Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tough Love

Shut yourself in a dark room in the daytime
Fill it with your own oppressive smoke
Your eyes will water--really you're just self-blind
Better realize it's you before you choke

If you're not happy, do something about it!
If you're not happy, do something about it!

So you stumbled on a tripwire that you strung out
When you promised everyone you had control
And you fell into your pride now you can't get out
Until you return to yourself the time you stole

If you're not happy, do something about it!
If you're not happy, do something about it!

You say the world is just a darkened mirror
You can't see anything that's worth your sweat
It's only you and you don't know what you're here for
Well, if you're all alone, then alone take your first step!

If you're not happy, do something about it!
If you're not happy, do something about it!
You have to see: you're the one who can
You have to be more than just a plan

And you medicate yourself with words and plans to fix yourself
But those pills are blowing clouds across your eyes
You slide into bed thinking that you're really doing well
Forgetting that you haven't even tried!

I'm sorry that I couldn't fix your problems
I can't accept the gift of all your grief
Once you climb a person, you can't be down there with them
I can't move 'cause I'm buckling underneath

If you're not happy, do something about it!
If you're not happy, do something about it!
You have to see: you're the one who can
You have to be more than just a plan


My mom recently asked me if I ever planned to post any happy songs, so here's one with an explicitly positive message. Real life is real life, though, and most ideas I end up writing about are at least touched by trouble. Sorry!

To my memory, I've only performed this song once, at a Whitman Coffeehouse in 2006. Revisiting the words, I'm pretty happy with the flow, straightforward economy, and a few nifty bits. But the music is straightforward and poppy, especially compared to the kinds of stuff I've been working on recently, so I don't know how well it'd fit. Recently, though, I've been thinking more about how a lot of artists these days obediently accept the conventions of a single genre, which can get a bit boring, unless it's really well done (I think I was reading a review referencing the eclecticism of the Al Kooper-led Blood Sweat and Tears album Child Is Father To The Man). Then again, you can't be too eclectic--you've got to have a recognizable sound, and there's danger of becoming a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none. Getting way off track here.

Not too much going on that can't be gleaned from reading the words. Mostly it deals with those times a person (sometimes myself, sometimes others, as is often the case) spends more time lamenting problems, feeling sorry for oneself, and rationalizing depression by blaming others when the only real solution is taking responsibility and owning the agency to improve the situation. The side note in the bridge is the maddening practice of "OK, this sucks, I'd better do something. Wow, it felt good to admit that--I'll get around to dealing with the problems tomorrow, maybe." Meanwhile, time passes.

Maybe I'll resurrect this one for the next gig.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Rules Are Changing

Naked soil, barren earth
The sun is shining down for what it's worth
Writhing field, funny crop
Flailing, scrambling just to stay on top

Full and fat today by forcing fields to fallow
Bodies pressed together meet a hungry end tomorrow

The rules are changing
The rules are changing

Chasing blackness, dripping gold
Guiding sparks inside the things we hold
Making journeys sitting still
Entrusting labor to an easy fill

Speeding South today by spinning wheels with smoke
Tomorrow journeys screech and halt as fires cough and choke

The rules are changing
The rules are changing

Sweating earns phantom power
Trading numbers for a safer tower
Rules are set, deals are made
Symbols printed, everyone gets paid

Paper notes in piles today make bags and pounds of plenty
Tomorrow numbered paper just won't fill a mouth that's empty

