Saturday, August 11, 2012

Song #232 of 9999 - What Once Was Grand by Frankie Big Face

As mentioned in my post of July 20, I'm going to write about my own music for a few weeks as a way to get some song comments together for an updated website. My goal is eventually to have a few paragraphs written for every song on my website and I figured I'd start with all the Nur Ein songs I've written over the past six years. Nur Ein is a songwriting competition in the same vein as Song Fight!, wherein a title is presented each week and participants must write and record a song using that title. The songs are posted and listeners vote for their favorites. In the case of Nur Ein, there is a judging panel that ranks the songs and participants are eliminated each week until "only one" (nur ein) remains. There are also additional challenges that must be incorporated such as "lyrics in the form of a sonnet" or "guest rapper." Nur Ein has been around for seven years and I've entered four times and won twice. NBD. :D  This is post #17.


Song #232 of 9999 

Title: What Once Was Grand
Artist: Frankie Big Face
Year: 2009
Album: Nur Ein 4

Click here to listen!

Poetry and lyrics are not the same thing. I think they each have their advantages and disadvantages. You can get away with the most insipid lyric if it is backed by a brilliant melody. (This couplet from The Beatles' Something always comes to mind: "I don't want to leave her now/You know I believe and how.") With poetry, you can use words that would rarely work if sung and you don't have to worry about hooks or repetitive devices like refrains or choruses. There's a lot more freedom there.

So any time I'm faced with using a poetic structure as the basis for lyrics, I find it challenging but also pretty satisfying when it works out. My goal is always to make the poem work without the music but still have it work as a pop song. For What Once Was Grand, my challenge was to write the lyrics in the form of a sonnet and I chose the Italian or Petrachan form, which has the rhyming scheme a-b-b-a a-b-b-a c-d-e c-d-e. The first eight lines are supposed to be one sentence and many poets employ semicolons for the sake of readability. Ultimately, I knew I was writing a song and allowed myself to let it run on a bit, knowing the musical setting would break it up. The ninth line is supposed to be turning point, a volta if you will, moving the poem from proposition to resolution. I don't know if mine is obvious in the poem, but the dramatic shift is evident in the music. I cheat a little bit in performance by repeating the first word—it's all supposed to be iambic pentameter—but again, this is a pop song and there needs to be some leeway. For the sake of rhyme and meter, I also lied about the 8th Mazurka being Opus 29; it's actually Opus 7! (our protagonist's memory, like mine, is suspect)

Lyrics below in their entirety.

Goodbye to you my dark and dusty friend.
You've shown yourself to be among the few
Who know that time will seldom give a cue
To those who don't know how to call an end
To all the songs, the poems, the words that rend
Our hearts to jelly, minds to clay, askew
With stirring pangs that make their prized debut
When all else fails and life seems like pretend.
The moment I began to feel was when
I heard you whisper strains of Chopin's 8th 

Mazurka--Opus 29, I think.
Now with your soundboard cracked, your ivory spent,
Your hammers snapped, I toss away my faith
And cry; what once was grand is now extinct!

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