When emotions cannot be expressed, words act as a release medium. Songs are primarily used to display affection, grief, or disapproval of something. “Breathe” is a six-minute religious devotion song choreographed by Marie Barnett and sung by the renowned Christian musician Michael Smith. The song’s lyrics are dominated by the phrase “I am lost without you (Breathe 00:02:00).” This repetition establishes the theme of love or overdependence depending on the listener’s experience. Therefore, the theme of love cannot be justified as the only focus, considering various subjects can be identified in the same song.
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Breathe” is tentative in its interpretation because it depicts a two-sided story, one of excess love and another of over-dependence. Furthermore, the diction used in the song to create the timbre emphasizes a specific theme depending on the listener’s interpretation of the song. For instance, conservative individuals view the song as depicting weakness because of over-dependence. On the other hand, the unconventional listener would categorize this song as a love song because of the desperation exhibited (Siedenburg 24). Therefore, what message does Smith pass to his audience through this song?
Is it of excess love or overdependence? Both claims can be valid depending on the listener’s experience and interpretation (Siedenburg 24). Considering the genre of the song, which is contemporary Christian worship, it can be concluded that the song addresses a supreme being and is a sort of worship or adoration to him. Therefore, the song expresses love through different musical techniques such as diction, timbre, and theme.
Contemporary worship songs focus on praise of the prowess of God, who is considered to have supernatural influence and power over believers. Therefore, the diction used is categorically selected to showcase the intimacy between the singer and God. For instance, the phrase “This is the air I breathe” is repeated throughout the song, metaphorically representing the author’s obsession with God (Breathe 00:04:00). Without air, life cannot be sustained, which showcases the importance of God in the singer’s life (Meadows 162). Furthermore, these words indicate the author’s love towards God, which stresses the theme of love.
Desperate is a repeated word in the song that means out of options (Breathe 00:01:29). The singer stresses that they have no place to run to except God. The singer seems more inclined to rush relationship milestones to have a strong bond with God. Although this action shows desperation, it also depicts the intensity of love for that supreme being. The lyrics also express the importance of God’s grace in one’s life and mutual connection throughout the song.
Timbre is another style that can show the focus of this song. Breathe is graced by harmonic series, an A major with piano and chord transpose that creates a soothing and emotional ambiance for the manifestation of the spirit of God (Siedenburg 24). The timbre makes a high and low pitch throughout the song to emphasize words such as “I am nothing without you,” which explains the song’s primary focus.
Even though the song might be translated in different ways, specific indicators support a particular theme as the message in the music. The song’s theme of love is supported by the various stylistic devices used to create the music. The diction, timbre, and pitch are structured to purely expresses love (Meadows 165). The author’s devotion to God is the reason for the song leading to the expression of affection. The timbre and pitch have been skillfully combined to bring out the theme intended to enable the listener to understand how the songwriter felt about God.
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Breathe. YouTube, uploaded by Smith, Michael, 2021, Web.
Meadows, Anthony, and Katherine Wimpenny. “Core Themes in Music Therapy Clinical Improvisation: An Arts-Informed Qualitative Research Synthesis.” Journal of music therapy, vol 5, no 2, 2017 pp. 161-195.
Siedenburg, Kai, and Stephen McAdams. “Short-Term Recognition of Timbre Sequences: Music Training, Pitch Variability, and Timbral Similarity.” Music Perception: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 36, no 1, 2018, pp. 24-39.