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Writing new song: attitude's flipped

CapriUni 06 Sep 11 - 02:06 PM
foggers 06 Sep 11 - 06:08 PM
CapriUni 06 Sep 11 - 08:52 PM
Crowhugger 06 Sep 11 - 10:16 PM
CapriUni 06 Sep 11 - 11:15 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 07 Sep 11 - 03:45 AM
CapriUni 07 Sep 11 - 02:05 PM
MorwenEdhelwen1 07 Sep 11 - 05:26 PM
CapriUni 07 Sep 11 - 08:21 PM
Crowhugger 07 Sep 11 - 10:12 PM
CapriUni 07 Sep 11 - 11:08 PM
CapriUni 08 Sep 11 - 01:06 AM
Mo the caller 08 Sep 11 - 06:25 AM
Crowhugger 08 Sep 11 - 10:23 AM
Morris-ey 08 Sep 11 - 11:10 AM
CapriUni 08 Sep 11 - 12:17 PM
CapriUni 08 Sep 11 - 02:48 PM
Crowhugger 09 Sep 11 - 09:01 AM
CapriUni 09 Sep 11 - 02:31 PM
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Subject: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: CapriUni
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 02:06 PM

The last time I wrote a song (I think, if I recall correctly) was just about three years ago (I posted the first draft of it here: 'Simply Human' by CapriUni -- Chorus question?.

The chorus contains these lines:

"Well, I won't be your metaphor
For Grace, or lack of Grace,
'Cause I am simply human,
In this complex human race." [*]

....

But shortly after writing that song, I stumbled on the etymology behind the word "monster." It comes from the Latin for "portent" or "warning" (the same root as monitor and demonstrate), and originally meant a human or animal born with missing, or extra, limbs -- because the oracular priests saw such births as warnings that the gods were angry, and were preparing to punish the people.

From there, it evolved to mean any creature born with deformities, to mythical creatures that were a mix of different animals, to any giant animal, to anything (or anyone) of extreme evil... But, I couldn't help noting that, in the original meaning, the feelings anger and the urge for destruction were not (necessarily) felt by the "monsters" themselves, but were projected onto them by others in their societies.

It has helped me understand why, even though we now explain disabilities with science, rather than religion, disability still carries a stigma, and people with visible disabilities are shamed if they don't seek cures, and people with invisible disabilities are shamed if they do. It's like when a kid tries to "lose" a note from their teacher, when they come home from school, in hopes of avoiding punishment.

So now, I'm proud of the Monster metaphor, and want to write a song using that to describe the Disability Experience.

Er... Oops?

It's going to be tricky, putting a couple thousand years of history and etymology into something with melody and a beat... ;-)

[*] That was in response, mainly, to Si Kahn's "It's not just what your born with," where he compares the Angelic-Disabled-People-Who-Have-So-Much-to-Teach-Us to Those-Evil-Able-Bodied-People-Who-Are-Wealthy-and-Corrupt; it's an okay song, until you get to the last verse. Then it makes me want to throw things.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: foggers
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 06:08 PM

Hi that's an interesting theme - and a thought provoking one. There are so many images and associations attached to people with disabilities, ranging from the derogatory and victimising to the saintly. The idea you have picked up here about "monsters" has great potential. Will look forward to hearing it!


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: CapriUni
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 08:52 PM

Will look forward to hearing it!

Heh. Me, too. ;-)

...ranging from the derogatory ... to the saintly

It's actually not much of a range, though, at least not in popular culture. I've come to believe that, just as women are often saddled with the Madonna/Whore complex in our culture, the disabled are saddled with the Angel/Monster complex. We're either expected to be Tiny Tims, redeeming the souls of the world's Scrooges by our very presence, or we're expected to be Captain Hooks, seeking revenge against the world for disabling us.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: Crowhugger
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 10:16 PM

My own variation of the angel/monster thing: Gotta say I get pretty impatient when I find I've been held up (again) as something amazing for taking my walker to the conservation area to run the dogs (3 of them at 60-some pounds each). Also to practise having them walk nicely on umbilical leashes (one at time to start with), Simply I prefer the lovely green hills and dales to suburban sidewalks, especially since getting my fill by foot- or motorcycle-backpacking or even solo car-camping rather out of the question nowadays. (My husband does NOT camp, so it's a me-time activity.)

