Week 345 // Consecutive Numbers

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Five ’til nine, I’m sewing up the weekend
Ten of twelve, I’m down, caught adrift
Judging fireworks messing up the sidewalk
Can it be we’re older than this?
Can it be we’re older than this?

Everyone has a right to act their age
Whatever it is
Just because

Oh the shadows longer than the sidewalk
Make them dance, dear, all the way back
Make them scatter all the light together
We must know we’re younger than that
We must know we’re younger than that

Everyone has a right to act their age
Whatever it is
All of us
Just because

Notes
Over the weekend, I had a lovely interaction over web-cam with my nearly three-year-old nephew, Harold. His dad gave him a melodica to play with, so I dug mine out of the closet and played along with him. So often I think of musical instruments as tools, but Harold reminded me that they can also be toys. There’s a reason we use the word “play” to describe how we make music. Feeling inspired by the young man’s musical squeaks and gleeful giggles, I didn’t put the melodica away after we were done playing. I kept it out to accompany my guitar on this week’s song.

Just as I sometimes forget that music is a form of play, all the more often I catch myself striking the posture of a grumpy old man. I curse about loud teenagers out my window. I complain about aching joints. I nearly always tuck in my teeshirts, even when I’m at home. I hate almost nothing more than dance clubs. But even as I have recognized these habits and preferences setting in over the years, I haven’t given up childish things.

One of the great things about my marriage is that we make space to play. Wherever we go together, we’re playing. We’re still too young to be reasonably accused of being old, except perhaps by the loud teenagers outside. This song is about accepting that you’re old, remembering that you’re young, and forgiving yourself for being whichever you might be at any given moment.

~M.E.

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Week 344 // The Sound of the Rain

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The sound of the rain
Wait for your love
As you bask in it
Though the sun don’t shine
We didn’t ask for it
We’ve got light enough
To make up for it

However you came
However you are
I want you just like that
From my lips to God’s ear
You’re just right like that
From my lips to your ear
As a matter of fact

I listen to the rain
And I wait for the sound
Of your hand at the door
And the whole wide world
It won’t matter no more
And the whole wide world
It don’t matter no more

Notes
This weekly songwriting project tends to skew toward the autobiographical, and this week’s song carries that trend to quite literal territory. As I sat at home, listening to the rain, and waiting for my love to return, I wrote song about sitting at home, listening to the rain, and waiting for my love to return. Summer storms create the greatest soundscapes, full of rhythm both mesmerizing and anticipatory. The sound fills the waiting with romance. I played quietly so I could keep an ear on the rain. I sang softly, that I might hear the doorknob creak.

~M.E.

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Week 343 // Summer Mic Bleed

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Later on in my secret hide out
Write a song with a window open
Write a song to the world outside
Hear the sound of the world

Listen up, it’s a summer twilight
Listen up to the wailing siren
Hear the sound of your heart’s desire
Drown it out with a song

You were born with a voice, so use it
You were born with a voice, so use it
You were born with a voice, so use it
You were born with a voice

Notes
It’s a scorcher out there folks. This was the year’s first real summer recording session for me. With the mercury up past ninety, my home recording station becomes a sauna. In past years, possessing of great fortitude and determination, I would suffocate in a hot room with the doors and windows shut for hours, heroically drowning out local ambient sounds and torturing myself for my art. I’m not there yet this year. Instead, I churned out a quick tune with the window open, contending with the street chaos outside. I delayed recording vocals for nearly twenty minutes because the ice-cream truck was drowning me out. By the way, this song’s reference to one’s heart’s desire is a gesture toward the aforementioned ice-cream truck; its frozen salvation tempting and taunting me from the street below. I did not succumb. Incidentally, I present the download of this song for free, because I don’t want to tangle with any copyright lawyers that Mr. Softee might have on retainer.

~M.E.

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Week 342 // Dazzled by Thoughts of Infinity

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Oh the moon is the eye of a goddess
Watching everything
Walking the Earth one might stop to regard her
Always in moonlight we understand

Hear your name
From the lips of your lover
In the cadence of summer

Come to me
Oh the moonlight is with us
The goddess permits us

Oh the Earth is the goddess’ garden
What must she think of us?
Here on the Earth with my hand in my pocket
Dazzled by thoughts of infinity

Hear your name
From the lips of your lover
In the cadence of summer

Come to me
Oh the moonlight is with us
The goddess permits us

Notes
This is a love song and a nature song. I don’t feel that these words demand a lot of explanation. The world’s lovers dance a bit lighter, tugged ever so gently from the Earth by the gravity of the moon. When it hits your eye like a big pizza pie. I’m not the first songwriter to notice that the moon is a love goddess. I hope this song makes you think of somebody who has a tidal pull on you.

I really went for it with a few of these harmonies, and I can’t remember playing my guitar in quite this way before. It has been a little while since I tried to push my boundaries. This one felt really good.

~M.E.

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Week 341 // Belief

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The keys to the kingdom
The lock on an open gate
Oh my lord I’ve seen it all

The rain washing over
Voices from the window came
Oh dear god I’ve heard them all

And it’s strange believing
Oh dear lord believe in me

Or it’s unbelieving
Oh dear lord believe in
Oh dear lord believe in me

Notes
I’m not sure what brought about this meditation on belief. I didn’t know what I was writing until it was written. I suppose this song is a prayer. It directly addresses the deity, so there you have it.

Nobody has posed the question to me recently of whether or not I hold a personal belief in a god, so I’m a bit befuddled that I brought it up. I used to believe in god. I’m interested in believing in god. It’s still compelling to me in the dark of the night when life looms large. That’s about as far as I can take it right now. I guess this song is a plea to a god I used to talk to. I think I’m asking that god not to forget about me in the mean time.

