Fate and Freewill in Music! [B-Block]

Fate and Freewill

While ALL THE PRETTY HORSES can be enjoyed for its compelling action, the novel’s thematic content encourages closer reading. Of all the subtext embedded, it is perhaps the discussions of fate and freewill that rise to the forefront. By its conclusion, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES presents arguments for fate, freewill, and the potential relationship between the two.

To continue examining these ideas, we are going to check out a couple of songs!

Click the link and follow the instructions!


THE TASKFirst, listen to the songs embedded below and read along with the posted lyrics. Then, respond to the following prompts by using the “Leave a Reply” feature at the bottom of the page. As these responses will be used by the class to facilitate discussion, go into as much detail as possible. In short, treat the analysis of lyrics/music just as you would the analysis of text/literature.

A) Identify which song you will be investigating.

B) What is this song’s stance on the issue of fate/freewill? How is this expressed in the lyrics? 

C) Describe the music. What genre is the song? What instruments are used? What do the vocals sound like? How does the music itself contribute to the discussion of fate/freewill?

D) What is the tone/mood of the song? How is this expressed via lyrical/musical content.

E) Imagine that you are creating a soundtrack for McCarthy’s novel. Record a passage (that means quotation and page number) from ALL THE PRETTY HORSES that you think would be well complemented by the song. Describe how the song and the passage work in tandem.


[“Freewill” – Rush – Lyrics]


[“In the Air Tonight” – Phil Collins – Lyrics]

13 thoughts on “Fate and Freewill in Music! [B-Block]

  1. A. The song that I am investigating is “Freewill” by Rush.

    B. The song has a view on freewill saying that people have the ultimate choice of what is going to happen to them in the future. In the lyrics, they are making the argument that you have a choice, even if that choice is leaving it up to fate. In the lyrics it says that “You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill. I will choose a path that’s clear. I will choose freewill.” In the chorus it shows the exact thoughts on free will and it shows that free will will always be a clear path because you, yourself are choosing it. The path will always be what you chose and make of that choice because ultimately choosing “fate” to determine your future is still a choice made. There is no way to escape free will because every decision is a choice made. These lyrics are providing a description on how everything you do is technically your free will.

    C. The genre of this song would be some form of rock. The instruments that you can hear are the drums and the guitars. The vocals, I would say are easy to understand and moderately fast but not too fast that you can’t understand them. The music itself contributes to the topic of free will because it almost seems like the music is very upbeat and trying to get listeners to get excited about making their own decisions in life.

    D.I would say that the tone/mood of the song is upbeat and positive. I think that the band Rush is clearly trying to express a particular mood here and that would be becoming excited and upbeat about making your own decisions, and deciding what happens in your life. I think that the part of the song that really helps show this is the instrumental part. For some reason i think that the band is trying to get across a point that, you can do whatever you really want you just have to make the decision to do that. I also like how the chorus was repeated a lot. I feel like because they kept repeating the same lines of “you can choose…” then having a different ending to that line each time, it really expresses the fact that you really can choose anything you want.

    E.“ And I will never know what her life is. If there is a pattern there it will not shape itself to anything these eyes can recognize. Because the question for me was always whether that shape we see in our lives was there from the beginning or whether these random events are only called a pattern after the fact. Because otherwise we are nothing. Do you believe in fate? Yes mam , I guess I do.” (McCarthy 230)

    I think that this passage would be a good representation of free will because Alfonsa is expressing her thoughts on fate and free will and she basically is saying that if you’re life is going to be determined by fate, you’re not going to realize the pattern and ultimately it is going to be up to your own choice anyways. If we don’t make some of the choices in our life, then our life would be nothing. Alfonsa shows both sides of believing in fate or free will but however in this passage I think that she is leaning more towards the side of freewill.

  2. A) “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins

    B) To me Phil Collins seems to lean more towards fate rather than freewill based on the diction within his lyrics, especially when saying, “And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life…” this sounds a lot like John Grady Cole after losing Alejandra. In addition, it’s describing someting that’s been coming for a long time and that’s unavoidable.