Capri and some others probably know the look, "She's so amazing."

I choose politeness and do not scream out the truth, "Um no, I'm actually recently out of denial and graduated to thoroughly pissed off about not being able to do the Bruce Trail. So f**k off already and let me exercise my pets the only way I can." OOOPS, I guess that was the monster talking.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: CapriUni
Date: 06 Sep 11 - 11:15 PM

Crowhugger:

As one friend in a LiveJournal community put it, expressing frustration at her boyfriend's admiration that she still finds ways to go out and do things even though she's now disabled:

It's like they're think: "How Cute! It's like she thinks she's a people!"

*eyeroll*

Hmm... maybe instead of Tiny Tim & Captain Hook, I could use Unicorn and Kraken ??? they're both "monsters," but one is "prettified" in the popular culture, and one is loathed...


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 03:45 AM

Well, I've never been faced with the "You're so amazing!"attitude, maybe that's because I'm just lucky:). That's not to dismiss anyone else's experiences of it though.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: CapriUni
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 02:05 PM

MorwenEdhelwen1: well, you're young; there's still time. ;-) Cerebral Palsy is officially classified as a "pediatric condition," even though we usually grow into full adulthood. So even doctors and therapists tend to be surprised when we still exist past the age of 30.

Also, if I recall correctly, you said your C.P. is very mild. Maybe it just happens to those of us for whom disability is a clearly visible marker. All through elementary and high school, I was the only one in my classes who used a wheelchair and/or crutches. So I (ahem) stood out from the crowd.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: MorwenEdhelwen1
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 05:26 PM

No, I think it also happens if you tell the wrong person. But basically *I* find that whenever I stop daydreaming and concentrate, I can do things well.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: CapriUni
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 08:21 PM

Okay, I've started thinking this new song through... And I've come up with four different ways to approach it, and I'm having trouble settling on one of them. Feedback to help me choose -- or perhaps (though this is unlikely) combine a couple of ideas -- would be greatly appreciated.

Here are the four (rough ideas/general forms) I've got so far:

1) Comic song about monster-monsters, where, by the end of the song, they become sympathetic characters, even though the speaker of the song doesn't realize it. 'Disability,' as such, would not be mentioned, but the narrator would describe the monsters in ways that the disabled are often described (they walk funny, talk funny, want 'special treatment' in order to be included, etc.):

Monsters are coming
(Monsters on the rise)
With Wig-gel-y legs and goo-gel-y eyes
With horns, and wings, and tails and teeth
Monsters are nothing like you and me
(Nothing at all like you and me!)

2) An earnest, realistic, ballad which spells out how the ostracization of the Disabled is treating us like monsters:

(Start)
We have been among you from the start
As long as Man has lived upon the Earth
The differences you claim set us apart
A twist of Fate or accident of birth.

3) A first-to-second person soliloquy which is semi-comic -- Gee, the way you're acting, you'd think I was a monster!:

You stare at me whenever I come near
And when I speak, it's gobbeldy-gook you hear.
You act as if I'm something really scary:
A great big monster, all toothy and all hairy!

4) A semi-comic ballad about how modern society is still holding on to ancient beliefs about the Disabled, without even realizing it (with verses explaining, in a round-about way, the etymology of 'monster'):

Before old Nero rosined up his bow,
Or Aesop told his tales of mice and men --
Yes, in those days so very long ago,
Wise men read the future on the wind*

-------------
*That B rhyme would probably change


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: Crowhugger
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 10:12 PM

Definitely sharing that *eyeroll* further upthread!

About song options, job one of any writing project is to answer a few questions, including but not limited to:
..who is your audience
..how do you want them to feel at the end of the song?
..how many ups and downs do you want Listener to experience on the journey?

For me the goal would be to have Listener understand my point: that Monsters are people too, so to speak. Since people don't hear well when threatened, I'd plan to ensure a sense of safety for the listener, as in be careful that Listener doesn't feel too harshly accused.