~M.E.

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Week 340 // A True Thing

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Oh lips that kiss at my cheeks
Oh hands that grasp at my hands
Oh heart that’s beating in time
Oh mind with key to my mind

What is impossible?
What is impossible?
Words like “impossible” scattering
Scattering

Oh queen and king of the Earth
Light at the end of the day
Simple unstoppable notion
She with the way of the ocean

What is impossible?
What is impossible?
Words like “impossible” scattering
Scattering

Notes
It has been a little while since I authored a straightforward love song. This one is simple, quiet, and reflective. I spend a lot of energy tripping over topics a whole lot less weighty than this. Early in my career as a songwriter, I developed a way of thinking that casts love songs as trivial. I’ve grown to understand that notion to be a misunderstanding born of an unfamiliarity with love, which I have since remedied with the help of my wife. At worst, love songs are commonplace, a fact which still buoys my impulse to shy away from them. Truthfully, this type of song intimidates me. Because they are so common, love songs are the hardest thing to write with any originality or distinctiveness. Sincerity is one’s only reliable tool. I’ve done my best to wield it here. This writeup seems a bit dry and academic, but the song is not. I have written a true thing.

~M.E.

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Week 339 // Something Pretty

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In the wind
In the dark
Beyond the trees
Beyond the artifice
In the open air
At the whim of the elements
At the end of it all
At the start of it all

Notes
This weekend I returned to my native New England. I zigzagged around the states most familiar to me, as the region tried to shrug off a fairly gross noreaster. Between Friday and Sunday I occupied every New England state except for Maine. Several occasions required my attendance; a funeral, a graduation party, and Mother’s Day. They each carried their own unique profundity. In the middle of the whole excursion, I had my 32nd birthday. Cycle upon cycle. Beginnings and endings.

The weather was awful. Hearts were present and steadfast in their empathy and fellowship. Nature was both seductive and callous at once. The land from which I come reminded me why New Englanders are deep in character. They see snow on Mother’s Day and call it pretty.

~M.E.

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Week 338 // One Foot at a Time

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Ain’t no path of righteousness
There’s only one foot at a time
But when the wind is blowing at your back
It gets you thinking that you’re right

There ain’t no feeling like coming home
And it don’t matter where you live
To light the old fire another hundred times
There is nothing you wouldn’t give

Notes
When you’re putting one foot ahead of the other, some steps are long, and some steps go only as far as they must. This week’s song is a small step, and that’s what it was meant to be.

I had the time and space for a small meditation, so I turned to one of the great meditative artists, and I borrowed a chord change or two from Leonard Cohen. I doubt he would mind. He is usually praised for his lyrics, but his structural instincts were good too. There’s so much to learn from him.

The lyrics are brief and simple enough that I’ll leave their interpretation to you. I’ll give you only this: small steps can still lead someplace.

~M.E.

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Week 337 // With Apologies to Plato

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Dance little shadow
Enter into my eyes
What form described?
What form described?
Cast the shape of knowledge

I have no need
For music written after 2006
Twenty aught six
Was the end of music

In the cave we were unaware
In the cave we were unaware

Still every morning
Rub the potions into my unblemished skin
Oh my skin has all the facts worth knowing

In the cave we were unaware
In the cave we were unaware

Notes
This week I have taken a shallow stab at appropriating Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Far be it from me to have anything new or original to say about this ancient work. The chorus came to me fully formed, and I loved the harmonies, so I found myself forced to throw my hat in the ring with the classics scholars, and my college freshman seminar syllabus.

Still, there is something nice going on here. I’m tugging at awakening and loss of innocence. I feel like I know when I saw the form casting the shadow for the first time. I image most people have a sense of that moment in their lives. Afterwords comes some kind of artifice; an epiphany followed by a retreat. This might seem vague, but I can’t always spell it all out. If I had specifics, I’d give them to you.

~M.E.

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Week 336 // The High Ground

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I turn the gear at morning
And I scrape against the island
And any eye cast toward the cracks
Shall be snatched out for denying what we’re told

Hold to your reason
To seek the horizon line

Hold to conviction
And hold to each other
The cracks fill with water
The high ground will raise you up

Hold the world above you
For you are your mother’s daughter
The Earth aloft and in your hands
Run your fingers through the water and hold

I was a goner
Until I was lifted up

I was a goner
A thought cast adrift
Across the cracks in the sidewalk
You reached down to lift me up

Features start to change
Many miles in the distance
Whatever force it takes
The very edges of existence will give way

Hold to the moment
You burst through the closing gate

Hold to the kindness
The cracks couldn’t breach
You must hold to the convictions
That the chaos couldn’t reach
And you will hold tight to the lesson
That a crucible can teach
And we will hold tight to each other
With the other ever reaching up

Notes
Last week’s entry, “The Absence of Light”, was pretty bleak. My dad, who contributes weekly comments on the website under the nom de plume “oldman”, remarked, “Sounds grim. Is it time for an upbeat song?” I’m not sure anyone would accuse this week’s song of being upbeat; you probably couldn’t dance to it. However, it does achieve a serenity and optimism that has been lacking in my recent work.

This song starts from the shallows of defeat and frustration evident in some recent entries, and seeks higher ground. It’s a love song, and it’s a future song. I’ve written before of entropy, the powerful gravity afflicting New Yorkers, and the inability to sense the edges of the place. This song is about working together to achieve escape velocity. We’re building up a head of steam.

~M.E.

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