pain

Song #51: La Pele

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"Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent." [Victor Hugo]

Having covered a wide spectrum of genres and textures in "One Love, One Year," as I begin to bring it to a close I find there are still infinite ways that music can speak to us about love. Sometimes - maybe many times - raw, composed, instrumental music can express depths that lyrics and sung words cannot quite reach.

This week I dusted off a classical piano piece that I spent many, many hours composing years ago and finished it up to incorporate into this project. As with anything of this nature, it is open to a variety of interpretations, but to me this piece speaks to love as a sort of violent, yet sweetly playful tussle -- often oscillating between order and chaos, majesty and misery, clarity and confusion.

"The inexpressible depth of music, so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being..." [Oliver Sacks]

PLAY:

Song #42: Disappear

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"A mighty pain to love it is,
And 'tis a pain that pain to miss;
But of all pains, the greatest pain
It is to love, but love in vain."
[Abraham Cowley]

LYRICS:

Look at me,

I've got my shit together

I am a winner, a picture of health

but what no one sees deep below the surface

is a cavern, the cold hard walls of a well

 

For a time I was better, well on my way

A little bit stronger, a little more life each day

But all the momentum I thought I had gained

slows to a halt when someone speaks your name

 

Sometimes I wish you'd disappear

So maybe I could find peace this year

But I know as sure as I sit here

That I don't mean it

 

When you both live in the same small town

You can't help but see each other around

I have that old crusty wound that almost heals

But then I catch your eyes and it all at once starts to peel

 

Sometimes I wish you'd disappear

So maybe I could find peace this year

But I know as sure as I sit here

That I don't mean it

 

As much as I would like to move on,

it ain't happening

But if I can pretend that you're gone,

there's a respite from all the battling in my mind

 

Sometimes I wish you'd disappear

So maybe, maybe I could find peace this year

But I know as sure as I sit here

That I don't mean it

 

...but most times I wish you'd just appear

And wreck all of my plans for this year

Cause when I said my love was sincere 

Well, I still mean it

Song #25: The King

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"Loneliness is the first thing which God's eye named, not good."
[John Milton]

PLAY:

LYRICS:

Roll in the driveway

and place it in park

There isn't a light on

The house is all dark

There's nobody home

and I pretend it doesn't matter

but it does

 

No snoring little babies

tucked up under blankies

No one through the window

Or assuring embraces

No "I'm glad to see you"

and I pretend it's for a reason

but it's not

 

So I pour me a whisky

and get a little bit silly

because if I start to thinking

who knows where that will take me

 

I picked up my ink pen

to write up this song

and I just keep on writing

so the music won't stop

'cause when the music ain't playing

all I can hear is the fridge

and the dogs

 

So I toss back more whisky

before I start wondering if you miss me

And if this is how it's got to be

At least I can set myself free

 

This is a cell

My own private silent hell

This is my life, serving my time, these are my shackles

And here I am king

For as far as the eye can see this is my land,

and I am the king of an empty castle

 

So I strip down to nothing

and lie in my bed

there's a space on the mattress

there's a buzz in my head

The quiet gets louder

and I pretend it doesn't matter

but it does

This quiet gets louder

and I pretend it doesn't matter

but it does

Song #23: Not Enough

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Over the past few weeks, I've had conversations with two men - one who is going through a divorce and another who recently did. I kept hearing the same two themes emerge: one, that they were both trying everything they could to do the right thing, hold their marriages together and to show love even as their (ex-)spouse was struggling and/or being destructive; and two, that because their efforts weren't being accepted, it dealt such a heavy blow to their self-worth. Since in this project I had promised to explore all of the angles of love, I felt drawn to flesh out this experience in song, as difficult as that may be.

This was a hard song to write and I'm sure is a hard one to listen to. It's not unlike watching Requiem for a Dream - sitting through it once is probably enough. I had to go deep and get to an emotional space that I've known very well but not really wanted to return to. That said, the purpose of this piece is not in any way to glorify a defeated and self-doubting perspective; in time people move out of this stage and realize their worth is independent of their circumstances. Rather, this is a "snapshot" in time, a musical picture of a dark and raw reality... for the sake of artistic observation as well as catharsis. Almost like being physically ill, sometimes it's only by purging the darkness through expressing it (in writing, in song, in conversation) that we make room for the light and life to return again.