    C) The song itself is would fall into the rock genre. Instrumentally the song has some ominous sounding chords, uses drum machine pattern, some processed electric guitar sounds and and multiple vocal tracks. The addition of other vocal tracks, whose sounds have been altered, add an increased effect on key words to contribute to the atmosphere of the song. You say that because everything is planned so well within the recording of the song that it relates to fate over freewill because there’s no room for any unplanned, freewill-like additions to the song.

    D) The overall mood/tone of the song is somber and ominous. For a majority of the song Phil Collins sings slowly as if he’s telling a story and explain something. Lyrically, you can almost read the song like you would read a short story and doesn’t use very complex language and. Again, instrumentally, with the multiple tracks including the multiple vocals and drum machine they add to the somber and ominous effect that the song has while listening to it.

    E) “He saw very clearly how all his life led only to this moment and all after led nowhere at all. He felt something cold and soulless enter him like another being and he imagined that it smiled malignly and he had no reason to believe that it would ever leave.” (254). The song fits into this scene almost perfectly in my opinion, with the how both Phil Collins and John Grady know what’s going to come and that their entire lives have led up to this one moment. How they both feel a presence in the air around them and both Collins and Grady are describing having to leave something/someone that they love more than anything.

  3. A) The song I chose was “Freewill” by Rush.
    B) The song’s stance is that they believe in freewill, as told in the title. They say that it is always a choice in our life and even if we chose to believe in fate, that is a choice in itself. Life becomes easier when we say that we are not in control of things and they are not in our power. Saying that we believe in free will is where the real challenge comes in. One verse in the song says, “Blame is better to give than receive.” The song writer also expresses that it is a waste of time to say that you are just an unlucky person. It is not being unlucky when you have all the right choices to make. Life is never going to be against you, there is no logic to that belief.
    C)This song would be rock. The instruments they use are many different guitars along with his vocals. The vocals do not sound calming. The singer is more yelling them and trying to get the point across. It also is not calming as much as an upbeat song. This adds to the discussion to get the listener excited about the situation. Free will is perceived as the harder choice to believe in, as it adds pressure to life. This rock song is throwing the idea out at you and not holding back what it is saying about free will. The genre rock fits along nicely with the words and the message.
    D)The tone of the song is very upbeat. It has funny messages in the song and is a serious topic, but not portrayed as serious. It gives the song a lighter and nicer edge to the free will discussion. The tone is expressed in the music by the diction. A particular area with lighthearted words is, “There are those who think they were dealt a loosing hand…They weren’t born in Lotusland.” The mood is not negative, and it in fact wants to lift the listener up. It adds power to the idea when the lyrics are not causing you to feel down.
    E)”you strike me as somebody that maybe tends to be a little hard on theirselves…Maybe the best thing to do might be just to go on and put it behind you.” (p. 291)
    This passage is a good representation of free will because the judge is explaining to John that if something bad has happened, you can move forward and make another choice. The discussion of free will is that there is always options, no matter what choice you make you can make another. Life is up to you, and this judge is explaining to John that he can change things around for himself. He cannot sit there and feel bad for himself, arguing the fate side. He must move along and save himself, not wait to be saved.

  4. A) The song I will be investigating is “Freewill” by Rush.

    B) Based on the lyrics of this song it can be inferred that the lead singer, Geddy Lee, believes that both fate and freewill exist, but the power to choose what you believe is freewill itself. He says, “You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice” implying that freewill trumps all. He does say that he chooses freewill, but I think he is just reiterating the idea that free will is the power to choose what you believe and since he is choosing something at all, it has to be freewill. The power to believe in what you want is free will and I think that is the point that Lee is trying to get across.

    C)The music feels uplifting and positive. It also has a weird sense of mystery to it, like you don’t know what’s going to happen next in the song. I think this quality helps add to the lyrics’ mystery of what to choose. It’s fast beat song, whose lyrics suggest positive thoughts. The vocals also appear to be phrased oddly, to fit the beat, and I think it makes the song sound unique- just like all the decisions you have to make in your life. The genre is rock, and it sounds like only guitars and drums are used (of course besides the lead singers voice).

