There seems to be an inordinate amount of poor lyric writers in the music world these days. I don't mean expressive-poor. I mean language-poor. Idea-poor. A lot of feelings are being expressed, true - frustration, anger, lonliness, angst - most in glorious Emote-orama - but no real IDEAS. Hip Hop writing, while resembling an old fashioned poetry slam in some aspects, suffers from the same malady that Ginsberg once said about Dylan, 'still hung up with rhyme.' Most of it, unfortunately, is like verbal diahorrehea - an affliction to which the acid-poets of the 70s were also prone. I did like 'Stan' by Eminem, and even learned to sing it myself (including Dido's part in falsetto!) but in my opinion there has been no real move forward since Gil Scott Heron's groundbreaking 'B-Movie'. No real Reverence for Language. It's like everybody missed the early 70s lyrical renaissance when for a brief time pop, folk, blues, rock and poetry became one surrealistic interweaving. Of course, the psychedelics might have given everyone a leg up back then. It did me. Most of the current young songwriters weren't even born. I think today's kids have too many drugs (the wrong kind) and not enough books (the right kind.) Harry's Potty ain't HG Wells or Edgar Allen Poe and EkstasC ain't LSD. Fair enough. Sometimes the Wheel has to be re-invented and re-Booted when the Memory crashes. My generation hasn't really passed on the language baton much either as most of my contemporaries are content to waddle back into 'reunion tours' with bands made up of two of the original members, or judging Idol karoke contests, or doing Casino shows. Sooner or later, most of the Wordsmiths who had potential get sucked into the clichéd Christian Good-vs-Evil, Us-vs-Them, Positive-vs-Negative imagery, like Dylan and Stephen King, and then they Short-Circuit. (Any mechanic worth their salt knows charging a battery is Positive-to-Positive and Negative-to-Negative. What happened to the Dream? The Dreamers? The Mechanics?)
In any case, I certainly miss, in a painful kind of way, the strong lyrically oriented song, with the elegant melody and unpredictable chord structure. Leonard Cohen had the right idea (poetically) for awhile but unfortunately atrophied as a composer and became myopic in his world view. (And if you think Leonard is somewhat depressing, listen to Nick Cave sing Cohen's chestnut 'Suzanne'. (ie "Suzanne cuts her wrists at her place by the river, etc.") Someone should have taken those boys to Luna Park more when they were young.
There's more further down about Lyric Writing for fellow songwriters and anyone else interested.
FAVOURITE LETTERS OF THE WEEK
Joe, joe joe......
RE: The Memorial Comeback Reformed Never-Really-Went-Away Newsletter
You really don't need these farewell attention seeking gestures. WE LOVE YOU!!!! Annie.
(Note: Annie, annie, annie . . . . I love you too, but this is definitely . . . . goodbye. [Just joking.])
Would you please get off my planet! You are far too verbose to have any place in my life; past, former or otherwise and especially on my e-mail. A.L.
(Note: Dear A.L., Verbose? You mean like "containing more words than necessary, impaired by wordiness, given to wordiness ie. a verbose orator?" Of course you knew that a simple 'Delete' or 'Remove' in the Subject Heading would have served the same purpose, and been much more economical, but I guess you wanted to give me an illustration, eh?)
Loved the joke about the drummers as I am a mad djembe player and I know many people who feel that way....when will the drumming ever stop ? Cheers, Annie Fletcher
Why is this address on your mailing list????? We are a local Agricultural & Horticultural Show for God's sake. You are only wasting your money sending us this stuff. Please remove this address as soon as you can. L.D.
(Note: LD, I think we got your email address from a copy of 'Throat Singing and Thorn Extraction for Cactus Eaters' - with the obvious spiritual link between music and plant growth. Maybe someone thought we might share common feelings about George W BUSH (boom boom!) - you know, like too much war and aggression might put us both out of business: no more News for us to Letter, and no more Horti for you to Culture? Thanks for thinking of our finances but we don't use money any more here at the Newsletter Office: only chicken fertiliser. Naturally, you have been removed from the mailout but if irritable symptoms persist, take two Blood and Bone capsules with a glass of Bonsai Juice and get some vertical bed rest on an upright Ouija board. Sincerely, Hackenbush J. Flywheel, Personal Homeopath for the Joe Dolce Newsletter Staff.)