The rules are changing
The rules are changing


A pretty straightforward song. It's probably not inaccurate to say that overpopulation is at the root of almost every major problem facing the human race, and the curve shows no signs of tapering off. Unfortunately, food and energy aren't unlimited, and there's a good chance many of us will live to see serious crises on both fronts. If we do, the things we take for granted (labor made easy with the help of cheap power, cheap and abundant food) will be even harder to come by than they already are today (for much of the world's population, that is). In that kind of situation, the basic economic system (money=goods or services)--in which we all have so much faith--could poof-be-gone like the illusion it truly is. At that point, I'm not sure exactly what the rules will be (Cormac McCarthy's The Road might be onto something), but they're sure going to be different. What can we do about it? I wish I knew. The head-in-the-sand status quo doesn't seem to be doing us many favors. This song has music but something's missing--it might just be too straightforward or too unrelentingly dark, but I do like some of the words and the rhythm. I'll see what I can do. Meanwhile, please enjoy this tea-stained lyric sheet.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Head in the Clouds (Clarity)

Head in the clouds
Vapor zones
Blurry edges--hazy borders
Escaping capture
Disappointing grasping fingers
Established ghosts mock expectations
With the unquestionable touch of rain

Head's in the clouds
Feet not far below
Dangling out of touch with something solid
On the ground, with sense consensus
Is the ideal position
To stage the tired compulsory spectacle
No choosing--celebrate the magnificent piles we've made!

Head in the clouds
The inevitable diffusion
Viewpoints equal, denominators common
The skies--now--the only show--one!
Shield your eyes with illusion now, you'll see it later
Or stare now while you can feel


I'm in the process of setting these admittedly abstract words to music; sort of a dreamy but insistent guitar part with some tone painting and a growing between-verse guitar line that splits into R and L stereo channels for some hopefully interesting psychedelic interplay. We'll see. It'll certainly be difficult to realize by myself in a live setting, but the sound of the recorded version is already pretty well-formed in my head.

Since I'm trying to babble less extensively about these words, here are a few way markers. The song uses the familiar figure of speech "head in the clouds" to evoke the battle between abstract, mystical, imaginative thinking and extremely rational, cause-and-effect, score-keeping thinking. The first verse illustrates the mystical process--reality clearly exists as a force to be intuitively experienced, but its purpose is unclear--you can't deny the feeling of rain, but the abstract idea of the process of rain forming in the sky is difficult for the human mind to comprehend and express. Verse 2 more disparagingly refers to the rational denial of those types of thinking ("Get your head out of the clouds!") in favor of peaceful interaction with the rational world we strive to create for ourselves in human society (i.e. the "magnificent piles we've made," which is probably one of my more venomous images for the status quo). The third verse asserts that large, abstract and greater-than-human processes are at work whether you want to bury your head in society's sand or not. Ironically, the two viewpoints aren't really mutually exclusive, though today's world seems to have a large enough body of rational evidence that many people seem uninterested in contemplating what's going on beyond the reality that is immediately affecting their personal worlds.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

On Sacrifice

Hand on my shoulder
You rocked me awake, gently
I knew I was struggling
I knew I'd grown older
You reached for my hands when they could only take
And you showed me that everything's good when you give it so free

Then you made me afraid of what you might do
You scared me so badly

Loving me
You remade my eyes--clearly
Colors, faces, reasons for living
That I couldn't see
You poured out your love and you sang to the skies
And you brought me to life when my future had died--nearly

Then you twisted in rage and cut me down
Clutching my face, dragging me closer
Mocking my past--pushing my future
Taking your gifts, refusing to leave
Slitting your throat to save my life


An exercise in surprise; exaggerated happiness undercut by sudden ugliness. This song comes from a difficult, painful place. I'm arranging it minimally; a far-ranging vocal melody barely accompanied by some guitar. As far as surprise goes, it should be fairly effective in performance.

Monday, July 27, 2009

No More (In the World of Men)

I come from a home where the guns are cocked
The book is open and the safe is locked
Wide open spaces are holes to be filled
Babies just breathing await to be billed
Diseases and difference just need to be pilled
Everyone pays when the black stuff gets spilled

You don't need to ask questions when the answers are wrong!
You just get us excited when you talk about change
Can you really change a habit when you've had it this long?
We think we need ideas, but we need something strange...