    D) The tone appears to be moderately happy, its quick and provides positive thoughts. It has this spinning, winding quality that sort of makes you feel like you’re on a carnival ride spinning around. It makes your head spin, which is how the lyrics make you feel trying to decipher your belief in fate vs. freewill. But also, the positive sounding instrumentals coincide with the positive lyrics that you do have the power to believe what you want- that freewill exists. I really think that the lyrics want to emphasize that no matter if you decide what you believe or not, you still chose not to believe and that is freewill. They do this by over-using “You can choose…” over and over again.

    E) “When they woke it was evening. She came from the shower wrapped in a towel and she sat on the bed and took his hand and looked down at him. I cannot do what you ask, she said. I love you. But I cannot,” (254).
    This passage would be well-complemented by this song because in this scene Alejandra is exercising her right to freewill. She has to make this decision, and because she is making a decision fate is no longer an option. She had to decide her own fate- meaning it wasn’t predetermined and she gets to choose. Alejandra chose not to be with John; it was a decision that she made on her own. This song sort of mentions how the ability to have freewill sets people free, and I think that’s how Alejandra feels when she leaves John. Even though its sad for her, she made up her mind and doesn’t have to worry about making such a heartbreaking decision again. She freed John from his curiosity whether she would come with him and now she can move on to rebuild her relationship with her father.

  5. A: Freewill by Rush
    B: Freewill is an obvious proponent of free will. The lyrics talk about making the choice to believe in freewill over destiny or a higher power. By accepting free will you have to take responsibility for your actions, instead of blaming some higher power for your situation.
    C: The Song is probably considered rock or some sort of rockish music. The song uses guitar bass and keyboard to back up the vocals. The singer’s singing is pretty upbeat in contrast to the lyrics. I don’t think the music does too good a job backing up the lyrics. The lyrics themselves contribute to the discussion over free will. The lyrics point out that some people might use fate as an excuse for their situation, a topic that didn’t really come up before.
    D: From a lyrical standpoint the song is pretty dark. The singer however really contrasts the rest of the song. His style of singing sounds way too upbeat in comparison to the rest of the song. The Singer seems out of contrast with the rest of the song. I think the intent of the song is to present an upbeat tone.
    E: “He held out his hands as if to steady himself or as if to bless the ground there or perhaps as if to slow the world that was rushing away and seemed to care nothing for the old or the young or rich or poor or dark or pale or he or she. Nothing for their struggles, nothing for their names, nothing for the living or the dead.”
    I think this passage works well with the song, since it shows that everybody has free will. People pass through life with only what they’ve got. People live and die, but in the bigger scheme of things they don’t matter that much. Regardless of what people believe, what happens happens.

  6. A) The song that I chose was “Freebird” by Rush.
    B) The song very obviously believes in free will and preaches it at every opportunity. Unlike the song “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, which has an artist that believes in fate over free will, this Rush song argues that each and every person has full control of their respective lives. The chorus of the song is simply the singer defending his position and stating that even the choice of which side to believe in is an example of free will. Further in, it is argued that those who believe in fate have no place or reason to pray for a place in heaven.
    C.) The genre of this song would probably be some type of rock. The most notable instruments include guitars and drums which create the upbeat nature of the song. The vocals of the lead singer do not seem to go along with the beat or mood of the instruments as he seems to be almost yelling at the listener, trying to convince them that free will is in fact the correct choice. The music itself contributes to the argument because upbeat nature of the song makes you want to side with the very persuasive lead singer. It may be hard to get really behind the prospect of free will because it puts so much more pressure on someone than fate, but this rock song does a great job at convincing any listener.
    D.) This song is very upbeat and I believe that the band is trying to lure people over to their side of the argument with such positive music that people can easily get behind. I think they are trying to actually get people somewhat excited at the prospect of being able to control what goes on in your life. The chorus mentions that they will choose free will and I think that the are trying to tell everyone that if we realize that we have a choice of what to believe in, then you must believe in free will as it is the only plausible explanation for being able to pick what you believe in.
    E.) “He said that those who have endured some misfortune will always be set apart but that it is just that misfortune which is their gift and which is their strength.” (Pg 235)

    The passage would go along very well with the song “Freebird” as it is basing its claims off the belief that free will exists. It is saying that all men do experience some type of misfortune or tragedy in their lives, but the ones who move on, pick themselves up, and use the lessons learned are the people who are looked up to and respected. If these people believe in fate, they would just continue to go about their lives and wait for whatever was destined to happen next. The people who leave nothing to chance and take life by the scruff of the neck are the ones who become truly successful.

