'The Wall'


by Pink Floyd





Introduction

Pink Floyd's the Wall is perhaps one of the most intriguing and imaginative albums in the history of music. Recorded in 1979 and made into a film in 1982, The Wall tells the story of a man named Pink Floyd who, as a child, lost his father in World War II. Being raised by an overprotective mother, Pink leads a dreary life, finally turning to drugs. As a result of the drugs and his gloomy memories, Pink spirals into a void of insanity.

This monumental album is loosely based on the lives of two members of Pink Floyd. Pink's childhood is very similar to that of Roger Waters, the main writer of the Wall. Waters, who lost his father in World War II, drew on his many emotions of abandonment and loneliness for this album. Pink's adult life is loosely based on that of the original lead singer Syd Barret. After suffering a mental breakdown due to mind altering drugs, Barret was replaced soon after by David Gilmour. By combining these life stories, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright create a mystical and disturbing adventure into the depths of man's psyche.




Topic(s)

  • "The Wall" by Pink Floyd
  • How to read poetry
  • Sociopolitical conditions in Britain
  • Social alienation
  • Poetry by:
    - William Wordsworth (Romanticism)
    - William Blake (early Romanticism)
    - William Shakespeare (Renaissance)



Resources

= Compulsory

Primary resources: Secondary resources: The 'secondary resources' have been chosen:
  • to demonstrate the thematic universality of "The Wall"
  • to introduce the era of Romanticism
  • to exemplify how to integrate "The Wall" with our national curriculum



Introduction)

You are the owner of a small establishment which has specialized on negotiating contracts between upstream-artists and the big record companies.
One happy day you receive an offer to keep a lecture on 'The Wall' by Pink Floyd at a special event arranged by the music-magazine "Rock'n Roll Forever". In addition to a general presentation of the complete album, you are supposed to pay special attention to some particular songs.
Even if you don't know too much about "The Wall" this offer is irresistible to you and you accept it immediately :-)

a)
You have heard a lot about "The Wall" and even listened to some of the music, but you definitely need to read the complete text to get some impression of what it's all about.
"Pink Floyd's the Wall is perhaps one of the most intriguing and imaginative albums in the history of music. Recorded in 1979 and made into a film in 1982, The Wall tells the story of a man named Pink Floyd who, as a child, lost his father in World War II. Being raised by an overprotective mother, Pink leads a dreary life, finally turning to drugs. As a result of the drugs and his gloomy memories, Pink spirals into a void of insanity.
This monumental album is loosely based on the lives of two members of Pink Floyd. Pink's childhood is very similar to that of Roger Waters, the main writer of the Wall. Waters, who lost his father in World War II, drew on his many emotions of abandonment and loneliness for this album. Pink's adult life is loosely based on that of the original lead singer Syd Barret. After suffering a mental breakdown due to mind altering drugs, Barret was replaced soon after by David Gilmour. By combining these life stories, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Richard Wright create a mystical and disturbing adventure into the depths of man's psyche."

(source: "A Complete Analysis")

You can either read the hard-copy of the original text sent you by the magazine, or you can study it here.

b)
You are engaged in a lot of projects for the time being, and you decide to engage the entire production team of your little company in the presentation of "The Wall".
The overall presentation of the album will be done by yourself, and the responsibility of presenting specially selected parts of it will be given to different parts of your team.
As a general preparation all the team-members join in a group discussion to discuss different thematic approaches to "The Wall". You have found a webpage with a lot of very different suggestions, which should be carefully discussed and evaluated. You should try to agree on a common approach while still giving every team-member the opportunity and freedom to develop his/her own ideas.
Having read the webpage you get together for a discussion. You figure out that approximately 45 minutes will be enough for this session.
As it is essential that all team members do have a 'surface-level' understanding of "The Wall", your team-members are given an intro by an 'expert' (for example your teacher)

c)
In addition to the overall presentation you are supposed to present at least twelve different texts from the album. These texts are to be found in the 'Resources' section above (but you may of course add the texts you want to this list).
Split up your team in pairs/individuals and give them the responsibility for the presentation of the different texts.
You should emphasize the necessity of presenting an overall view even if the working process has been split up in parts. This makes the general discussion (b)very important.

d)
The team members concentrate on their particular lyrics.
Do remember that this is supposed to be teamwork!
When the team-members have finished their parts they should give other members of the team a helping hand.
To finalize the session all the team members get together presenting your interpretations and trying to put everything together in accordance with the approach decided in section b.
The next challenge will be to evaluate and discuss the relationship between the lyrics, the music and the visual effects of the film.

e)
It is always interesting, but definitely not essential, to know what the central artists of an album think about their creation. You should skim through an interview (BBC) with Roger Waters from 1979 (before the film!) as well as his response to a question in a CNN interview from 1999.

CNN:
In 1975, you were quoted as saying in regards to "Wish You Were Here" being a sad album, "I think the world is a very, very sad fucking place and I find myself at the moment backing away from it all." How are you feeling now about the subject, and how are you?

Roger Waters:
"I'm actually in a very good, positive frame of mind. I feel I've worked through a lot of my own issues in the last ten or twenty years and I now feel more inside myself. I feel more me than I ever have. And as regards the state of the globe I'm encouraged by the noise that Greenpeace and other movements and Amnesty and likeminded people are making and the notice that is being taken more and more, not only of that kind of agit prop but also of work that is being done in the field of human psychology and such of personal relationships. I think individuals are getting a better chance to break the cycle that tends to run from one generation to the next because we have more information about how our emotions work and what makes us feel the way we do than we did, say ten or twenty years ago. So I'm generally optimistic that things are moving in the right direction, at least down one road. It may be a path less travelled but it is being travelled and that gives me hope."

The interview from 1979 presents some of the philosophy behind "The Wall", while the extract of the 1999 interview may give some ideas about the end of the film.

f)
Based on your chosen thematic approach everybody interprets the texts they have been given by the team-leader. Even if it is important that they stick to what they have agreed on with regard to the theme, they may of course present their own ideas to the team.
The next challenge will be to explain how the music itself is emphasizing the theme. Listen carefully to the music and describe how it is related to and contributes to what you have decided to be the message.

g)
This part of the job is pretty much like what has just been explained about the music.
Now you'll have to delve into the symbolism of the movie-version of "The Wall".
Scrutinize the video-clip of your text!
Which symbols and images do contribute to the understanding of the scene(s), and how?
Explain how the totality of text, music and video symbolism fits in with your overall understanding of "The Wall".

h)
Have a final group-meeting and ensure that the contributions are consistent and easibly understandable to persons without any previous knowledge of "The Wall".
Decide on how to do your presentation. This may be done any way you want: orally as a lecture, by putting together a presentation (Powerpoint, etc.), a movie, doing a roleplay, or by making a set of activities, questions, - you name it! A very important thing to have in mind when making your choice, is to choose a technique you know how to deal with. This is an example of how to produce a set of questions, etc. which will activate your audience.

i)
Do the presentation!

j)
Sit down - relax - and enjoy this brand new DVD version of "The Wall"!
If you don't like loud music - bring some ear protection - "The Wall" should be heared - and FELT!



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