The Long Song

What is the longest song? It’s a question that interests me, because music has a lot to do with managing time. The longer a period of time one song can manage, the more interesting I think it tends to be.

The argument does not relate to film or TV, which can sometimes go on indefinitely or in installments that stretch on into sequels or spinoffs. Film or TV is much more concrete in terms of story, characters, and pacing. Music, however is an abstract art…one that reveals its meaning through deep and repeated listening.

Many of my favorite pieces of music are long affairs. Most great classical music works tend to be longer. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is an hour long at least even in speedy performances. Some of the movements can stretch out into 25 minutes or more. The great minimalist pieces are at least 10 minutes long and go up to an hour and, in the most extreme cases, days and even years.

So is it any surprise that the more ambitious pop and rock artists have tried their hands at long songs?

Among them is the great We Are The World. It’s a long song that after about 3 minutes into it, just starts repeating its fantastically catchy chorus over and over until the spirit of 80s humanitarian zeal seaps into your every being. I dare you to try it at a karaoke bar and not have the entire place singing along with you in about 6 minutes.

Click for a great catalog of long songs.

Here’s another seven minute long song. The Whitest Boy Alive‘s “Island” has got a groove that builds and deconstructs beautifully over its lengthy terrain.

Island – The Whitest Boy Alive

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