  7. A) I chose the song “Freewill” by Rush
    B) The lyrics to this song feel that freewill and fate are choices. It believes we create our own destinies. “I will choose a path that’s clear, I will choose freewill.” It states that some people feel like “the cards were stacked against them,” when in reality everyone is dealt a fair hand. The lyrics express how unlikely it is that there’s a set plan for us, and that it’s up to us to choose our own destinies.
    C) The pace of the song is pretty fast paced and has a fast best. I would consider the genre of this song to be a soft rock. The instruments include drums, guitar, and maybe electric guitar. The tempo of the music complements the idea of the song very nicely. The idea is that you pick your destiny, you are in charge of your own happiness. With that being said, the tempo should be upbeat and happy as well.
    D) The mood of the song is pretty upbeat, as I said. I would consider it more of a pump up song than a pump down song if you know what I mean. Because the lyrics express that everyone has the ability to “choose a path that’s clear”, it creates a reassuring vibe that yes, you hold power.
    E) “He’d the notion that there would be something in the story itself to tell him about the way the world was or was becoming but there was not. There was nothing in it at all.”(page 21) I can relate John Grady’s quote referring to his disappointment in his mother and her ideals to the song “fix you” by Coldplay. It’s about wanting to change the way a relationship is perceived. It’s about trying to fix what is already so broken (like John Grady’s relationship with his mother) “when you lose something you can’t replace”, the song goes on to say. John can’t replace the relationship he once had with his life in Texas, specifically the relationship with his mother he used to have. The song ties it all together nicely.

  8. A. I am investigating “Freewill” by Rush.

    B. “Freewill” takes the stance of believing in some sort of overlord or supernatural force that decides your fate for you. Geddy Lee sings that “we dance on the strings of powers we cannot perceive,” giving light into the possibility of the presence of a supernatural force, like a “celestial voice,” influencing each of our decisions. The song describes how without a puppeteer we would be “[aimlessly] dancing” through our lives without any sort of guidance. “[Some people] think that they were dealt a losing hand,” meaning they feel like they got the short end of the stick while others are dealt a full house; they don’t believe that they can change this. Lee also describes how we are all “preordained, [prisoners] in chains” to fate without the key to get out of the shackles.

    C. The genre of the song is rock. The instruments used are bass, guitar, drums, vocals, and synthesizer/keyboard. The vocals are meaningful and full of emotion. Geddy Lee, the vocalist, creates emotion through his pronunciation of words and his dynamic contrast, which add different paths to the road he’s creating. In an interview, Lee mentioned that the intense vocals near the end of the song are at the highest end of his vocal range. Higher pitches tend to redirect our focus to what’s being said and at the same time make us more attentive to what’s being said. The music itself has an upbeat feel to it which adds contrast to the feeling of being trapped within fate that the song yields. The music adds a feeling that, despite its negative connotation, fate may be a good thing.

    D. The tone of the song is rather intense with sharp, high pitches near the end of it, but at the same time it has a happy feel. The song is very “on the beat” and has a strict tempo to follow to keep it moving. Being a bass player and comparing this to other songs I listen to, the riffs sound lively. To create this positive tone, the bass line contains no flat notes but rather all natural notes. Flats add a sad timbre and naturals add a happy timbre. At the same time, however, the lyrics add a negative connotation because the idea of fate controlling outcomes is consistently mentioned.

