[27 May 2007]
“I once had a girl, or should I say . . .”
No, that’s John’s line. Me, being different, mine better start cleaner. Clearer. Something more kosher, like thus:
I once had an acquaintance who wrote songs for a living. Apparently she had a knack for it since she managed to cut 5 records (remember those vinyl things?) and 3 CDs over the past couple decades. Because I had a past life in music (well, after a fashion) sometimes we sat around and kicked song titles or themes about. Just for the jest of it.
”Hey, how about a song about a couple meeting for a date, only they screw up their coordinates and board trains going in opposite directions, and end up in different cities? Call it something like ‘wrong-headed rendezvous’.”
“You can do better, then go ahead.”
“Well sure. How about the ballad of a guy and girl who fall for each other after he almost drowns and she has to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Call it ‘breath-taking love’.”
“You really think that’ll sell? Well, no wonder you’re holding chalk in a classroom.”
Despite appearances, you play that game long enough, you come to realize that there are any hundred or thousand of ways to get a song sung, which is helpful to a writer who is struggling to see lyrical or musical possibilities in a different way; to get off the creative snide; a person pressing to surmount the hackneyed hump. Or . . . something like that. It’s kind of like that Larry McMurtry character in Some Can Whistle, the writer with verbiage block who whiles his days away spinning out the possible opening sentences for the novel he can not write – to his way of thinking, simply because he can’t seem to latch onto the perfect opening.
Well there’s delusion and then there is stupidity. I mean, an opening would help. But so would a plot and hefty amounts of characterization.
You know—kinda like this blog.
Actually, today’s entry is about traversing through the world of musical ideas and how variegated that trek can sometimes be. It is about how one day this musical pal of mine and I were talking and one of us (probably me) observed the almost-too-great-to-ignore coincidence that there are these words in Japanese that are really close in sound, but distinctive in meaning, which could work just swimmingly juxtaposed in song. Those words are: “wakarenai” (which means “can’t separate”) and “wakaranai” (which means “don’t understand”). And the challenge—at least in this iteration of the game—was to think of ways to enable those two to meet in a plausible, intelligible way. Something like “I don’t know why I can’t break up with you” – which sounds trite (if not lame) in English, I suppose, but actually it has an outside chance of breaking the bank in Japanese. There is a real alliterative dynamic going for it, as well as a serviceable association. Take my word for it.
Anyway, that’s just an example of the game. Maybe not the best, but somehow a representative case. And, that might just explain why I’m out of the music business and my pal is probably still working on that particular song (and may never finish).
In fact, she had other projects keeping her busy. Because her audience tends to be career women, she decided that her next CD would be a themed package about their world. This is a rather large consumer group in Japan now: people who have forsaken the “quit job, get married, have kids” routine in exchange for a steady office gig. So, the songstress’s idea was to write a song for each day of the week, moving through the seven-day cycle that a lot of these women experience. Not a bad idea and, the last time I heard the songs, it seemed that they came out just great. Even so, I felt there was something missing, and I told her so—often and with grating singularity. What was lacking, I kept nagging, was a holiday song. You know, a tune about the day that departs from the in-and-out of daily existence. Something she could offer as a bonus track at the end to provide the package with an aura of extra bargain. You know, a marketing strategy to go with the art.
Well, the artist (being an artist) wasn’t much concerned about (or swayed by) the marketing talk. So, we went back and forth on that one. She said her producer was only up for the seven songs; and she said that she was not sure a holiday fit the one-week format.
Maybe. But still I had this idea which, of course, I shared with her during one of our “how about a song about this . . . ?” sessions. The notion came to me when she confessed that, given that she lived alone, it was always a special thing to wake up next to her lover on those days that he came over. Especially when he opened his eyes and she peered deep inside them. Which is when I shouted:
Which for this exchange, was the equivalent of “Eureka!” And after she finished rubbing her eardrum, pulling it back from the brink of numbness, she said:
And I replied: “You’ve got all these office lady and career girl types and what they are really pining for is the real deal, bingo-boffo romance.”
“Yeah. So . . . ?”
“So what they want to hear is that romantic b.s. about how, you know, you wake up next to him and you open your eyes and there he is—that gorgeous hunk that provides meaning in your life—and you’re staring at him for a while, studying him, willing him to love you, and then he opens his eyes, and everything in your consciousness fades.”
“Sure. Every worry about the next car payment, or buying a new pair of stockings for the next job interview, or having to go visit mom next weekend – and boy how you’re getting tired of her asking ‘when you going to get married?’ every time you visit – and what you’re going to fix for breakfast in fifteen minutes since you only have one egg and a stalk of celery and maybe a five week-old half-eaten package of processed cheese.”
“Okay. But . . . this consciousness of mine? It, like . . . fades to what?”
“Well, it fades to happiness, of course. To a sense of freedom. To a feeling of release.”
“And when it does—everyday becomes a holiday.”
“That’s a song?”
“Well, it’s a start. An idea. I don’t know. It could be . . . “
I actually don’t know if it could be. It’s kind of syrupy. My son would say “cheesy”. Corny, sugar-coated, saccharine. But it’s got something. Maybe. In the right hands. Which would be key here. Something like:
Every day / when we rise
and I gaze into my lover’s open eyes
I gain release / From the everyday
And every day becomes a holiday
My lover’s open eyes / Transport me
From the everyday
Away . . . from offices, phones and menus
From family, fashion and “have-to”s . . . away
And every day becomes a holiday
Through my lover’s eyes
I soar above the ground, the trees, the seas
When I gaze into my lover’s open eyes / Every day . . . becomes my day away
At play, through my lover’s eyes / Every day . . . becomes a holiday
Well, now you know why my bread isn’t buttered through the tills of Sony Records.
And I don’t know if this songstress would ever use the lyric—or even the idea. (Would you?). But then, that’s okay. I hear that there are hundreds—maybe even thousands—of songs out there just waiting to be written.
For me, maybe not every day. But one day. Yeah one day I’ll stop this breakneck pace through my extended peripatetic life, long enough to stop and pen one myself.
Some day. One day.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/song-swapping/