The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Scene selections: surveillance listening

, , , and | Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Ellis Riojas | The Observer

“Harmony Hall” by Vampire Weekend

Ryan Israel, Scene Editor

The lyrics to Vampire Weekend’s “Harmony Hall,” the first single off of Scene’s favorite album of 2019 “Father of the Bride,” are eerily applicable to the present moment. With some slight tweaks, “We took a vow in summertime / Now we find ourselves in late December” becomes early September. “And the stone walls of Harmony Hall bear witness / Anybody with a worried mind could never forgive the sight / Of wicked snakes inside a place you thought was dignified / I don’t wanna live like this, but I don’t wanna die” rings true when it’s the stone walls of Notre Dame stadium rather than Harmony Hall. And the last line, well, that’s applied to just about every moment of the last six months.

If the lyrics hit too close to home, try focusing on the guitar chords. This two-hour-long video of “Harmony Hall” guitars may help.


“This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” by The Talking Heads 

Colleen Fischer, Scene Writer

So, I was going to pick “Harmony Hall” but I see that Ryan beat me to it. This led me to scroll through my playlist only to see this staple. Taking one of the most endearing and sincere love songs ever written out of context in order to twist it for some weird sense of irony brings me strange, convoluted joy. It also seems fitting in these unprecedented times when it’s almost as if hope and naivety are morphing into synonyms. Lyrics such as, “The less we say about it the better / Make it up as we go along … It’s okay, I know nothing’s wrong nothing,” might be able to offer you a sort of comfort as you stand in line to get tested. If you want to pass the time pretending you’re in a dramatic movie montage, The Lumineers’ cover of the tune might be a better fit than the usual upbeat one. The song might even convince you to think, “I guess I must be having fun,” while the world’s chaos surrounds you.


“Panic” by The Smiths

Willoughby Thom, Scene Writer

“Panic on the streets of [South Bend] / Panic on the streets of [Notre Dame] / I wonder to myself / Could life ever be sane again?”

I received notice that I was chosen for surveillance testing and “I wonder to myself,” how long will this take?

I’m not worried. I’m not concerned. It’s only surveillance. I stand in disbelief that this is our new reality.

I keep hearing that anxious voice in my head say, “But honey pie, you’re not safe here;” however, I know this is the place I need to be.

Thanks to the blistering sun and the power of suggestion, I feel my throat go dry and my head starts pounding. It’s only surveillance testing, you remind yourself, “But there’s [still] panic on the streets of [Notre Dame].”

I’m just dehydrated.

I listen to music, but “[it’s] the music that [I] constantly play,” and I become aware of how much life has changed.

No matter how calm we may seem, we’re all panicking inside.


“Where Is My Mind” by The Pixies

Nia Sylva, Scene Writer

“Where is my mind?” Ideally, anywhere but here. I haven’t been surveillance tested yet, but I imagine that if (or when) I do, I’ll practically be begging my mind to wander away — from the interminably of waiting in line, from the perhaps irrational fear that I will test positive and “become another statistic,” and, most of all, from the reality of a world in which such testing is necessary in the first place.

If my consciousness is going to go on some sort of journey, a scuba-diving trip with The Pixies seems like as good a place as any.

“I was swimmin’ in the Caribbean / Animals were hiding behind the rock.” Sounds nice. I’d certainly rather have my “feet on the air and [my] head on the ground” than my feet on the ground and my head in the Notre Dame football stadium. “Your head will collapse / If there’s nothing in it;” a little collapse is a lot better than a huge existential crisis or a glimpse of my own mortality — sorry to be dramatic.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to let your mind float away on the song’s chorus of eerie “ooh”s. Allow yourself to get lost in the echoing question, if only for three minutes and 51 seconds: “Where is my mind?”


“Out of the Woods” by Taylor Swift

Claire Rafford, Assistant Managing Editor

Being alive in 2020 feels like living in a state of limbo –– caught somewhere between normality and insanity, waiting for the medical miracle that will allow the world to get back to some state of inertia. Though it came out in 2014, Taylor Swift’s synth-pop anthem “Out of the Woods” is a song acutely tuned to the vibes of this year. Swift’s lyrics are catchy, though fairly repetitive –– echoing “Are we out of the woods yet” over and over, which pretty much sums up the waiting game that has been this year so far.

Swift is famous for her bridges, and this one — reliably rumored to be about a snowmobile accident she experienced with ex-boyfriend Harry Styles — is one of her best, elevating the song from an earworm to a masterpiece. This section brings in Swift’s signature narrative voice, beginning: “Remember when you hit the brakes too soon / 20 stitches in the hospital room,” a refreshing personal anecdote in a song that mostly leans towards the universal. The bridge’s ending phrase provides some answers in a song — and world — full of questions: “But the monsters turned out to be just trees / When the sun came up you were looking at me,” giving just the slightest glimmer of hope in the darkness and reminding us to look forward to the day when this will be over and we can finally breathe again.

Until then, as you wait for your (hopefully) negative test result, let Swift’s lyrics fill you with trusting anticipation: “Are we out of the woods yet / … Are we in the clear yet, good.”

Tags: , , , ,

About Willoughby Thom

i am the scene editor! if you didn't know already, my favorite band is Oingo Boingo.

Contact Willoughby

About Ryan Israel

Contact Ryan

About Claire Rafford

Claire is a senior from Tempe, Arizona majoring in English and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy and Business-Economics. She peaked when her team won the Battle of the Books state championship in 2011.

Contact Claire

About Colleen Fischer

Contact Colleen

About Nia Sylva

Contact Nia