If I especially wanted to write a serious or "straight" lyric, maybe I'd choose a 3rd person story with a poignant yet somewhat "gotcha" ending, a gotcha that results from Listener experiencing an "oops, boo-boo" recognition that sometimes they are the dunce in the song, rather than a "you bad person!" recognition. One way to achieve such the gentler gotcha may be to have Monster seen acting as foolish as Listener/dunce/society. My intention would be to tap into L's emotions without being too accusatory, hence safe enough L can hear the message well.

Obviously a comic approach achieves a lot of those goals because humour lets Listener be safe--who doesn't feel good when chuckling or laughing?

The task of successful writing being what it is, if I was taking on this project, I'd probably start with prose-writing the possible stories to work out characters and story arcs, etc., and once I know what I want to say and have a broad sense of how I want it said, I'd add the limitations of meter and rhyme. Also I would research successful uses of the form by parsing other songs that tell a story that leaves Listener comfortable with taboo or cruel topic or behaviour. (Serious: Christmas in the Trenches (can't think of writer). Comic: R. Sorrells' Archy and Mehitabel; J. Prine's Please Don't Bury Me. There are the first ones that jump to mind but there are many more with varying applicability.

Basically it seems to be a job of creating a fable in three stanzas. We already know that it's easy to write long, hard to write short. I figure that if I want a song to be sung a lot and heard a lot, not-long is better. Ah well who said it would be easy? Oh, and I would expect to need to put away the draft lyrics for a few weeks or months to get some perspective, maybe take that step at the prose level as well.

So, CapriUni, there you have my shot at armchair-quarterbacking your project! It's very exciting. I sure hope you are faster than I usually am at finding the story you really want to tell from among all the possibilities.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: CapriUni
Date: 07 Sep 11 - 11:08 PM

One way to achieve such the gentler gotcha may be to have Monster seen acting as foolish as Listener/dunce/society.

Hm. Not sure I understand this. Are you saying the Monster should be a symbol for Society, have it act foolishly, the Listener laugh at it/him/her, and then, realize the monster represents themselves?


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: CapriUni
Date: 08 Sep 11 - 01:06 AM

Crowhugger -- I actually, sort of, in a way, have started the draft writing of this song. But not in song form. Late last month, I created a monster picture using words (written in a dense block of small sized font, so that each letter could work as a crude pixel). As such, the words are stream-of-consciousness, and individual words were chosen with an eye (literally) to keeping the raggedness of the right-hand edge to a minimum. And the tone was deliberately creepy and disturbing.

However, when I woke up the next day, I realized that there were some good ideas / phrases in that mass that might be transformed into a song.

Here's that text that I wrote:

Monsters are on the rise: the abnormal born from the wombs of the normal, portents embodied, warnings made flesh. We do not know their true origin, even though they were born from the very same wombs as their brethren and sistren. Arms, legs, tails, heads, eyes, teeth, all sprout where they should not, as if from seeds hidden beneath their skins. Or perhaps those arms, legs, tails, heads, eyes, and teeth do not sprout where they should: withheld like words unspoken, or secrets we are envious to know. We do not know their reason for being. They are not like us (the normals) they are not made to move through this world that is as comfortable to us as an old blanket we wear around our shoulders for warmth. By their very being, they insist the world must change. Innocent of themselves, we clothe the naked hearts of the monsters in our own wrath, and call them "wrathful." They hunger for the same life we crave, we fill their bellies, instead, with our own fear, and call them "fearful." We do not wish to hear their call for change, the warnings they bring through the chants of their heart beats. And so we cast them out. We lock our village gates against them. We pretend they were never born, never existed among us. We call them each "chimera": wild, fearful, strange, phantasms: impossible mixtures of many beasts, never born from normal wombs like ours, but born, instead, from the mind. They are, we tell ourselves, mere inventions: cobbled together from all the wrong things, all the fearful things we've ever seen, like shadows from nightmares, and just as easily forgotten when we wake in the morning. But the monsters are on the rise. Cast out from the company of "normals," they find company among themselves. Their voices ignored in the city square, they whisper, instead, among themselves. And with each new monster that we cast out, their company grows by one. What we call "comfort" they call "privilege." What we call "good" they call "unjust." What we call "evil" they, simply, call "change." What we call "phantasm" they call "truth." Portents, embodied, cannot be buried forever. Warnings, made flesh, cannot forever be ignored. Comfort and kindness cannot be hoarded by the powerful for long before it turns rancid and sour. Monsters are on the rise. It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the beginning of the world as we dream it.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: Mo the caller
Date: 08 Sep 11 - 06:25 AM