Subject: Re Bobby
please tell your friend Kate Hosking that there is some marvellous footage somewhere of Bobby McFerrin teaching jazz and classical music to young kids... I had it on video a few years ago but someone borrowed it... Stefan Abeysekera
(Note: Stefan, here are two websites to hear more of
Kate's music. And also see the next letter below: like father,
like daughter! I love them both.)
Here's McFerrin doing the 'Ave Maria' at a Bach Festival:
and well-known JS Bach 'Air' from BWV 1068: youTube2
Great to hear your music again as we head into the next season of 'Stretch'. . . . BTW, just because I never write, doesn't mean I don't love the newsletter. And I did realise the joke of the farewell letter. Surprised so many didn't. Good stuff mate. . . Cheers, Peter Hosking
(Note: Speaking of good writing, for those of you in Melbourne, Peter Hosking is starring in Jack Hibberd's classic Australian play, 'Stretch of the Imagination,' over at the Carlton Courthouse Theatre this week. I composed the music for this wonderous piece about ten years ago and it is good to see it back on the boards. It is one of the finest examples of creative Australian vernacular ever written. Forget Lawson, Patterson and CJ Dennis, for a moment. Welcome to the present and honour the Still Living. Jack Hibberd has created a unique and uniquely Australian monologue of grit and eloquence. Humourous surrealism in the Outback. I've never heard anything else like it. First performed almost forty years ago, in 1969, at La Mama, Peter Hosking does an awesome job of bringing 'Monk O'Neil' back to life and the 90 minute one-man show tour-de-farce is sensitively directed by Greg Carroll, with design by Peter Corrigan. Folks, with this team of seasoned veterans, it's as close as you will ever get to experiencing some of the 'Pram Factory' and early La Mama magic that helped give birth to the present Australian theatre culture.)
Wed Jul 25 Sat Aug 4, 2007.
349 Drummond St.
Book by email:firstname.lastname@example.org - put 'Stretch' in the Subject Header.
phone:(03) 9347 6142
La Mama Bookings
DO-IT-YOURSELF HOME SECURITY SYSTEM
1. Go to a second-hand store and buy a pair of men's used size
14-16 work boots.
2. Place them on your front porch, along with several empty beer cans, a copy of Guns & Ammo magazine and several National Rifle Association magazines.
3. Put a few giant dog dishes next to the boots and magazine.
4. Leave a note on your door that reads: Hey Bubba, Big Jim, Duke and Slim, I went to the gun shop for more ammunition. Back in an hour. Don't mess with the pit bulls -- they attacked the mailman this morning and messed him up real bad I don't think Killer took part in it but it was hard to tell from all the blood.
PS - I locked all four of 'em in the house. Better wait outside.
(thanks to bill lempke)
Black Version of the Google Search Engine
How is Blackle saving energy?
Blackle saves energy because the screen is predominantly black. "Image displayed is primarily a function of the user's color settings and desktop graphics, as well as the color and size of open application windows; a given monitor requires more power to display a white (or light) screen than a black (or dark) screen." Roberson et al, 2002 In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages. We believe that there is value in the concept because even if the energy savings are small, they all add up. Secondly we feel that seeing Blackle every time we load our web browser reminds us that we need to keep taking small steps to save energy.
How can you help?
We encourage you to set Blackle as your home page. This way every time you load your Internet browser you will save a little bit of energy. Remember every bit counts! You will also be reminded about the need to save energy each time you see the Blackle page load. Help us spread the word about Blackle by telling your friends and family to set it as their home page. If you have a blog then give us a mention. Or put the following text in your email signature: "Blackle.com - Saving energy one search at a time". There are a lot of great web sites about saving energy and being more environmentally friendly. They are full of great tips covering the little things that we can all do to make a difference today. Try Blackling "energy saving tips" or visit treehugger.com a great blog dedicated to environmental awareness.
(thanks to Cinzia Ambrosio)
ENTRIES TO A WASHINGTON POST COMPETITION ASKING FOR A TWO- LINE RHYME WITH THE MOST ROMANTIC FIRST LINE, BUT THE LEAST ROMANTIC SECOND LINE
My darling, my lover, my beautiful wife:
Marrying you screwed up my life.