I see what you're pushing and I've seen it before

I come from a home where the end is near
The walls are thin and the pace is fear
I live in a place where the past is a tower
The purpose is fluid and the illusion is power
Senses are gods and they won't be ignored
Your rights and your wrongs will be tallied and scored
Life is one exit and it's got to be doored
The food chain got topped and we're really just bored

You don't need to ask questions when the answers are wrong!
You just get us excited when you talk about change
Can you really change a habit when you've had it this long?
We think we need ideas, but we need something strange...

I see what you're pushing and I've seen it before



Get ready for Elliot 2.0, the guy who actually updates this blog regularly. This surge is what we need! This is a favorite of my newer songs--in my endless questing after good music, I've come to realize that the songwriters with the gravest messages come across more effectively when their seriousness is not all-encompassing and is sometimes leavened with appropriate doses of irreverence or, at the very least, scornful mockery. So, I try to keep the humor principle alive, especially since it's a large part of my non-music life.

Looking back on my past postings, I realize I've tried to write too much after every song, mostly in fear that nobody really reads poetry analytically these days. That may be so, but it's probably best to explain less and hope someone can appreciate the serious brain sweat I've put into this stuff just from reading (or later hearing) it. Henceforward, I'll strive to annotate less.

This song is pretty recent and was set to music quickly after being written. It's been a favorite of mine because I'm very happy with both the images used to describe our society, and also the way the words flow with the music. This song is a resounding rejection of the same rhetoric, list of problems, ways of thinking, and list of solutions we've been force-fed from every angle for as long as we can remember. Bullshit! Instead of a repackaged version of what we've already heard, seen and done, the only thing that's going to provoke actual """"change"""" is something known to the English-speaking Buddhist world as "expedient means"--a shocking, strange but simple event that grants deep and profound insight. Unfortunately I'm not sure if this is really possible on a large-scale level, since I've mostly seen it happen on an individual basis. Here's hoping. Something like the sudden worldwide absence of electricity or food might do the trick, but it's also likely that by the time those eventualities come around we'll not be in a very efficacious position as a species to act on our new insight.

More incoherent blathering:

The format exhibited in “No More” is a big aspect of my current MO: a bit longer, more of a dynamic range between loud/soft and fast/slow, with a sense of drama, and with the music often attempting to conceptually illustrate the poem. The song’s in an open guitar tuning---DADGAD (thanks Davy, thanks Roy); you’ll get to hear me bust out some lead guitar and also a bit of slide (more of that later).

The words focus on the peculiar state of the modern human condition—I’m not sure we think very often about just how different the experience of our lives is compared to 100 years ago, or maybe even less. I think our arrogant fascination with some of our civilization’s “advances” denies some of the types of favors we’re not doing ourselves in terms of our longevity as a species and the quality of experience we reach as individual human beings.

Revisiting and re-singing these words over and over for recording, I’ve been pretty satisfied with the fulfillment of my vision for this song—the verses start with one poetically-dense stanza where the lines ideally contain layered meaning (“I come from a home where the guns are cocked” is supposed to represent our violent nature, but also the underlying male/penis connections when it comes to aggression and guns, or “I live in a place where the past is a tower” is meant to illustrate one of the primary human characteristics that sets us apart from other animal species—we have a continually-growing collective record of history from which we all [more or less] benefit, but also the fact that our pride in that history and our accomplishments has given us a sense of superiority over our surroundings that is causing us untold problems). I don’t want to insult anybody’s interpretive abilities, and the meaning of poetry is also meant to be determined by the reader/listener, but for those interested I’ll fill in some more blanks further down after the lyrics—I also use these notes as an opportunity to process my work personally.