PLAY:

LYRICS:

She is fading, she's fading fast

And I've felt hurt before, but no hurt quite like this

'cause I see her hanging, she's just hanging on

In my strength, all i have; dear just please take my arm

And I know I can't save you

don't pretend I can

But I can't just stand by and

not extend a hand

 

But part of me

Hates the part of me

That gives a shit at all

 

She is struggling, she's scraping by

But she's too damned hardheaded to let me by her side

I am trying, maybe I should stop

When your love is unwelcomed, when do you finally give up?

 

My shit is not enough (for you)

It is not enough

My love is not enough

My time... not enough

My care... not enough

Love is not enough for you

Love...

Song #20: Rise (and Rise Again)

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Remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? There were multiple directions you could take at the end of the chapters, each resulting in different outcomes. In "Amphetamine" (week 12) the singer, after facing the loss of love, totally gave up, shut down and escaped into fantasy. This week I wanted to write an alternate ending.

What would it look like for someone who had once "climatized to a life of loss" found the inner strength to face the pain, overcome obstacles and, with confidence, tread into an uncertain future? What would it look like to take a once dead heart and set it on fire again?

Musically, I'm not sure how you would categorize this song except for experimental. It's different and won't be everyone's cup of tea, but it's what came out.

And besides, if they need a theme song for Rocky VII, I've got them covered.

PLAY:

LYRICS:

A place for everything, everything in its place

Got it all locked down; going to hold control over all of my space

Ain't gonna rock the boat, going to minimize the pain,

Chain my desire and lock it all away

 

Well it's fear that holds me down and feigns as safe

And I have played the role of a passive man all of my days

If I'm ever gonna live, gonna have to put that mask away

And rise up from the ashes and take my place

 

Rise and rise again,

make a lion from this lamb

There's a battle to fight

A war to be won

I'm here to make my stand

With violence I crush my fear

and step out off that ledge

Though bloodied from battle, I will not run,

I rise and rise again

 

Well I told myself I'd never love again

After being burned, why would I walk into the fire again?

But the time for safe has ended, and it's ending here, today

I rise up from the ashes and stake my claim

Song #12: Amphetamine

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The character in this song seems to have climatized to a life of loss. Like any of us, of course he doesn't desire brokenness but his attitudes and beliefs attract it time and again. And time and again, instead of dealing with these things head on, he tends to default to two coping mechanisms: self-medication and running away. "Amphetamine" is a dark song about a shell of a man, hardly someone worth admiring. And yet there's sympathy there, knowing that we all deal with loss and difficulty in our own variations of these ways. Part of me wants to scream at him - "it's worth the risk" - but he'll either toughen up and figure that on his own... or he won't.

On a production note, this is the first song so far that I've directly worked with another individual in the creation process. Music college friend, writing partner and excellent songwriter/performer Joe Aielli had the piano intro and idea for this song years ago. We've worked it on and off for a while but I knew when I began this love-themed writing project, this song would have to be revisited and finished.

Oh, and please swing by Joe's page and become a fan of his well-crafted music:

www.facebook.com/joeaielli

PLAY:

LYRICS:

she called me in and said I'm leaving

just like so many girls before

and once again I think that love, it ain't the answer

'cause what's united can be torn

friends and lovers, ya who needs 'em?

it just hurts too much to say goodbye anymore

well i've got all the ways I need to ease the pain

and they come out to play when it begins to storm

 

I think love is an amphetamine running through my head

just a high that becomes tomorrow's tears

I think love is an amphetamine,

so now I'm on my way until it all just disappears

 

as the dust blows up behind me

I can't think about all the people I left behind

what you call love I call the thing that trips me up

I'd rather move ahead alone and undefined

 

yes, I think love is an amphetamine running through my head

just a high that becomes tomorrow's tears

I think love is an amphetamine,

so now I'm on my way until it all just disappears

 

and when I take the pill I'm standing on top of the world

unconscious to the crowd below

but without fail, in time, I always come crashing down

it lifts me up and leaves me low

 

will i always think love is an amphetamine?

will i ever let anyone draw near?

see I think love is an amphetamine

so now I'm on my way until it all just disappears

you may live in love, but I live in fear

so I'll get the hell on out of here