I see your face when I am dreaming.
That's why I always wake up screaming.
Kind, intelligent, loving and hot;
This describes everything you are not.
Love may be beautiful, love may be bliss,
But I only slept with you 'cause I was pissed.
I thought that I could love no other --
that is until I met your brother.
Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are
But the roses are wilting, the violets are dead, the sugar bowl's empty and so is your head.
I want to feel your sweet embrace;
But don't take that paper bag off your face.
I love your smile, your face, and your eyes --
Damn, I'm good at telling lies!
My love, you take my breath away.
What have you stepped in to smell this way?
My feelings for you no words can tell,
Except for maybe "Go to hell."
What inspired this amorous rhyme?
Two parts vodka, one part lime.
(thanks to Stefan Abeysekera)
SONGWRITING WORKSHOP SUPPLEMENT
(continued from the intro . . . . . )
So how does the aspiring songwriter, if they want to move beyond the doo-doo-dah level, find the Words?
To become more accurate and adept at expressing yourself:
1) keep a DIARY for a start. I've kept diaries since I was twenty years old. The regular habit of writing things down. Pen and ink. (Or the digital equivalent.)
2) A monthly Letter to Yourself is another good practice. On the last day of every month, I write down everything memorable I did that month. My anxieties, too. Kind of like a monthly weather report. I've been doing that for about ten years now.
3) Keep a separate Travel Journal. Just write in that one when you are on the road or away from home on holidays.
4) For younger writers, I remember something I heard a couple of decades ago: fall in love with a someone old enough to be your mother/father, live far enough away from her/him so that you never get a chance to see her/him, and just write letters back and forth. I like that one. The Troubadour Technique.
5) Getting ANGRY and Expressive about things you don't like helps, too. Dale Carnegie once suggested to a man who complained about not being able to speak in public that if he punched him in the mouth, the man would get up and give him the best speech of his life. You have to believe in what you are saying, and be focused and somewhat fearless. Often, you have to even be prepared to risk your freedom, your career and your life for your words, if necessary. (As evidenced by what is still happening to Salman Rushdie.) You might ask yourself is there something I have written yet that I would be prepared to go to jail for rather than recant? The Chinese poetess, Chiu Chin, was beheaded in the 19th century by the Manchu government, and her poems were used as evidence of her crimes, one of which was protesting against foot-binding of women. I set one of these controversial poems to music in 2000 and will finally see it performed next year with a Chinese orchestra.
As far as development of Strong Ideas - and I'm talking the equivilant of 'Stephen Hawking-type' ideas - of course, it goes without saying that you have to love reading works by others who make a habit of thinking. But also, reading poetry and studying well-written lyrics, and not being shy or precious about taking them apart and criticising them. (Don't worry, if the writing is strong, it will survive your meddling!) I value the many years experience I've had working with Melbourne playwrights, creating songs from their words, especially Melbourne playwright, Phil Motherwell. (See: 'Jack of Diamonds' on my 'freelovedays' album, and 'Dragon Lady', on 'The Wind Cries Mary.') Setting other writer's words - other writer's IDEAS - to music is invaluable for the growing songwriter. I've composed over a hundred poems to music, over the past forty years, by writers as diverse as Sappho, CP Cavafy, Langston Hughes, Louisa Lawson, Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath and many others. Also, it's good to have a dozen bench-mark songs in your repertoire that you play regularly to remind yourself of the high standard you aspire to in your own writing. Don't be afraid of surrendering to awesome BEAUTY. You gradually assimilate other folks's genius over time and it becomes part of your own. And when you finally write a truly poetic song that you know is an absolute 'keeper' - play it regularly to remind yourself that you are on the same page as those that inspire you. I have written many songs in my life - a prolific amount - but I only play one or two from my very early days as a writer. But those few have made ALL the difference.