The second halves of the verses are more direct observations, and the chorus concludes that our inertia is great enough that we won’t be able to use our own tools to solve our problems—to really wise up and overcome ourselves, we need some sort of catastrophe to act as an “expedient means” for immediate understanding. This song is a rejection of the stale political solutions (even attractive, eloquent liberal ones), ways of thinking, and ways of thinking, speaking and communicating that bore me to death on a daily basis. The refrain at the end mocks this repetitiveness with a little bit of humor…something from my personality that doesn’t get a chance to show up quite as often in my more serious songs as I’d like. Hopefully it leavens the heavy message a bit. If you’re still reading, you’re either procrastinating from something more important(!), of maybe you’re my biggest fan…tomorrow I’ll do something a bit…quieter.

More notes:

“The Book is open” is about how the different religious scriptures often dominate our behavior as a species in questionable ways, but also that the interpretation of these texts is “open,” and people will always bend them to their own predetermined rationalizations regardless of the texts’ supposed authority.

“the safe is locked” has to do with the effort we expend on gathering and protecting material wealth, but also that our wealth is inaccessible to a great deal of our population.

“I come from a home where the end is near” details the irony between the perennial crisis many religions have been perpetuating over the past 2,000 years about some god catastrophe being imminent and the more measurable ways that the end of our species and civilization is threatening.

“The walls are thin”—our technological and governmental advances mean that our privacy is sacrificed daily, and also our gross overpopulation means that you can hardly turn around without bumping into somebody else.

“The pace is fear”—find me a more common motivator for human behavior.

“The purpose is fluid”—we’re so adept at shifting our reasoning and convictions to suit our wants that we can’t even separate our true wills from our own hot air, and let’s not forget—the whole basis of our tenuous living existence on this planet is fluid—water.

“and the illusion is power”—illusion might produce tangible power more often than physical force (just watch the news, and I’m not only talking about FOX), and also the power we think we have over our lives, over each other, over our actions and over our physical habitat in the long-term, is ultimately a laughable fallacy. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Box Elder (Virtue Complete)

You're out of order!
At least, any order I can see
You don't even know why you do the things you do, but you do them!
Ugly, even hideous in eyes that fail to see beyond near sight

Slender branch no good for burning
growth not quick enough returning
winding trunk too bent for planing,
and a grain unfit for staining
Not worth chopping, stopping interest
in your wisdom buried deep

Bend in a breeze you don't need to understand and
if you break, it's ok.
Bending, breaking, who decided they were different anyway?
You never know; you feel
Everything imaginary, everything is real

You sprang from a great clod
You sprang, an unhewn log
You sprang from yourself!

The laws that you obey change with the wind
As soon as you begin the old rules blow away
but you don't mind

Action is overrated; supple reaction makes for taller growth
Growing toward a fall
Falling to the sky

When they think they know what's good
they will cut you down to make room for square plans
Plans that stand til wind blows
Plans based on good that is not bad
With an end that is not beginning
Because they know when they go they do not return
When they are gone for good you will begin
from end anew

Bend in a breeze you don't need to understand and
when you break, it's ok.
Bending, breaking, who decided they were different anyway?
You never know; you feel
Everything imaginary, everything is real

From the In Not-Even-Anything Land CD Tray

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This is one of my favorite creations from the summer of 2007. The titular box elder is pictured above--it's located on my aunt and uncle's farm in Walla Walla, among my favorite (if not my very favorite) places to be. It's a curious tree--not particularly pretty, symmetrical or shapely. It tends to blow over, break and continue growing in odd directions. It's also a great place to sit in the shade on a hot Walla Walla day. The tree reminded me of a couple stories from the Chuang Tzu about a tree that grows to a monstrous size because it isn't ideal for any of the applications for which humans cut trees down. So, by being useless, the tree lives a happy and long life.

