An interlude: seemingly-obvious things which people still debate #1 (Pink Floyd)

Where do the “movements” in the Atom Heart Mother “suite” begin and end?

From what we know of the piece’s origin and evolution (even before Ron Geesin got involved), we can deduce that it was never really a suite, just a structured “jam” that expanded over time (as did the various melodic “themes” that provide its framework).  It certainly wasn’t conceived as the piece of “program music” which some critics (Simon Reynolds for instance) interpret it as.

So we can assume that the subtitles were a ruse to extract more publishing royalties (comparable to the “including…” subtitles to all those early King Crimson songs).  In the same way that it doesn’t really matter which bit of “21st Century Schizoid Man” is “Mirrors” – because “Mirrors” doesn’t actually exist – it also doesn’t really matter where the “Breast Milky” is sucked from, or where the “Funky Dung” is dumped.


But… if we’re going to play that game.  The first CD edition of the album actually did divide the epic into six tracks.  So this is our starting point.  The question is: do you agree with their start / finish points?   I think most will answer “well…some of them”.

For whatever it may be worth – here’s my version of it (oops, wrong act)

0.00 – 5.26: Father’s Shout – so all the substantial composed material, all the “main themes” of the piece, can be contained under this heading.  Makes sense to me, because there isn’t a major slackening of tempo during these five minutes, there’s continuity.

5.26 – 10.12: Breast Milky – the choral section (or, prior to that, the “Gilmour falsetto” section).  The title may be just “cattle thematics” in keeping with the album cover…or a reference to the physique of certain ladies in the chorus(?!)

10.12 – 13.20: Mother Fore – the modulation is the turning point, when one movement in the suite gives way to the next.  This is the first part of the funky jamming section.

Here I part company with the mid-’80s EMI CD.

13.20 – 15.29: Funky Dung – I believe the title (definitely “cattle thematics”) must be applied to this section, because the rhythm is still funky, and what the vocalists are singing/intoning is, one might say, a load of bullshit!  Also, because there are only six subtitles, the partial reprise of the Main Theme must be contained herein.

15.29 – 17.50: Mind Your Throats Please – I think everyone agrees that this title must apply to some part of the sound-collage / noise section.  Unlike EMI, however, I would apply it to the first half…

17.50+: Re-emergence – If we all agree that the title must apply to some part of the major reprise of the Main Thematic Material, then, unlike EMI, I would apply it to the entire reprise section, including the part which overlaps into the sound collage (i.e up to “silence in studio!”)