Woah! How is Recessional sad? I think you all must be misinterpreting it, drastically? Either that, or I am.
To me, Recessional is one of the most sublimely happy songs of Vienna's career. I believe it paints a set of word pictures in reverse chronological order--Vienna has mentioned in concert how the "memories" in the song are in backwards time order, which is reflected in the linguistic pun she gave to the song name, the obvious alternate meaning of which has to do with closing the album. I see these descriptions as being of a happy couple (the "other" of which is female--to me this means the narrator is male, despite Vienna's female voice--she sings from a male perspective sometimes, see for example Homecoming--although there are, in our society, other possiblities--see for example City Hall), the narrator of which is a naturally cautious person (perhaps he had been burned one too many times before meeting her). The first scene is in the "present" and her complete attention to him and their being in love overcomes his insecurities. I won't describe my interpretation of the scene further unless needed.
The second scene is in the past, when her newfound trust in him leads her to be comfortable enough to sleep on his shoulder, "dreaming through the noise" of the airport. He still doesn't know her well enough to be secure in his interpretation, but doesn't want to screw up the moment, and is thus "afraid to move". And then the third verse's description is a collection of little memories from the time frame when they first met, showing how he liked her right away and wanted to get to know her, but was taking it slowly.
In summary, I've been really quite sure that Recessional is a story of love triumphing over insecurity. Am I wrong?
I must take the opportunity to respond to this, because I found dbeattie's interpretation quite fascinating.
What a crazy song this must be for people to be able to interpret it as both "sublimely happy" and incredibly sad. For me, this is a very sad song, however, I was not aware of the reverse-chronologicalness of it. (Wow. I think I love that word).
aware of the "love song in reverse" interpretation, which is how I personally see this song. (Although there are things about Recessional
that I find very puzzling). I think of it like this: Two people share a perfect moment, although one person is hesitant (There's a reason not to want this
). From the second verse, we find out that the narrator, though clearly comforted by her presence, is not actually sure if they are in love. (Maybe it means nothing
). In the third verse, the narrator discovers that this person is not who he (?) thought she was. (Who are you? Taking coffee, no sugar?
The lines that make me most skeptical of the reverse-chronological-order-theory are these:
Who are you, the stranger in the shell of a lover?
Dark curtains drawn by the passage of time?
Clearly, if Vienna is talking about the same person in all three verses, then some time must pass before she can say that the 'dark curtains have been drawn by the passage of time.' It is those two lines that, in my mind, validate my other thoughts on this song: At first, they were in love. Then, they weren't sure. They break up during the trumpet solo. (Although perhaps they were never "officially" a couple. The narrator seems very uncertain about this). In the third verse, they accidentally bump into each other unexpectedly, years later. The narrator no longer recognizes her. She has become a stranger.
Also the instrumentation, to me, is very sad. Everything about the music seems sad to me. Interestingly, it seems as though some of you only think the trumpet is sad. It is intriguing that a song with such rich imagery and emotion could really go either way in peoples' minds. I love songs like that. Any interpretation is valid, but for me, this is probably her saddest song.