The song is meant to be a mess with no apparent structure (poetically or musically), just like the tree. I'm pretty happy with the words I've chosen insofar as they evoke a number of meanings (for me anyway) and I've been a little unhappy with my tendency to explain too much on this blog, so I'll just say generally that we humans seem to try to understand structure and usefulness from a fairly limited perspective--and often with catastrophic results--when in reality what's "good" (more like what's efficacious) is less fixed and more situational. Perhaps an alternative to attempting to understand and control unfathomable and uncontrollable situations and events (like, why are we here, man?) a bit more supple and reactive attitude might result in a deeper intuitive understanding of what's going on. Less wordily: Go with the flow, and nothing can break you. Or maybe it will break you, but maybe being broken isn't a problem from a wider perspective.

In seeming validation of this trash heap of a song, the rough winter of '07 and '08 kicked this tree's ass pretty bad--it lost some major limbs and looks much less full, and perhaps a bit uglier. It's still growing strong, though. I'm about halfway through putting this song to music which mimics the lyric's formlessness. It probably won't be easy listening, but then again I'll probably have a smile on my face when I sing it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This Stretch of Road

Tenderness and words so full of meaning
Slopes of pleasure down which your thoughts just keep careening
For the first time the only thing you want is more
Yeah, you had all of these things, before

Is this love?
It's not what you're thinking of
When did it become a chain to the place you're coming from?

Second chances never turn out like the first
'Cause they start with promises that just end up hurting worse
No matter how bright the memories of old
You can't start a fire from ashes gray and cold

Is this love?
It's not what you're thinking of
When did it become a chain to the place you're coming from?

Sometimes the future seems so very far away
When the echoing past holds you hostage here today
Oh don't compromise your hope with this constant throbbing pain
You won't ever walk this stretch of road again

Is this love?
It's not what you're thinking of
When did it become a chain to the place you're coming from?
Where are you going?


After a busy move and settling down in the new place a bit, I'm back.

For the most part I think writing a song about love is like standing in line to beat a dead horse's grave, especially with a lot of today's songwriters--even so-called experimental musicians don't seem capable of stretching outside of their own sighing and navel-gazing to come up with words that challenge something outside the lowest common denominator. It's tough not to become desensitized to the entire subject, though I'm still partial to a love song done well, as long as it's not an album full of them. Suffice to say, if I'm going to write a song about romantic love, I hope to do it in a way that approaches the subject from a fresh angle and/or imbues the song with some authentic and compelling emotion (though even that is becoming hackneyed these days).

A lot of people seem to define love as some sort of objective phenomenon that exists based on criteria outside of their control. Being "in" love and "out of" love become black-and-white states and people seem to put up with a lot of unacceptable behavior from others because they've already signed the "I love you" contract. I've suspected for a while that love (in any transcendental sense) is a flimsy concept, and that each person probably has a unique, very complex definition surrounding love, and that's probably the only real (extremely subjective) standard by which all things "love" should be measured--on an individual basis.

The first verse starts out describing a seemingly ideal situation between two people only to reveal that the good times are now memories. Verse two describes the perpetual descent of the relationship into repeated pain in the hope that the old happy times can be re-attained. Finally, the third verse encourages a break in the cycle and alludes to now as a time that is precious and won't be repeated. All the while the chorus asks--is this constantly painful relationship, this ghost of past emotional pleasure, this daily defeat, is this LOVE? If the answer is yes, perhaps the "love" contract you signed and are tragically trying to uphold needs to be compared with reality and the pros and cons need to be weighed. Not the happiest or easiest proposal, but the payoff comes in the potential of the future and freedom from the energy vacuum of a negative situation.

A pretty simple song about owning up to reality and actively making your own life better (by cutting your losses, if need be), written from the heart in empathy for a friend. Why trap yourself in the confines of someone else's definition of love when you can define, embrace, and bestow your own version of love on someone who will appreciate it?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

It's beneath my dignity to use my feet
Legs are for squatting; legs are for shaving
The hiss of tires, the thump of shocks is something sweet
Ancient blackened corpses are for burning, not for saving

Tell me why I shouldn't use what god allowed me?
Invention and convenience are just parts of being free
We're drinking from a cup and it ain't got no bottom
I'm just saying--smoke 'em if you got 'em!

