Tag Archives: Pontificate


The word of the Day for Friday, January 20th, 2012 is


Definition: verb (according to Websters, Dictionary.com, & Wiktionary) to speak pompously and dogmatically.  To express one’s opinions as if absolutely correct, usually at length.

Definition: noun (” “) To hold a high office in the Roman Catholic church, a pontiff.

Song: “Pontificate”
Artist: Michael Herbert Big Band
Album: There’s Me and There’s You
Year: 2008
So, you may notice I didn’t actually post this on Friday, January 2oth, 2011.  This is because I feel like I’ve stumbled upon a truly great artist and wanted to be able to do justice to his work.  Unfortunately this is very difficult when the song itself is a glacier akin to what the Titanic hit: there’s a LOT more beneath the surface.
So as to not turn into a Wikipedia article (though it’s always been my best friend when starting research) I will try my best to briefly explain the artist and his goals for this song/album.
The Artist: Michael Herbert Big Band
Matthew Herbert has worked under many names including his own, Radio Boy, Wishmountain, Rockit Boy, and Herbert.  His music centers around aleatoric processes – a word I dare anyone to define on the spot.  Basically it means he creates music with items that are not inherently musical, taking chances with the noises created and then mixing them in his own blend of pop/dance/jazz/electronica/house music.  He started by using a bag of chips as a sole “instrument.”  The sounds in this album “There’s Me . . .,” however, have a great deal more weight to them, whether it be recordings of powerful political figures saying “Yes” or the scraping of condoms on the floor of the British Museum.  Most important is that all soundclips are recorded himself, not samples, and all music can be recreated live.
Phew! done with that section.
The Album: There’s Me and There’s You
Okay, so, briefly: this is a big band jazz/electronica/dance album but above all it is a Protest Album.  The songs all focus on an aspect of the abuses of power in the 21st century.  These abuses include dealings with the Iraq War to the media blitz of tabloid crap to avoid reporting the actual news.  Despite the heaviness of the message the music is bright and bold, just like big band jazz should be, with a vocalist, Eska Mtungwazi, to match.
The Song: Pontificate
“Pontificate” specifically deals with the Pope and his involvement, or lack there of, with the AIDS epidemic in Africa.  Herbert counters the Pope’s refusal of condoning condoms or birth control of any kind with the scraping of 70 condoms along the floor of the British Museum and lyrics like “Happy to/attend to/funerals for free” and if “you” (the pope) have it your way “we all will be/in the ground.”
So, Matthew Herbert is applying both the noun Pontiff and the verb To Pontificate in his song.  The Pope being the highest of high in the management of the Roman Catholic Church is the Pontiff: “You have the fancy dress/you wear the gilded crown” and Herbert accuses him of pontificating: “you have the billing space/to amplify your views”
I would like to examine this further but unfortunately I’ve searched for hours for the lyrics to no avail and had to resort to listening to this song so many times I wake up with it in my head and still it’s a bit difficult to make out.  All the more reason to buy the album . . .  (I really would, I’ve enjoyed every song I’ve listened to, but MC will (politely) have my head since we’ve got like, bills and such to pay for first.)
PLEASE GIVE THIS ALBUM A SPIN!  The music is sultry, poetic, has a great groove, flair, a very modern twist on big band, and you can feel good because by listening you’re supporting a musician with a great message.

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Filed under Music, The Music/Vocabulary Experiment