One of my very first songs, a setting of the poem 'Return' by CP Cafavy, that I composed in 1970, is still the single most important lyric in my creative life. When I was twenty, I sang 'Return' for Dr Lou Gottleib, a Phd in Music, student of Schoenberg, and founder of the Sonoma County Bach Choir (whom I met on a freelove commune!) Lou was thirty years older than me and iterally forced me to sit down with him and taught me how to write it out on music paper - that's how important he thought that song was. He predicted that it would play an important part in the rest of my musical life - and he was right. I sang that song on the first date with my partner Lin whom I have been with for twenty-seven years now. I'm still singing it. I really didn't even know what I was doing when I set lyric that to music back then. There was a lot if intuition involved and very little self-awareness that I was creating something of lasting value, but that song was the primary benchmark from my early youth that ignited the vision of language and music that is still burning bright in me today. (In 1995, I set a further fourteen of Cavafy's poems to music, around the musical thematic ideas and Lydian scale of 'Return', called 'When the Lips and the Skin Remember.' Still haven't recorded it, either. Viva Vincent Van Gogh!)
The first serious 'Idea' I captured in my own lyric writing was 'My Home Ain't In the Hall of Fame,' written in the early 70s. I still play that song every now and then to conjure up that ol' youthful idealistic spirit that blinded me so much back then and made me such a pain in the ass. But from Compost sometimes comes Composition.
The most transformational lyric, personally, I have ever written, though, is 'Father,' (1995), which I still perform whenever I can. Why transformational? Because that song is more than just a song to me. It is more of an incantation and affirmation to forgive my own father for the disciplinary violence I was raised with (while not forgetting it), and thereby reaffirming a resolve to not pass it on to my own children and family. By playing this song, I remind myself of the ongoing work of forgiveness, and remembering. Like attending an AA meeting, or shaving, this is something that I need to attend to in my life almost ritualistically.
For some final inspiration, turn to the great myths for structure.
Many people use 'Romeo and Juliet' - one of the most overworked
templates out there. But Ovid is a good source, too. He collected
hundreds of the stories he grew up with into a volume called 'Metamorphoses.'
Beings changing from one thing to another. Ten years ago I wrote
'Ecstasy of Narcissus' - fifteen short fragments for SATB
choir, viola da gamba, harpsichord and period instruments, based
on one of Ovid's tales. In the past month, I have transposed this
work for solo voice and guitar so I can perform it myself. Jung
used to say that a strong myth was the collective 'dream' of its
The story of 'Narcissus' was important during the 70s 'me' generation, and is still relevant today, but for different reasons. Firstly, the tendency of self-absorption, addiction and obsession, by individuals and groups, for the limited parameters of one's own individual or group culture, to the exclusion of others, specifically - and Secondly, and more importantly, the co-dependent and fatal attraction of the mass market, and even the Higher Arts to the 'damaged angel' artist, the artist or performer who leaves the 'beautiful flower,' whose Fragrance is irresistible, but in doing so, destroys their own life in the process, thus creating a confusing and destructive role model for youth. We could make a long list of these tragic souls. The story of 'Narcissus' helps to illuminate the paradox and seduction of 'damaged angel' role model in the aspiring and mature artist.
Here's a little experiment in how to unlock the relevance of myth in your own life. Read the following opening movement from my libretto, describing the rape of Narcissus's mother:
I had a rare opportunity to sing this movement at a women's shelter some years ago. Read the lyric once again from the point of view of an abused woman who has left her husband and found refuge in the shelter. These powerful tales still live for us today and can help us see the resonance and universality in our own stories and writing.
Welcome to Richistan, USA
The American Dream of Riches for all is turning into a nightmare of inequality. But a backlash is brewing.
by Paul Harris
NEW YORK - On the surface, Mark Cain works for a time-share company. Members pay a one-off sum to join and an annual fee. They then get to book holiday time in various destinations around the globe.
But Solstice clients are not ordinary people. They are America's super-rich and a brief glance at its operations reveal the vast and still widening gulf between them and the rest of America.
Solstice has only about 80 members. Platinum membership costs them $875,000 to join and then a $42,000 annual fee. In return they get access to 10 homes from London to California and a private yacht in the Caribbean, all fully staffed with cooks, cleaners and 'lifestyle managers' ready to satisfy any whim from helicopter-skiing to audiences with local celebrities. As the firm's marketing manager, Cain knows what Solstice's clientèle want. 'We are trying to feed and manage this insatiable appetite for luxury,' Cain said with pride.