Alright, if you insist, I'll move my legs to keep the fat off
If you want them to want your body, I guess it takes a little pain
Ride a bike to get somewhere? Please, don't make me scoff!
But you'd better bet your ass that I won't do it in the rain!

Tell me why I shouldn't use what god allowed me?
Invention and convenience are just parts of being free
We're drinking from a cup and it ain't got no bottom
I'm just saying--smoke 'em if you got 'em!

The silky touch of blacktop sends shivers to my groin
Grass is for fairways; trees are too dirty
Coffee from a paper cup is easier to enjoy
Commuting on a freeway...going 30

Tell me why I shouldn't use what god allowed me?
Invention and convenience are just parts of being free
We're drinking from a cup and it ain't got no bottom
I'm just saying--smoke 'em if you got 'em!


After a few 'heavy' songs, here's something a bit lighter (aka a throwaway). I wrote this shortly after moving to Bellevue. I decided I wanted to go for a walk, but it turns out the Factoria area is not as well-equipped for pedestrians as it is for motorists--I ended up having to walk on the shoulder of a pretty busy road while the cars whizzed by because there was nary a sidewalk in sight. So, I focused my indignant ire into irreverent words directed at the lazy majority.

I had an especially lewd alternate title for this one, but I can't for the life of me remember it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dedicated to You, But You Were Napping

How do you feel?
Do you feel now?
You lie, the final vessel of a life full
Wrapped in blankets of earth
Kind bedfellows--smaller points of life pull
Gently sharing your old form for what it's worth

What do you see?
Do you see now?
A mass of many units tightly clinging
As they relax what was so you abandons form
A million pieces wild and beautiful and singing!
Whirling knowingly and madly in the storm

In the spinning cloud of [---] the patterns rearrange
Here death and life are one and nothing finds it strange
I hope you felt no fear accepting senseless night
Existence is not limited to life

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Sarah's comforter cover, purchased for our new apartment, makes a special appearance in this picture. The punning title of this one finds its roots on the Soft Machine's second album. For a more obvious hint, also see Matching Mole's first album (Robert Wyatt is the source of both). If you still can't figure out who it's dedicated to after that, say ten 'Hail Mary-s', take 5 aspirin, and call me in the morning.

This one reads a little bit dark, but in reality it's more of a celebratory song, dedicated to a deceased loved one. Spoiler alert: Things are about to get pretty hairy and philosophical. If you'd rather explain the song for yourself, skip to the last paragraph. Death is a departure from the sense- and identity-filled existence we're all currently leading, and that departure frightens a lot of people. Rather than see death as a mournful occasion, though, I'd prefer to see it as something truly glorious--a more complete return to the awe-inspiring mass of matter and energy from which our 'unique identities' sprang in the first place (and were only illusorily separate from, for that matter).

As living things, we humans tend to take the characteristics that are unique to living things (humans first, animals second, plants third) as what is good or ideal. Since we have no experience of death and can't conceptualize the experience of the quaintly-titled "inanimate," they constitute a black void of fear. Really, though, it's fairly arrogant to think that human consciousness is the only type of consciousness in this crushingly-huge universe that we infinitesimally understand. So, why not think of death as a chance to experience existence on a very different and more universal--if inconceivable--level? To me, that's not only heartening, it's exciting.

These ideas are partly inspired by a story from chapter 18 of the Zhuangzi in which Huizi finds Zhuangzi mourning his wife not by weeping, but by pounding on a tub and singing. Classic stuff.
The "[---]"s indicate wordless vocals--musical symbols for the jump from a fearful "Oh no, I can't feel anymore" to an entirely different experience. I've actually written all the music for this one--fingerpicked acoustic guitar in DADGAD tuning, for the interested. For many reasons, I personally consider this song one of my best accomplishments of the past several years.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Hinge (Three in the Morning)

You were right; you are right
You were right; you are right
Can I tell you--if I told you
What would you do?
Can I convince you--would you smile?
If my face looked just like yours

You were right; you are right
You were right; you are right
Could it happen--what would happen?
How would we be then?
Stripped of the drag that grabs collision
Or idle, fallen to peaces?
Can the sacrifice be made without our blood?

