we have a map of the piano is a wonderfully naturalistic song from the story-album Finally we are no one by the quartet múm. It is at its heart a collection of interweaving melodies and rhythms inspired by a mountain stream. The components are simple and unpresumptuous, concording with the charming naïveté that fills the album. The piece begins with a light metallic tapping, suddenly surrounded by the first melody played on a bass guitar and a synthesized rhythym I can only describe as the scattering of pebbles, stones, and drops of water as if lifted from a shallow stream and playfully scattered. New melodies introduce themselves gently, played on keyboards and what sounds like a muted xylophone.

The melodies all suddenly step aside about a minute and a half into the piece as the preternaturally childlike voices of múm's twin vocalists Kristín Anna and Gyða Valtýsdóttir take center stage. They sing together delicately in English, their Icelandic accents lending a fairy tale ambiance to the piece. Slowly each melody fades out, and even one of the women steps aside, until there is merely one voice, one rhythym, and one base melody through the last stanza. Kristín Anna and Gyða move to the background again. More elements disappear until the whole piece almost fades into nonexistence. Then suddenly all the melodies rush forward, joined by new companions on the guitar, clairinet, and various percussion insturments. This new-found energy slowly dissipates again, fading into a series of eerie clicks that eventually begin the next song.

Like Björk, múm is not afraid to take certain liberties with the English language. Their pronunciation sometimes reflects spelling more than spoken language, for example 'little' and 'bottle' pronounced as 'littleh' and 'bottleh'. The effect is perfectly conceived, however, contributing only futher to impressions of pure childhood experience. The actions expressed are both appropriate to the children of Finally we are no one and also reflect múm's own approach to music. In a pleasantly surreal sentiment, they gather up sounds from a mountain brook as if bottling water, gently chiding the stream for moving past so quickly. Their voices and melodies are not their own, but rather the sounds that they 'borrowed' from nature. This deference to their home is what allows their music to be so inexorably Icelandic. Their 'map of the piano' is a map of the Norse land of sagas.

Please don't flow so fast
You little mountain hum
I'll take a bottle down to you

Please don't flow this fast
You hold a little hum
I'll borrow sounds of me for you

Please don't flow so fast
You little mountain din
I'll borrow piano sounds from you

Please don't flow so fast
You little mountain noise
I'll close my eyes and bite your tongue

múm / Finally we are no one / Track 3 / 5:19


The cited lyrics above run to 85 words. The analytical material stands at 400 words. In concordance with E2's new copyright policy, this fits within fair use guidelines. I am, however, attempting to contact múm in order to gain full permission. CST Approved!

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