Skip to content

Broken Social Scenester Debuts Happiness Project


“To be honest, I didn’t expect this to go beyond my living room,” admitted Broken Social Scene guitarist Charles Spearin Wednesday night at Toronto’s Music Gallery, where he debuted the Happiness Project.

We might as well have been in his living room. Spearin had already kicked off his shoes and was treating fans to his experimental, home-spun sound: The recorded voices of family, friends, and neighbors talking about the meaning of happiness were mashed up with a 10-person live band.

The sound of Spearin’s project is somewhere between free jazz and beat poetry. The voices were looped to create an odd symphony through the interplay of storytelling and music. The 10-person band — including harp, violin, piano, drums, trumpet, and saxophone — recreated the Happiness Project’s self-titled debut spot-on.

On one song, a young neighbor to Spearin, named Vittoria, described the springtime as the band imitated birdcalls and played an airborne-sounding jazz with four trumpet solos.

The band lent similar emotional coloring to the stirring story of a deaf girl who regained her ability to hear after reconstructive surgery. “All of a sudden I felt my body moving inside!” a recording of the girl — Spearin’s neighbor, Vanessa — proclaimed, as Spearin’s fuzzed out guitar echoed with sunny vibration. “Then I learned that sound is electricity!”

“Happiness is being open to the unexpected, and there are melodies everywhere,” Spearin told the audience.

The Happiness Project is a profound examination of the mechanics of sound; with the accompaniment of a band, the cadences of a person’s voice become orchestral, redefining the way we perceive human conversation — and emotion.

Another show highlight came during the musical performance that accompanied the taped interview with a woman named Mrs. Morris. “Happiness is love. You can’t just love yourself, you’ve got to love people,” she said, bringing the hometown audience to its feet. “Mrs. Morris, if you’re here, you were a hit,” cheered Spearin. Two rows behind me, a proud woman in her fifties dressed for church, took a bow.

“Mr. Gowrie”
“Mrs. Morris”
Don’t Let The Blind Go Deaf” by Ohad Benchetrit
Trumpet solo performance by Michael Barth

Mrs. Morris (Reprise)

More photos after the jump!

Happiness Project / Photo by Carrie Musgrave

Happiness Project / Photo by Carrie Musgrave

Happiness Project / Photo by Carrie Musgrave

Back to the story