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Lyrically, this one is based on a simple speculative question: What would happen to the human world if all of our large-scale arguments were resolved with one side's simple "OK, you're right." Would the absence of thinly-constructed right/wrong binary oppositions remove the friction from our collisions, or would we consequently have nothing to do, fallen to pieces (peaces). "Stripped of drag that grabs collisions" has two meanings, one more related to physics and one more lightheartedly related to the silliness in which some moral stances are clothed.

It's funny how complicated our world 'problems' are in relation to how simple this response would be, if only someone could drop their unilateral and undeniable sense of correctness. At least for me, though, saying "Yep, you're right" is often the most difficult part of resolving an argument.

I originally wrote these lyrics in a modern British literature class (Sorry Gaurav; we were talking about T.S. Eliot, so I'm sure you'll understand). Musically, this song is pretty experimental. A simple guitar line opens the tune, then the first section is sung a cappella, the guitar line repeats--more embellished--then the second section is sung a cappella. Finally, the guitar line returns in a more complex form, ending in cacophony. The first guitar line is meant to convey the one-sided simplicity that seems to resonate from most human-made doctrines, and the rich cacophony is meant to represent the blurry, splattered mess that is usually much closer to reality. Unless you disagree, that is, in which case, I admit it--you're right!

I was trying to work out the vocal melody for this song the last day my voice worked properly. Maybe it's a sign.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Echoes (Broad-and-Boundless)

Come along with me and we'll turn over every stone
We can set out to turn on the lights
Please don't stay behind--it wouldn't be the same alone
And I'd hate to think that you're staying out of spite

Come along with me, come along with me

Come along with me and let's find the answers
Maybe something new from what we're shown
Oh, you know, you can't think on it forever
But let's make it something we can call our own

Echoes of you in me, we're so much more than we seem to be
Reflecting me in you, bending the rules of what we can do

Come along with me and we can breathe it in
Intoxicate ourselves with essence pretended
A thing so pure could never be sin
So we know it's not true when they say we've surrendered

Come along with me, come along with me
(Surely, we belong in the broad-and-boundless field)

Come along with me; it's time to leave
We've found out that our answer is wrong
But reality is built from what we believe
It's plain to see that we belong

Echoes of you in me, we're so much more than we seem to be
Reflecting me in you, bending the rules of what we can do

Spinning up and out
All expands but everything is we
Looking all around
Infinity that only few can see
Feelings unbearable
Connecting dots to build a plan
Knowing impossible
Doing more than they admit we can

Surely, we belong in the broad-and-boundless field!

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A call to make up your own rules and access potential that remains untapped due to unconsidered conformance with religious, cultural, governmental, societal, superstitious (etc.) rules. What could be more human than formulating your own interpretive framework for understanding the world, and what could be more human than rushing headlong into that unknown tightly gripping the hand of a companion who's of the same mind? If, at the end of your days, you find out you didn't quite get all of it exactly right, don't worry--you're likely in good company, historically speaking. What could the human race accomplish if we dropped our collective baggage? A favorite line: "All expands but everything is we(e)." Wish I had more meaning-soaked lines like that up my sleeve.

Looking back, this song marked the beginning of the more experimental and progressive acoustic direction I've continued in up until the present, so it's become a bit of a personal anthem. I recorded a passable version with all of the guitar parts from my head; it's on my Myspace ( if you're interested.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oh Well

Oh well of life--please give me water to drink
Dim grow my eyes and my head it cannot think
It feels like it's been years since your water has touched my lips
Is this the truth? I fear my life has been eclipsed
Time outstripped!
Please, just one sip!