I can hear that as a spoken performance, perhaps topped and tailed with music.
But would the final music be turbulent or hopeful?
I'm not sure that by adding metre and tune you would gain anything.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: Crowhugger
Date: 08 Sep 11 - 10:23 AM

CU,
To clarify One way to achieve such the gentler gotcha may be to have Monster seen acting as foolish as Listener/dunce/society.<"i> first delete "such."

I meant, show Monster making the same dumb assumptions about another monster as the world at large makes dumb assumptions about monster.

Can you say more about what's behind "monsters are on the rise," clarify what you mean by that? What are the images you have when you say that? I wondered which of: rise in population per capita or absolute numbers; on the rise as uprising; on the rise like the sun becoming visible. Among other things that line evokes the portent, "I see a bad moon on the rise."

Gotta go do a bunch of stuff, may not get back till tomorrow.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: Morris-ey
Date: 08 Sep 11 - 11:10 AM

I do not have a disability so am wary of even making a comment.

I think you are doing society in general a disservice (at best)and on insult (at worst) by your polarised stereotyping of reactions to disablity or "difference" as I would rather call it.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: CapriUni
Date: 08 Sep 11 - 12:17 PM

Mo -- Thank you.

Well, if I take these ideas and put them in a song, then I will be making a completely new thing, rather than trying to improve an old thing. And I have the song-writing itch right now... it has been over three years since the last one I wrote (I think, going by the dates in Mudcat threads).

Crowhugger -- Aha! Now I gotcha!

Morriss-ey: I'm working on a protest song. A little anger and hyperbole has a strong footing in the Folk Tradition. ;-)


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: CapriUni
Date: 08 Sep 11 - 02:48 PM

Mo and Crowhugger -- I just realized that I hadn't answered your questions.

Mo -- I was thinking the ending would be hopeful / comic, even if the speaker in the song is despairing. That would make it comic / ironic, I believe, in Lit-crit parlance.

Crowhugger -- Re: "on the rise" I was thinking, primarily, of "uprising" -- shifting attitudes from shame to pride, and social action. As I noted to Mo, my ideal (if I go with the first lyric idea I posted yesterday) would be to have the listener agreeing, in an amused & laughing way, with the speaker, and then shifting to a "Hey, wait-a-minute, why shouldn't we let the monsters in? Are they really all that bad?" I realized, last night, that my subconscious is being tickled by the Stargazers song Close the door (They're Coming Through the Window)! (via the American version recorded by Jim Lowe, which my parents had on a single, and to which we would dance around the living room).

In regards to the last line, my gut reaction whenever I hear someone warning that "It's the end of the world as we know it!" has always been: "... You say that as if it's a bad thing..." So there's also the sense of sunrise. It's true that the world as we know it is ending -- because what we know (and how we understand what we know) is constantly evolving. And the world is becoming what we imagine it to be, whether for good or ill.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: Crowhugger
Date: 09 Sep 11 - 09:01 AM

One of the big challenges will be to capture the relationship between monsters and disabilities.

CU, do you read a lot of poetry? I read some, usually in fits and starts, and that is where I find absolute confidence that somewhere to be found is the magical combination of words to convey the story you eventually choose.


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Subject: RE: Writing new song: attitude's flipped
From: CapriUni
Date: 09 Sep 11 - 02:31 PM

Actually -- poetry was my first, and still my default, means of expression, writing-wise. It's just rhythm and melody and beats that baffle my brain.

(Also, much of my poetry is blank or free verse).


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