Posts Tagged ‘questions’

A Wedding Song

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

town beach

I’ve just come out with a new album of songs Lounge Act In Heaven and I’d like to tell you the origin of one of the songs: A Wedding Song.

On a rainy winter’s eve circa 2001 I was sitting in the living room of the house I was renting in Berkeley, noodling on my guitar, when I happened to noodle upon a progression of chords that made a pleasing three-part song. At the time of this propitious noodling I was the daily babysitter for Conor, the one-year-old child of my neighbors Karen and Scotty. Karen loved my new three-part song and asked me to play it for the processional at their upcoming wedding, which I did.

th_istealmybicycle-550

A year or so later I was making a CD of three of my short stories entitled I Steal My Bicycle & other stories, and I recorded songs without words to go before and after each of the three stories on the album. I played guitar and Adrian West accompanied me on violin. The last of the songs on that album is Karen’s wedding processional, which I entitled Wedding Song.

I Steal My Bicycle came out in 2003 and all these years later Wedding Song is still occasionally streamed or downloaded by somebody somewhere in the world, no doubt because the title is Wedding Song. You can listen to the instrumental on YouTube or stream and/or download from your favorite sites. Or you can get the CD with three fab short stories and groovalicious instrumental music for just five bucks from my web site.

Over the ensuing years, I would occasionally play the progression of chords for Wedding Song so I wouldn’t forget how the song went; and I would try out a lyric or two, but nothing ever caught.

Fast forward to early 2019. I collaborated with local vocal wizard Gwyneth Moreland for the first time on my CD of songs Dream of You. Inspired by working with Gwyneth, I wrote a bevy of new songs, and while I was writing them, my friend Max Greenstreet released his wonderful half-hour movie Guys.

I watched Guys three times in four days, and then over the next few weeks watched my favorite parts of the movie several more times.

And then I had an epiphany. One of the things I love most about Guys is that much of the dialogue is composed of intriguing questions for the viewer to ponder.

This epiphany led me to wonder: what if I wrote lyrics to Wedding Song composed entirely of the kinds of questions prospective marriage partners might ask each other? Might such a composition make a compelling song? You bet it might.

So I started creating a list of such questions, and whilst making my list, Marcia and I went to supper at Bill and Sally Fletcher’s house and the four of us brainstormed about such questions and I took copious notes. After accumulating hundreds of potential courtship questions, I began fitting the most compelling questions to the music until I completed the song, which I entitled A Wedding Song to distinguish it from Wedding Song.

For A Wedding Song, Gwyneth plays accordion, I play guitar, and we sing the song as a duet with a couple extra Gwyneth vocal tracks here and there throughout the song. You can hear our rendition on YouTube, or you can add a few pennies to my coffers by downloading or streaming the song (or the entire CD) from your favorite music site.

Here are the lyrics to A Wedding Song.

 

Are you a day person or a night owl?

Do you like traveling by train?

Would you like to go out walking with me?

When it starts to rain?

 

What’s your earliest memory?

Where in the world do you feel most free?

Wanna go for Thai food with me?

 

Who was your first great love?

Are you always early or always late?

When did you stop believing in Santa Claus?

Do you believe in luck or fate?

 

How old were you when you started to talk?

Have you ever run a marathon?

What’s your go-to comfort food?

How do you feel about puns?

 

Do you have a favorite song?

Wanna sing it and I’ll sing along?

Oh come on now it might be fun.

 

What’s your favorite ethnic cuisine?

Who’s your favorite movie star?

What really really pushes your buttons?

Can you imagine a world without war?

 

What do you like to do for fun?

Are you a gourmet cook?

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Have you got a favorite book?

 

Do you remember your dreams?

What if life is not what it seems?

Would it be okay with you if I needed to scream?

 

Did you have a happy childhood?

What’s your favorite holiday?

What would you do if you suddenly got a million dollars?

Would you give it all away?

 

When was your first real kiss?

Do you like poetry?

Who is your very best friend?

It’s okay if it’s not me.

 

What do you really want to be?

Can you imagine living with me?

You’d wake up and there I’d be?

 

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

What makes you laugh and cry?

If you could have just one super power,

Would it be that you could fly?

 

So I guess the big question is:

Will you marry me?

Merge your heart and soul with mine,

Share a destiny?