I know you're there, deep inside
If I look I can find where you are, deep inside
On the outside!

Oh well of life--your water tastes so good!
I feel sharp as a knife; you brought me back--I knew you could!
If you promise to be mine, I'll say I'm yours forevermore
If life can be this fine, then life is what I'm living for
I don't need more!
I won't keep score!

I know you're there, deep inside
If I look I can find where you are, deep inside
On the outside!
On the outside!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Purpose of this Blog

I'm a singer and songwriter who has been prevented from singing by GERD-related esophagus and larynx damage since October 2007. If you know me well, you probably know that my true passion is not tea--it's music. I spend a lot of my time listening to music (a lot of it is from the 60's and 70's) and pursuing different musical personalities is one of my biggest obsessions. Really, though, my goal has been to turn this rather passive hobby into an active pursuit--to make my own contribution to the collection of words and music that continues to grow every day. It was my goal to do this when I moved to Seattle in 2007, but have been waylayed by my continuing health issues.

People have asked me: "Why not get somebody else to sing for you?" or "Can't you just get really good at playing guitar?" Unfortunately--stubbornly?-- (and I'll try not to get too far into this), the answer is no to both. All of my songwriting idols--Roy Harper, Robert Wyatt, Gene Clark, Bob Dylan, etc.--played and sang their own songs. It's about expressing a unique, idiosyncratic personality in the form of music--getting to know one a songwriter through his or her songs means understanding that songwriter on a whole other level. So, what I'm really hungering to accomplish is a similar feat. Here's what I think really appeals about this sort of self-expression: When you open your deepest feelings and passions up for others to see and experience, you pave the way for connection: common ground; shared profound experience; emotional or intellectual companionship in a world that seems to increasingly foster isolation. I'll stop there (too far) on that subject.

So, I stubbornly refuse to compromise my ideals and wait for my esophagus to get better. Why the blog? It's been really difficult to continue writing lyrics and music that I know I won't be able to sing, but the muse hasn't deserted me by a long shot. The primary purpose of this blog is for me to collect and post my lyrics. I think retyping and revisiting my words will remind me to write more often (like how you play a guitar more if it's sitting out, not in its case), and I can start posting new lyrics as they're written. It'll also be something of an academic exercise in humility, too, since I'll probably post some lyrics I'm not that proud of anymore, which will hopefully aid in improvement! Additionally, in case all of my possessions are burned in a fire, my lyrics will survive on the internet! Finally, it's a somewhat restricted chance for me to still put myself out there--if you're interested in knowing what's really important to me, my lyrics are where I spend the time to say it how I really mean it, be it vulnerably, cynically, ecstatically, arrogantly, or hopefully. Maybe you'll find something in my words that reflects your self and what you hold most dearly. That's the (hopeful) goal. I should note that, for the most part, this isn't poetry. I quake at the thought of having to read these words out loud. These are lyrics--they're meant to be sung and heard with all the benefits that come with adding music and a singing human voice. So, please forgive me if they're not poetically sound on their own, and perhaps understand that they could be enhanced by the trappings of song.

I'll post the lyrics with a picture of the original handwritten page--my handwriting is terrible. The typed words may often differ from the page, since I tend to edit each time I write. Plus, there are often multiple potential words or phrases written on the original sheet of each song--you'll get to see the messy machinery at work. I'll also write a brief comment after each song with a few thoughts--I won't be pulling any punches on these (or the songs, I suppose), so don't expect to find only sunshine, flowers and boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl in these words. The title of the blog, "Oh Well," is from a song of the same name. It's an ode to that feeling of spontaneous ecstasy you feel when you know you've got it all figured out, or at least you wish you did. It's also a potential response to the (predominant) absence of that feeling that might help us get along easier through life if we could only just shrug it off. With regards to the blog, if you're interested, great! If not, "Oh well."