Record Production and Narrative Meaning: Two Recordings of Camel’s The Snow Goose (1975, 2013)
Ryan Blakeley, University of Ottawa
ABSTRACT: British progressive rock band Camel’s third studio record, Music Inspired by the Snow Goose (1975), is an instrumental narrative concept album that musically mirrors the story of author Paul Gallico’s novella The Snow Goose (1941). Despite the absence of lyrics, the band implement a number of strategies throughout the album to effectively convey a cohesive narrative; these include the use of paratexts, recurring musical material, the musical representation of events and emotions, as well as segues between the tracks. In 2013, nearly forty years after the album’s original release, Camel re-recorded The Snow Goose from scratch; while relatively faithful to the original record, this version features changes to orchestration, extensions to certain tracks, and a vast difference in production values.
In this paper, adopting a hermeneutic approach and drawing upon the work of Simon Zagorski- Thomas (2014) on meaning in record production, I interpret how certain aspects of the The Snow Goose’s production afford meaning to the music and investigate how these meanings may differ between the two recordings. Further, I conduct a comparative analysis of these two recordings of The Snow Goose in order to explore differences in production that largely arise due to technological advancements. Ultimately this paper seeks to not only indicate some significant changes in the record production process over a nearly forty-year timespan, but also to demonstrate how the production process itself can play a key role in providing narrative meaning to – and ultimately enriching – an instrumental popular music album.
Zagorski-Thomas, Simon. The Musicology of Record Production. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Ryan’s categorises two types of concept album – connected narratives around a concept (e.g. Woody Guthrie) and specific linear narratives (e.g. Pink Floyd’s The Wall). The Snow Goose is the latter category – it tells the story of Paul Gallico’s 1941 novella.