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More on Music and Philosophy in 2001

February 17, 2013

I suppose that any post on the music in 2001 which doesn’t mention Daisy Bell (A Bicycle Built for Two) is incomplete.

tandem

Here are the lyrics for the whole song (borrowed from Wikipedia):

There is a flower within my heart,
Daisy, Daisy,
Planted one day by a glancing dart,
Planted by Daisy Bell.
Whether she loves me or loves me not
Sometimes it’s hard to tell,
And yet I am longing to share the lot
Of beautiful Daisy Bell.
Chorus:
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do,
I’m half crazy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage,
I can’t afford a carriage,
But you’d look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.
We will go tandem as man and wife,
Daisy, Daisy,
Ped’ling away down the road of life,
I and my Daisy Bell.
When the road’s dark, we can both despise
P’licemen and lamps as well.
There are bright lights in the dazzling eyes
Of beautiful Daisy Bell.
(Chorus)
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do…
I will stand by you in weal or woe
Daisy, Daisy,
You’ll be the bell which I’ll ring, you know,
Sweet little Daisy Bell.
You’ll take the lead on each trip we take.
Then if I don’t do well
I will permit you to use the brake,
beautiful Daisy Bell
(Chorus)
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do…

Of course, HAL only sings the chorus, which I’ve put in bold print above. Again, I don’t have the inside track here, and I can offer nothing more than speculation about the significance of Kubrick’s choice of the song. But here goes:

  • Like the Strauss Jr, piece Daisy Bell is a waltz. I’ve already stuck my neck out about the relevance of dance and dance music in 2001. More of the same here, I suspect. But notice that this particular waltz gets slower and slower and finally comes to a halt. If the Blue Danube Waltz is suppose to make salient the movement of consciousness through space and time, Daisy Bell is, I think, meant to remind us that such movement will come to an end – either through death (as with HAL) or through transcendence (as with Dave Bowman, so it seems).
  • In 1961, a team at IBM really did “teach” a computer to sing this song. Let’s recall that the MP3 was still a long way off.
  • The song itself is as much about a person (Daisy) as it is about a piece of technology (a bicycle built for two). In fact, the tandem bicycle was a piece of cutting-edge technology when Daisy Bell was written.
  • “…I’m half crazy…” Uhm, yeah HAL, about that…..

And, yes, take the name HAL, move each letter one place up from its spot in the alphabet (e.g., from to I), and you have IBM, which at the time 2001 was made was arguably the world’s unchallenged leader in computer technology.

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