SNP’s word of the day: Mutability

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Illustration by Lewis Mirrett

Word: Mutability

Meaning: The quality of being mutable—no, really?—or a marked tendency to change.

Usage: “To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s mortality, vulnerability, mutability.” — super thinker Susan Sontag

You should know it because: That strange vibrato in the air is the sound of a million new Feist albums playing at once. The songbird’s fourth studio work, Metals, is out today, dragging long on the heels of her “1-2-3-4” popularity and a subsequent, deep hiatus. In various interviews she has described feeling uneasy with success and clinging to change, and yes, this album is different. Gone are the torch songs; the extraordinary light of her voice now seems to flicker in a cave. The songs are darker, less accessible, layered with echos and doubt.

My favourite word she’s used on her highly sensitive and articulate press tour is “mutability.” It’s an essential fact of earth-life: species, once thought to be fixed in the natural world order, were proved by Darwin to be mutable. Weather, too, is changing in anti-predictable ways, frightening scientists and poets alike; just read Jo Shapcott’s book of poems, Of Mutability, which likens her own cancer to the sky’s unstoppable moods.

But Feist isn’t quite so heavy about it. Metals, she told NPR, are “unforged and raw, and molten in the centre of the earth, but they can also be turned into little tiny jewellery.” Indeed. Listen to it once, twice, you’ll know: Metals is a keepsake.

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