits of her collaborators are!);

f) when she turns, hurling gold dust into the camera, freezes, and whispers "YEAH!"

you may find your own physical reactions revealing. i watch this video (and i'm no kate authority), and i can FEEL my own physical and psychological reactions.

still one of the most amazing psychological performances i've ever seen.

Chris Smith

On to The Laugh

written by Love-Hounds
compiled and edited
Wieland Willker
Sept 1995 June 1996