Regarding the Ideal Home Music Library, vol.. 2, part 2

I have already written 3 songs for the IHML 2, but they're unfinished. All I have are the titles of the songs, the vocal melodies, and the chord changes. The next step for all three songs is to fill in the piano texture and finish the lyrics. One of the problems I'm having is with the lyrics. Two things are blocking my ability to finish them. The first is the fact that writing nostalgic lyrics is really trendy right now and I'm extremely self-conscious about being perceived as following that trend. The second is that I want the lyrics to be well written and not depend on the nostalgia for their merit. I'll explain:

Regarding the first point, for the past few years I've noticed a certain trend in pop music, at least in indie-pop music, toward a kind of Victorian nostalgia. The 19th century especially is really "in" right now. Kids our age are singing about naval ships, carnivals, World Wars, and milking old fashioned themes. Bands are even posing in period costumes. I've seen countless ads in the weeklies where bands who don't even sing about nostalgic themes are posing in old costumes. I saw an ad for a coffee shop here in town in which the whole staff was done up like Civil War soldiers. Personally, I think it's pretty cool. But I, being the terminally self-conscious (sp?) person that I am, find myself resisting this trend, as I tend to resist all trends, rather than going with it. The trouble with resisting is, if I'm going to put these parlor songs in a historical context, I'm going to have to write lyrics that are old-fashioned. Or am I? I could do something very Franklin Bruno and write lyrics that are more contemporary on top of the old-fashioned sounding music. I suppose the solution to this aspect of the problem is to just get over it. It doesn't have to be a trend, it could just be the collective artistic consciousness affecting me in the same way it has affected my contemporaries.

Regarding the second point, one of the byproducts of this trend is that in some cases good writing takes a back seat to mere nostalgic imagery. In other words, people mistake lists of 19th century artifacts (muskets, trenches, soldiers, gypsies, trapeeze artists, silks and spices) for good lyric writing. Strings of nouns become the artifice, rather than the art being in the way the words are put together. The mere mention of a circus, a duel, or a sailing ship elevates the lyrics in the mind of our impressionable listeners and seems to make things easy on the songwriter. They let the setting become the character; even dwarf the character. So you're left with empty, cookie-cutter Dickensian fluff. Even I have a vague mention of the technology of the times in my song Oh, James from the INHALE Vol. 1. In that song, the character tells his butler to turn off the gramophone. (Of course, the joke is on me, because in the liner notes from that album the date of composition of the song is way before gramophone were in people's homes). But the difference there is that the character mentions the gramophone because he's in the room with it, it's playing, and he wants it turned off. In other words, the setting comes through the character's desires and actions.

The way to get around the pitfalls of this trend, then, is to make the lyrics strongly character driven. That means I'll have to go deep into the character who's singing the song and mine the situation itself for my material. If I focus on the narrator, then his or her historical context, if it's even important, will come through his or her narrative. For example, one of the songs is called Up On The Orange Moon. I'm pretty sure I want that song to be about a woman who's about to be shipped off to an asylum. She's crazy, this woman, and her lover is tired of it and is shipping her off. I picture her running into a vast room, the library of her manor maybe, whose walls are comprised of towering bookshelves. The room is all done up in dark woods and leather furniture. There is a great big curved window on one wall flanked by gigantic velvet curtains, in front of which sits an armchair. This woman's lover, Misha, is in the armchair staring up at the moon. She runs to him, having just slipped past the guards and starts singing. What does she sing? I have only part of it. The lyric I have so far is:

Where silver frosted mountains rise to the velvet sky
and powdered sugar fountains sparkle in Gemini
there my slice of paradise
hovers above your room
and ... up on the orange moon

The ellipses is where the lyric isn't finished. Something happens up there on the orange moon. But I haven't figured out what. And this lyric has been in my head for months. Almost a year actually. Anyway, nothing I just mentioned, the library, the asylum, the books (especially the books) should end up in the lyric. That should only be the setting for me to place this character. If she happens to pick up a book, or talk about the furniture, or the van coming to get her, with the clop clop of horses hooves or something, fine, it'll go in. But other than that, the song should be this woman's narrative at this particular time. I'll have to think about what she wants, why she's there, what she's saying. What's the purpose of the song for her? Maybe she doesn't want to go away. Maybe she's defying him in some way, saying, "okay, you can send me to a crazy house, but I'll always love you." Or, better, "you can send me to a crazy house, but it won't make me sane. I'll always have my paradise up there on the orange moon." Yeah, maybe they're trying to straighten her out or something, but she doesn't want to be sane. Something like that.

Now we're getting somewhere. More later.