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

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `

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?

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `
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!

` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `
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."