Il Est Calme, part trois!

It's the first day of school and I'm feeling all peppy. My courseload is steep again, but I'm feeling pretty capable of tackling it. It's raining softly all over the place and It's such a pleasure to walk around in.

Well, so I finished the music for a new song called Il Est Calme for the Ideal Home Music Library, Vol. 2. For an idea of how long this song has been on the books, and how fast time flies, see the August archives of this blog. Anyway, it would be difficult to write about the way I came up with the music, so I'll concentrate on the lyric. Unfortunately, I'm only halfway there with the lyric. For this song, I wanted to utilize some of my first year French for two reasons: 1) I like French 2) the song is loosely based on a girl I had an immense crush on last year who spoke French. She wanted me to do some music for a little film she was making. She reciprocated my crush, but she ultimately rejected me on the grounds that I reminded her too much of her father. Go figure. Her message to me, by the way, that she wasn't interested, was to give her number out to some other boy (the cheesiest one in the place, I might add, just to hammer the point home) whilst out dancing with me. Go figure again. But I'm over it. The fact that I was in the middle of doing the music for her film when she gave me the old straight arm was the biggest tragedy. You may think me a cad, but I was so broken hearted, I couldn't go through with the music. So I shelved it and told her I wasn't going to be doing her music. I haven't spoken to her since. BUT, having revisited the melody recently, I thought I could instead make a little song based on our experience. Not a bitter song, mind you, but a nice one. A song about the good times. Yeah right. But still, it's a soft, sad homage in a way. Incidentally, the name of her film, and I don't know if she ever finished it, was Il Est Calme.

Anyway, using this premise I first imagined a guy killing his lover by the Seine. (How's that for not being bitter?) She's telling him "Il est calme, Il est calme..." and he's stabbing her or something. So the first lyric was:

Il est calme. Il est calme. Un petit chanson! Un petit chanson
These are the words she whispered that beautiful Paris morning

Hokey hokey hokey. The lyric was going to continue with the guy stabbing her, you know, so that the whole thing gets really violent while the music is really sweet. But then I thought no no, it's not working. In trying to come up with answers the man could give, I found my way blocked at every turn. So I scrapped that idea and started again. This time, my couple is just strolling along by the Seine. They're just friends, but he likes her. Well, moved by the moment, she turns to him and asks him to write her a song with the words:

"Il est calme. Il est calme.
Ecrites pour moi un petit chanson."
These are the words she whispered
That ill fated Paris morning

I like this because it doesn't have a strict line by line rhyme scheme. The rhymes are sprinkled in here and there. For instance, there is a near rhyme between lines 1 and 2, with an internal rhyme in line 2 on "ecrite" and "petit" (even though you don't pronounce the "t" in petit). The girl uses the "tu" form of ecriter, but she just likes him as a friend. You'll find that out later. I also liked that the woman speaks in French in the first half of the stanza, but the narration, which makes up the second half, is in English. The rhyme scheme isn't as tight, but I don't mind, because the words still sound nice with the melody and if the French and English parts don't rhyme, it sets them apart as separate occurrences. One is the outer, spoken dialog, and the other is the narration. Then, in keeping with my new less violent premise, I had the man then answer:

"Oui! D'accord! D'accord, mon amie!
Pour toi je vais un chanson ecriter!"
That moment I moved to kiss her
But she moved her lips away
She moved her lips away

Here, I used some more not-so-overt rhymes. The first line is a mirrored rhyme (I don't know the technical term for it), in which the two inner syllables on the word "d'accord" rhyme (is that cheating, since they're the same word?) and the two outer syllables on "oui" and "amie" rhyme. Another internal rhyme on the second line occurs between "vais" and "ecriter". By placing this internal rhyme on the same line as it occurs in the first stanza, I tried to preserve the pattern I had set up. The fact that the words "kiss her" in the third line of this stanza rhymes with "whisper" from the same line in the first stanza reinforces the relationship between the two. Also consistent is the fact that the spoken dialog, in French, makes up the first two lines, and the narration, in English, makes up the second two lines. Oh, and the last line repeats on purpose, because the melody first cadences in E major, and then repeats, only the second time on a cadence in C#-minor, the key of the song. I meant it to be like a sad afterthought.

So, the man addresses the woman as "mon amie". That's a hint that they're just friends. But he's so excited, having taken her request for a song as being romantically motivated, that he moves in for a kiss. Ah, but she pulls away. The shape of the song necessitates that I have four stanzas. So I decided that in the third stanza, the woman is going to explain (in first year French) that she doesn't like him in that way, and that she only thinks of him as a friend. In the fourth stanza, he'll be heartbroken and decline to write her the song. I thought: that's nice and sad, based loosely on real life, and it's a clean, direct narrative. Well, I got this far and decided that I hadn't said anything about the setting at all. So before moving on to the third stanza, I went back and added an intro to the song, in which the narrator explains what 's going on:

I walked with mon amie one night
Beside a gloomy Seine.
She turned to me with eyes alight
And this was our exchange:

Simple ABAB rhyme scheme. Nothing to write home about. I know it's pretty cheezy, but remember, these songs are supposed to have been written during the late 19th Century. If you look at the lyrics to some of the popular songs of that era, you'll find mine to be pretty reserved. Plus, this section is the inroduction, which they used to call the verse. The verse in those old songs was forgetable, simple material that only served to set up the main melody, which was the chorus. The chorus contained the memorable material, the "hook" if you will. So my song has an intro that sets up the situation and the key just like those old songs. Plus, I like the slight snootiness in the narrator's use of "mon amie" during the intro. He's a bit of a fop. He's straight out of Voltaire. The good-looking loverboy snob who gets it in the end. Those are the best comic romantic leads. He's your typical dashing, handsome, romantic, clueless, bungling anti-hero. That's why he's telling us the story in English, but quoting his characters in French. His snootiness further justifies my use of such phrases as "with eyes alight" and such words as "exchange" to mean "conversation". He's a real dandy.

Here I should reiterate that he's not me. I said this song was "based on" reality. Any similarity to actual persons and/ or events is strictly coincidental. Well, that's as far as I got with this song. I hope to finish it by the end of the week. We shall see.