    E. “Because the question for me was always whether that shape we see in our lives was there from the beginning…” (230). This passage is a good representation of fate being the superior force. In comparison to the quotation, the song talks about how events in our lives are predetermined. From this quotation, John Grady Cole is questioning his ability to change fate; he asks himself if the result of Alejandra leaving him was going to happen from the beginning; Cole begins to doubt his ability to change fate and unlock his shackles. Cole is starting to believe in a supernatural force that seems to decide everything about his life.

  9. A. I shall chose “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins.

    B. The lyrics indicates a stance towards both fate and free will. The song is about the sense that something is coming as retribution for an action in my opinion. This can be interpreted as though it was destined to happen. Yet, the singer is seemingly the one that will make it occur by his choice. He vows to make up for his inaction to the event with the person and his friend. The lyric “I remember, I remember don’t worry” is ominous showing that it is unforgettable and unforgivable. Action will be taken against the person by the voice of the song. The real question is was it fate that the person would pay for his action, or was it the free choice of the speaker to seek revenge for his friend?

    C. It falls into the rock category. There is electric guitar and drums that begin half way through the song. The vocals are usually very calm, but with moments of built up emotion. This serves to show pain in the speaker’s voice. The times of emotion show a lack of deliberateness and more of needed release. This indicates a feeling of choice and free will in that he is being genuine with his emotions. Fate is also present in the altered sounds of the vocals which signifies that the speaker is a different person after the event and has no control over this change.

    D. The tone of the song is ominous with an undertone of a vengeful feeling. At first it is slow and ominous, but the song picks up after the drums set in and it goes on to say that something is coming tonight. He says this with emotion after going on the story of his friend and the unknown person and what he had saw. He carries the memories with him all this time, and the way he releases it shows a vengeful feeling when seeing and hearing the actual lyrics like when he says, “the last time we ever met.” He would not even “lend a hand” if the unknown person was drowning.

    E. “When he reached her she lay in her blood in the grass and he knelt with the rifle and put his hand on her neck and she looked at him and her eyes were warm and wet and there was no fear in them and then she died” (282). This and the continuation of the passage reveals a very ominous shows a very ominous tone in the story. The song can help to expand upon this ominous feeling, and it makes one question the past events in the book to think if they were really worth it. The song talks about the past and what will occur because of it.

  10. a. The song that I chose was Freewill by Rush

    b. Not surprisingly, this song advocates the idea that we all have freewill and the ability to effect our future. This is never more clear than in the songs chorus “You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice. If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice. You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill. I will choose a path that’s clear. I will choose freewill.” Thing song argues that although you may believe that you being controlled by some unknown force that determines your destiny, in reality, every choice you make, even the choice not to decide is a decision you are responsible for.

    c. The song is rock. The instruments that are most prevalent are the drums and guitar. The song is upbeat and energized. The vocals are incredibly clear and loud almost as if the singer is trying to make his argument more than he is trying to sing a song. The sporadic melody compliment the message nicely as it seems to symbolize the sporadic tendencies of free will.

    d. I believe that the tone and mood of this song could be described as upbeat but at the same time serious. Almost as if the singer is more concerned with getting his positive message across than he is with singing the song for purely musical purposes.

    e.“He saw very clearly how all his life led only to this moment and all after led to nowhere at all. He felt something cold and soulless enter him like another being and he imagined that it smiled malignly and he had no reason to believe that it would ever leave.” This quote fittingly has to do with the idea of fate. For that reason I would chose in the air tonight as the song to accompany this quote.