America's super-rich have returned to the days of the Roaring Twenties. As the rest of the country struggles to get by, a huge bubble of multi-millionaires lives almost in a parallel world. The rich now live in their own world of private education, private health care and gated mansions. They have their own schools and their own banks. They even travel apart - creating a booming industry of private jets and yachts. Their world now has a name, thanks to a new book by Wall Street Journal reporter Robert Frank which has dubbed it 'Richistan'. There every dream can come true. But for the American Dream itself - which promises everyone can join the elite - the emergence of Richistan is a mixed blessing. 'We in America are heading towards 'developing nation' levels of inequality. We would become like Brazil. What does that say about us? What does that say about America?' Frank said.
In 1985 there were just 13 US billionaires. Now there are more than 1,000. In 2005 the US saw 227,000 new millionaires being created. One survey showed that the wealth of all US millionaires was $30 trillion, more than the GDPs of China, Japan, Brazil, Russia and the EU combined.
The rich have now created their own economy for their needs, at a time when the average worker's wage rises will merely match inflation and where 36 million people live below the poverty line. In Richistan sums of money are rendered almost meaningless because of their size. It also has other names. There is the 'Platinum Triangle' used to describe the slice of Beverly Hills where many houses go for above $10m. Then there is the Jewel Coast, used to describe the strip of Madison Avenue in Manhattan where boutique jewellery stories have sprung up to cater for the new riches' needs. Or it exists in the MetCircle society, a Manhattan club open only to those whose net worth is at least $100m.
The reason behind the sudden wealth boom is, according to some
experts, the convergence of a new technology - the internet and
other computing advances - with fluid and speculative markets.
It was the same in the late 19th century when the original Gilded
Age of conspicuous wealth and deep poverty was spawned by railways
and the industrial age. At the same time government has helped
by doling out corporate tax breaks. In the Fifties the proportion
of federal income from company taxes was 33 per cent, by 2003
it was just 7.4 percent. Some 82 of America's largest companies
paid no tax at all in at least one of the first three years of
the administration of President George W Bush. . . .
. . .Now an Oregon-based company is taking things further: private submarines. An estimated 100 or so private subs are now drifting around the world's oceans. Then there are the rockets - several notable billionaires are now leading the way in private exploration of space. One of them is Robert Bigelow who has ploughed $500m into trying to build an inflatable space hotel. A miniature prototype model was successfully launched and tested last month. In a scene that perhaps James Bond would find familiar, armed guards now patrol the fences of Bigelow Aerospace's headquarters wearing badges decorated with an alien as their corporate logo. . .
. . .But now that huge wealth has started to squeeze the 'middle class' out of existence, leaving the haves and have-nots in very separate worlds. It is possible that political will may develop to address the problem or that the problem will correct itself. The notorious end of the Gilded Age came in the panic of 1893 that sank America into depression. Frank believes the signs of a coming storm are there. 'The trick is to spot when prosperity turns to excess,' he said. 'When a large amount of people make a lot money very quickly it's a sign you are near the top of the market.' In a world of mega-yachts, private submarines and space hotels, that peak might be close at hand. And it's a long way down. article
Some Observations on Music by Children
Handel was a deeply religious man because in some of his music he talks about Ye and Thee and people like that.
Berlioz proved he was a wonderful composer by going insane.
Music is one of our most anesthetic arts.
Sherbet composed the Unfinished Symphony.
Music sung by two people at the same time is called a duel; if they sing without music it is called Acapulco.
Probably the most marvelous fugue was the one between the Hatfields and the McCoys.
The main trouble with a French Horn is that it is too tangled up.
All female parts were sung by castrati. We don't know exactly
what they sounded like because there are no known descendants.
(thanks to WaylandN)
Huge Underground Lake Could End Darfur Conflict: US Scientist
SUDAN - The recent discovery of a huge underground lake in
Sudan could spell an end to four years of conflict in the drought-stricken
region of Darfur, a US geologist said Wednesday. More than 200,000
people have been killed and some two million displaced in the
conflict, sparked in part by competing claims to scarce natural
resources in the western region, according to humanitarian organizations.
"Access to fresh water is essential for refugee survival, it will help the peace process and provide the necessary resources for the much needed economic development in Darfur," said Farouk El-Baz from Boston University. The discovery was reported in last month's "International Journal of Remote Sensing" and the Sudanese government has since launched its "1,000 Wells For Darfur" campaign to raise sufficient funds to tap the precious resource.
