Pink Floyd’s Echoes: an edifying song about universal empathy

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Echoes: the best Pink Floyd’s song, according to many. A poetic lyrics, intensely wrapped in deep and intimate harmonies. A complex song that was born by coincidence: while Richard Wright was playing the amplified piano filtered by a Leslie rotating speaker, a note went into resonance, a feedback. Listening to it, the band considered those sounds interesting and worked on it. Since it happened by change, the possibility to repeat the same sound was practically zero, so they just decided to add the sound recorded on that day in the beginning of the song. A sound poem, with sci-fi lyrics and surreal atmospheres.

Part of Meddle’s tracklist, Echoes was originally called Return to The Sun Of Nothing and was first performed, with this title, on May 15th, 1971, at the Garden Party in London’s Crystal Palace. The track marks an important breakthrough in the topics usually touched by Pink Floyd: the attention of the band, which slowly abandoned Syd Barrett’s psychedelic imaginary, moved towards the human dimension and the interaction among us.

But what is its meaning? Echoes, as Roger Waters declared in an interview, was the attempt to describe “The potential that human beings have for recognizing each other’s humanity and responding to it, with empathy rather than antipathy.

The song describes precisely the potential that mankind has and has remained unexpressed, suffocated by ambitions, by the pursuit of success, power and money. The whole song is an invite to meditate, to rejoin the universe, to full harmony. An invite to seek what’s essential, to target the sharing, the solidarity, the abandon of our individualism.

Strangers passing in the street
By chance two separate glances meet
And I am you and what I see is me

These verses are emblematic: two foreigners looking at each other, realizing that they are a single subject that lives the reality “subjectively”, a reality that should be actually abandoned, putting aside our selfishness. We are talking about searching for universal empathy. In the first part of the lyrics, we talk about human existence, where everyone is asking questions and where someone tries to find the light, the answers.

And no-one knows the wheres or whys
But something stirs and something tries
And starts to climb towards the light

They evolution of lyrics and music represents an initiatory path, a spiritual quest that evolves note after note.

An original and unusual way to fully enjoy this masterpiece? The video below, combining the music and images extracted from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

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Dario Giardi loves music, photography and writing, and is the author of “Travel among notes. The Secrets of Theory and Musical Harmony”. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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