  11. A. The song I will be investigating is “Freewill” by Rush.
    B. This song views freewill as a choice that people have in their lives to control what their future will amount to. Throughout the lyrics the message being expressed is of freewill and how it is there for the taking, but if one chooses to leave it up to fate, that is also an act of freewill. In the lyrics, it says “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” These thoughts are carried through the entire song and direct the audience to the underlying meaning of how the choice is always there, whether you choose to do something about it or not. The lyrics to “Freewill” are clarifying how every choice made is a choice made through your own freewill.
    C. “Freewill” would fall under the category of rock. Many different guitars and singers were heard throughout the song. The vocalists are loud, but clear in sound for interpretation and understanding. Coming off as a loud and upbeat song, it almost contributes to the message of freewill, getting the audience attached and interested in the idea of choosing their paths through life. The lyrics tied along with the rhyme and style flow well together in the way that they were incorporated.
    D. This song portrays a lively tone. Expressed through hidden messages in the lyrics, it comes off as if the band is trying to sway the audience in a particular way. Possibly trying to aid to their mindset of freewill being your own choice by playing such upbeat and positive music that would, in their hopes, convince others to take in this message. Where the listeners may then take a pride, joy, or excitement in this decision-making freewill that they have. Working simultaneously with the lyrics is the instrumental aspect to this song. The instrumental playing provides the listener with such a strong beat that it almost over powers you with different feelings of excitement and power to obtain this freewill. The chorus does a fine job convincing you to believe in freewill by the repetition of telling the people that they have the power to choose and make these decisions in their lives. All together it works to give off a positive vibe to the audience.
    E. “Every dumb thing I ever done in my life there was a decision I made before that got me into it. It was never the dumb thing. It was always some choice I’d made before it.”
    I think this passage works well with the song because it is a comment about freewill and how the decisions that were made, through freewill and choices, had effect on the future and outcome down the road. This quote goes to prove the lyrics true that you have the power to your own freewill and you can control your own life. Thus suggesting that fate has nothing to do with it and the choice was made all on its own to determine the outcome.

  12. A.) The song I will be looking at is “In the Air Tonight”.
    B.) This song by Phil Collins is more on the side of fate. His words that are repeated many times state that “he can feel it coming in the air tonight”. I only think he is talking about a feeling such as that of fate. By stating that he “has been waiting for this moment his whole life”, I would imagine this is something fate has in store for him that he cannot change because it is bound to happen.His choice of lyrics are not by any means close to describing free will because it sounds as if he has not done one thing to alter his life. The lyrics state that he is just waiting around for something to happen instead of going out and doing things himself.
    C.) This song would have to be put into the rock genre. It starts off slow with a repeating drum pattern. I can also hear an electric guitar in the backround. Together the drums and guitar along with the vocals are a true 80s rock song. The vocals have a eerie feeling to them like something could pop out at any minute, kind of like an act of fate. The music itself contributes to fate because of the suspense and anxiousness built up into the song. Like I said, it gives you this feeling that something is about to happen. Like fate, you never know what truly is going to occur if you dont take action.
    D.) The mood of this song is very eerie and almost creepy. The whole time it has you on the edge of your seat waiting for something to happen. Lyrics like, “Ive been waiting” and “I can feel it coming in the air tongiht” showcase the eerie and creepy mood given throughout the song. The lyrics give a sense of anxiety along with suspense of what is going to happen.
    E.) “He walked through the narrow twisting streets of the town with its ancient buildings and small esequestered plazas. The people seemed dressed with a certain elegance. It had stopped raining and the air was fresh. Shops had begun to open. He sat on a bench in the plaza and had his boots shined and he looked in the shopwindows trying to find something for her” (page 248). I think the song would fit perfectly right at this moment. At this point John Grady is anxious and waiting for something to happen between him and Alejandra. The suspnse of him walking down the streets, passing people, waiting to see his true love is supsense in itself. With the lyrics of the song coinciding, he knows something is going to happen when he sees her, but he does not do anything to alter the acounter he sort of just lets it happen.

  13. A)Freewill by rush
    B)Freewill by Rush is in favor of free will. It blames the theory of fate on people who would rather blame something else for their situation than take responsibility for what has happened. This is the line that goes “Blame is better to give than receive” He argues religion is part of this fate idea as well, that it is easier to believe in than free will.
    C)The song is a rock or alternative style song, and I feel like this is in comparison with the kind of people that believe in free will. The younger generation and their kind would be attracted to this song like they would be attracted to the idea of free will.
    D)The tempo of the song is very fast and dynamic. This is the manner in which the song states that events in reality happen.
    E)I think that this song would go well with the scene of Blevins and the partners running away from the Mexicans after stealing their horse back. This one of the most tense and high energy moments of the story, and it does go along with the theme of free will. This is the event committed by Blevins that ultimately brings him his downfall.

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