Egypt has already committed to sinking the first 20 wells free of charge while the United Nations has sought help in selecting the best sites to sink the wells, Baz told AFP. The United Nations needs water supplies for its planned 20,000-strong joint UN-African Union force, due to deploy in Sudan possibly next year.
The lake was spotted by satellite and lies more than 550 meters (1,800 feet) below sea level. article
Gore: Human Species in a Race for its Life
by Sarah Gilman
ASPEN, Colo. - "There's an African proverb that says, 'If you want to go quick, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.' We have to go far quickly," former Vice President Al Gore told a packed, rapt house at the Benedict Music Tent Wednesday. With many scientists pointing to a window of less than 10 years to moderate the effects of global warming, he said, meaningful change is still possible, but "It is a race."
The size of the climate problem? Worldwide atmospheric carbon has jumped from 280 to 383 parts per million in the last century; the polar icecaps are melting three times faster than anyone's direst prediction; China is on the verge of surpassing the United States for greenhouse gas emissions; bark beetles and wildfires are sweeping across Western forests; temperatures are climbing, sea levels rising, glaciers vanishing. By some estimates, humans must pull 30 gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere to have a shot at reversing such effects.
"What we're facing worldwide really is a planetary emergency,"
Gore said. "I'm optimistic, but we're losing this battle
Gore, interviewed by business luminary John Doerr, spoke at the Aspen Institute's Greentech Innovation Network summit - a gathering of world innovators hoping to boost the development of green technologies.
It's going to take a 90-percent decrease in carbon emissions from developed fossil fuel guzzlers like the U.S. and a 50-percent decrease worldwide to get a handle on the problem, Gore said - changes that will take major leaps of political will far beyond what current politicians see as feasible. That reduction, which would be mandated by a world-wide treaty, could happen through carbon taxes, cap and trade, technological innovations, and energy conservation and efficiency, he continued, as long as it is accompanied by a major grassroots public shift to sustain it at the level necessary.
Gore advised the audience to compare the blue orb of the Earth to Venus, where daytime temperatures reach 867 degrees Fahrenheit and it rains sulphuric acid. The two planets have the same amount of carbon, Gore explained, but Venus' just happens to be in the atmosphere, while most of the Earth's is still locked underground. "The habitability of this planet for human beings really is at risk," he said.
So is there room for optimism faced with the specter of Venus? Gore thinks so, but it's not in the current parade of presidential candidates or the slew of climate-related bills moving through the U.S. legislature - measures Gore called "baby steps." article
Jewish-Italian Chicken Meatballs, with a Touch of Cinnamon
500 g minced chicken
small finely chopped onion
half stick stick finely chopped celery
Method: Minced chicken, a sprinkle of ground cinnamon,
beaten egg in a bowl. Mix thoroughly with your hands. Heat some
oil in the pan. Sauté onions until soft. Add celery. Cook
for a few minutes. Add sauce. Bring to simmer. Form small meatballs
from the chicken mixture and just place in the sauce. (This is
what gives it a unique and delicate flavour and a texture like
a large dumpling -DO NOT fry the meatballs first.) Just simmer
until cooked through. Turn occasionally. Cover if you wish. It
won't take long to cook the meatballs as they very light.
Eat these just as they are, with the sauce spooned over. Or else serve with pasta or polenta. Add parmesan cheese and finely chopped parsley if you wish.
THE FINAL HURRAH
SMART ASS ANSWER OF THE YEAR 2006
A college teacher reminds her class of tomorrow's final exam. "Now class, I won't tolerate any excuses for you not being here tomorrow. I might consider a nuclear attack or a serious personal injury, illness, or a death in your immediate family, but that's it, no other excuses whatsoever!" A smart-ass guy in the back of the room raised his hand and asked, "What would you say if tomorrow I said I was suffering from complete and utter sexual exhaustion?" The entire class is reduced to laughter and snickering. When silence is restored, the teacher smiles knowingly at the student, shakes her head and sweetly says, "Well, I guess you'd have to write the exam with your other hand."(thanks to Terry Dwyer)