 

Let us never be afraid

To say the things we need to say

Trusting love to show us the way

loungeact-front

 

Suffering Fools

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

We've Traded Places Times Before

We’ve Traded Places Times Before painting by Nolan Winkler

(This article appeared in the Anderson Valley Advertiser January 2016)

“Life is a long lesson in humility.” James Barrie

My friend John Grimes, the cartoonist, recently sent me an article from the Washington Post about Sarah Palin’s endorsement of Donald Trump for President of the United States. The writer of the article suggests that since both Palin and Trump are Reality Television stars, this endorsement furthers the frightening trend of American politics becoming little more than a media circus designed to numb the populous while aggrandizing the stand-ins for the despots.

But I think there is something else going on here with Trump and Palin, something much older and deeper than Reality Television, though directly connected to the televisionization of our culture and society, which has made us, more than ever before, the victims of aggressive extroverts who seem to be developmentally arrested somewhere between the ages of four and ten.

When I was in Sixth Grade, a decade or two before the introduction of Ritalin and other pharmaceuticals into mainstream-education class management, there were two kids in our class, Charlie and Amy, who were both so impulsive, loud, and disruptive, our well-meaning teacher was nearly powerless to control them. And even when Charlie and Amy were not acting out, we expected them to explode at any moment, so our classroom experience was about surviving Charlie and Amy, not about learning. Sadly, these two were not smart or creative or interesting. On the contrary, they were infantile and abusive—Trump and Palin.

When Charlie and Amy’s behavior became seriously dangerous, which it did every few weeks—they often erupted in tandem—they would be removed from the class room for a few days or a week, and renaissance would ensue. Kids rigid with fear would relax, discussions would become sophisticated, and real learning would ensue, along with joy and laughter and emotional growth. And then Charlie and Amy would return and so would the Dark Ages.

“My grandfather believed there are two kinds of people—those who know how the world fits together and those who think they know. The former work in hardware stores, the latter in politics.” Josef Anderson

Alas, adult versions of those two abusive children who wrecked school for many of us are plentiful in our society. I’m sure you have experienced the following: You are at a gathering of intelligent thoughtful people, save for one who is not particularly bright or thoughtful or interesting, but he—it is most often a he—holds forth incessantly about nothing of interest to anyone, interrupts anyone who dares speak for more than a moment, and ruins the gathering—the group powerless to overcome this person’s repulsive neurosis.

Why are there so many of these boorish people in America? Christopher Lasch posits in his fascinating books The Culture of Narcissism and The Minimal Self, that the breakdown of the extended family within a larger cohesive social fabric, hastened by the invention of auto-centric suburbia combined with the intrusion of television into every home in America, birthed vast numbers of individuals incapable of forming healthy emotional bonds. And those individuals, he suggests, had children who had children who had children, while all the while the social fabric continued to unravel; and we are now several generations along this new evolutionary path to endemic emotional disconnect.

“Mankind is divisible into two great classes: hosts and guests.” Sir Max Beerbohm

When I taught Creative Writing at a summer school for highly motivated teenagers, I became aware that most of my charges did not know how to have conversations. They could exchange bits of information and make pronouncements, but they didn’t really know how to converse. After lengthy field study, I concluded that my teenagers did not know how to listen, did not know how to ask questions, did not know how to ask follow-up questions, and did not know how to think for a moment before responding to things other people said to them.

So we held conversation workshops in which my faculty demonstrated how to ask questions, how to listen to answers without interrupting, how to ask follow-up questions, and how to keep listening. Then we had our students practice writing out responses to the answers they received to their questions, which gave them practice in thinking about what they heard other people say before responding. And then we had them practice these techniques in groups of two and three and four people on a stage in front of an audience, after which people in the audience gave the performers feedback about which parts of the conversations they especially resonated with.

And though we worked on many aspects of the writing process during those month-long intensives, nothing we did for our students impacted them as profoundly as learning how to have meaningful conversations. For several years after I ceased teaching, I received letters from former students recounting the huge impacts those conversation workshops had on myriad aspects of their lives.

I often think of those workshops when I encounter these emotional black holes who will not allow anyone else to speak. You will notice that such people never ask questions of anyone, for to do so would be to enter into conversation. What, I wonder, do these incessant blabbers fear about other people speaking?

Could it be that the television itself is the primary role model these people have when it comes to relating to others? How does a television behave? It talks incessantly about the same things over and over again, never asks questions of those listening, and continues talking if anyone else tries to speak. Why wouldn’t people entrained by watching television for hours and hours every day from early childhood and throughout their formative years, imitate that “person”? Of course they would.

I don’t watch television, and it is only through what my friend Max Greenstreet informs me is called social osmosis that I know anything about Reality Television. But I would wager that most Reality Television shows feature people who would benefit greatly from conversation workshops.