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A Love Letter to Pink Floyd's 'Ummagumma'

Dear Ummagumma,

Although recently we have not spent much time together, we have enjoyed each other’s company: on long drives when I went on about your innovativeness, late at night when my eyes were opened to avenues of creativity that I had never explored, and sitting alone on the couch with my words sparse as I appreciated basking in your atmosphere.

I base a lot of my writing on music and the lessons I learn from the variety of artists I listen to. However, the first lesson I learned from you is something I will never be able to replicate: showcasing each members’ skills and unique ideas.

The first time I ever truly listened to you was when I was in my early twenties was. Already a lover of music, I did not know how the art behind the craft would come into play in my life. Musicians spoke to me through their lyrics; instruments captured, rearranged and distorted time, and albums played out as a collection of stories. Yet, I did not fully understand the idea of concept albums. However, more than twenty years after my first listen, I can now compare Ummagumma to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio: A Group of Tales of Ohio Small-Town Life, a collection of short stories that plays out like a novel.

I’ve listened to a lot of different concept albums, including the majority of your siblings, both both full blood and half. However, there is something different about you. You take apart the band, introduce us to each member, and explore their nuances. Like in Winesburg, Ohio, listeners learn how individuals create the whole. And still, there is more.

The abstract music, classical style movements created with contemporary tools, was based on grandiose ideas such as Sisyphus and the perseverance of faith. The stories and sounds stretch far beyond psychedelic rock. They address the intellect behind the band. Yet, if a fan listens to the vinyl version, they are privy to a treat which only a few bands would be capable of pulling off.

Near the end of “Grandchester Meadows,” which is one of my all-time favorite songs, there is the buzzing of a bee. Up to this point, the listener is used to the typical crackles, buzzes, and pops of the record, but somehow, the sound of the bee insinuates it. As the buzzing gets louder, a man can be heard coming down some stairs. After walking into the rooms with the bee, he rolls up a newspaper or magazine. Then, splat. The bee, its buzzing, and the crackle and popping of the record are gone. It is a brilliant play with the technology of the times.

I have not addressed the first disc, the one most people know, but only because disc two (or vinyls two and three) stands out for me. The live versions of “Astronomy Domine,” “Careful with That Axe, Eugene,” “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun,” and “A Saucerful of Secrets” are all worth many listens. Yet, they would never make you a standout album alone. They needed that unique concept, the fun play, and experimentation that is you at your core. Although Pink Floyd and its members may deny your greatness now, none of it is lost on me.

At the risk of sounding like a fool in love, you expanded my worth. Without you, I may not have made my own explorations in writing. The periods where I broke down elements of craft to understand their purposes might never have happened. Because of you, my appreciation of intelligent work/music and trying to understand what that means pushes my writing evolution. And for that, I will be eternally grateful.

Love and appreciation,

Jesse R Stowe

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