Overlap - Investigations in new and forgotten storytelling

Engaging the Senses

Road Home – Photo by davedehetre on Flickr

Photo: Dave De Hetre via Flickr

Setting a scene in a tight space can be hard; limits in form or length are often-encountered challenges when adapting content for different platforms. If you want an economical example of scene-setting, you could do worse than listen to the song ”Hotel California”.

The track originates from the 1976 album of the same name and was penned by members Don Felder, Don Henley and Glenn Frey. An unsettling tale of a traveller caught in a world of excess and moral ambiguity, the lyrics are both memorable and abstract. They are also interesting in the way they use the senses to tell their story.

We begin on a dark desert highway where impressions of sight, touch and smell are first conjured. The feel of a cool wind is described alongside the aroma of “colitas” – Mexican slang for cannabis buds. The image of the titular hotel emerging from the darkness is similarly evocative. In the same opening verse, references to hearing are mentioned: a “mission bell” and the distant voices of the other occupants that beckon the protagonist.

Before the first chorus four senses have been explored, which leaves taste. Several mentions to food and drink wet the palette in later verses, including wine and pink champagne. Finally, we gather for a feast where “they just can’t kill the beast” – which also adds to the air of horror and dilapidated excess.

Although “Hotel California” is abstract in its lyrics, it creates a tangible world due to its engagement of the senses. It’s a song you can touch, smell and taste while you puzzle its mysteries.

Category: Music

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