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What's your songwriting White Whale?


Chicken Monkey

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I've been waiting for 10-12 years to get some traction on a song about Zeno's Paradox:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xeno%27s_paradox

 

But I haven't found a way in yet. I'm convinced there's at least one brilliant song in there, but I, nor anyone else, has managed to write it.

 

Do you carry any unwritten songs with you in a torturous manner?

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I have a few which have been sitting in the back of my mind for a long time.

 

One is about hesitation, it's sort of like "Breathless" where Jean-Paul Belmondo can't leave Paris, except it involves a Viking sailor who has landed on the west coast of India (square sailed ship, can only go downwind) and is somehow unable to set off on the seasonal trade winds, but he knows that when winter comes he will be trapped for another year.

 

Another one is about the cosmonaut who was in space when the Soviet Union collapsed and wasn't brought back for almost a year after that.

http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:SPp-MAPB4pgJ:www.chron.com/content/interactive/space/missions/mir/news/1992/19920326.html

Part of this is also about Mikhail Gorbachev and how much he realized that he would be the last Soviet leader, and how that impacted his actions.

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I've been waiting for 10-12 years to get some traction on a song about Zeno's Paradox:




But I haven't found a way in yet. I'm convinced there's at least one brilliant song in there, but I, nor anyone else, has managed to write it.

 

 

You get closer and closer to completing the song, but you can never actually finish "Zeno's Paradox".

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You get closer and closer to completing the song, but you can never actually finish "Zeno's Paradox".

 

 

On top of that, you can never actually listen to it. At each instant in time, the song would have to move to the measure it is at, or to the measure it is not. Since it's a single instant, it can't move to where it's not, and it can't move to where it is since it's already there. Ergo, no motion and the entirety of greek philosophy vanishes in a puff of logic.

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Great question!

 

The blues tune I'm grinding on right now is definitely my White Whale. I always felt that I needed to record a basic blues tune but I also knew that I just wasn't a blues player. I first tracked it over three years ago and it just didn't stick....put it on the shelf.

 

Whenever I'm between projects I pick it back up and it never gains any traction.

 

I just got out of the studio and I may just have the harpoon set deep this time.

 

Maybe this time....maybe.

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I've got several ideas that have been hanging around my cranium since the last century, but if i told you what they are, you'd steal them and I'd have to kill you.

 

One is a Christmas song about how overworked Santa is because kids just think about "Gimme". I've got two verses and the chorus, but then I can't decide if all the kids in the world become less selfish somehow and everything is wonderful, or perhaps the elves help Santa get done for yet ANOTHER year, or maybe Santa dies from a massive heart attack from exhaustion (that version is SURE to become an Xmas standard).

 

Another is the love song for my wife that she has given up on me ever writing.

She says "If you love me it should just come flowing out in a passionate stream of emotion."

I say, "Hmmm, a new approach to a love song worthy of you...ummm...."

 

I also have had pro'lly fifty sets of lyrics for years that either outright suck, don't say what i want to say, get too clever or BS-filled, or get derailed in some indefineable way. (If i knew where they went wrong I could fix them.)

 

So, short answer - you bet!

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My white whales are more in the form of definitive recorded versions of some favorite songs. I have some pretty good versions of some crap songs... but there are more than a few of the good songs that I haven't been able to really get.

 

And there's just a big, nasty backlog in general, recording-wise. Part of it is because I feel like I don't have a stylistic home these days. I'm bored insane by most of today's pop, which seems strikingly the same as yesterday's pop except that its' Auto-Tuned and squashed... which really doesn't strike me as an improvement.

 

I guess I'm part of the problem, though, come to think of it. I used to think of myself as an innovator but then as more people got into the postmodern stylistic chop suey thing I just lost interest in the meeting ground of roots and postmodern electronica... I think Coldplay was the nail in the coffin for me in some ways... as well as all the equally tepid folk/poptronica stuff on my once-trendy college station. Anyhow, that's hardly a songwriting issue... I'm off topic. :D

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If we define 'white whale' as some unattained goal, I don't know if I have one other than just wanting to get better at what I do. I need to be more careful with my lyric writing. I ought to be more adventurous with song structure. I'd like to get better at writing for genres outside of my norm - but then again maybe that's just a matter of arrangement rather than writing. I need to work out better intros and outros - again more arrangement than songwriting.

 

I tend to just let random ideas 'present themselves' as opposed to having a predetermined "I want to write a song like/about ______" wishlist driving me.

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a chronological adaptation of the life of jesus incorporating key passages from both the 'traditional' and gnostic gospels, with the major body of writing acting an interpretation of the composite story. full LP, as in Large Pain in my ass. instrumentally it's been a cinch, lyrically it's gone nowhere in two years of preparation. i even bought the new testament on cd to listen to in the car.

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a chronological adaptation of the life of jesus incorporating key passages from both the 'traditional' and gnostic gospels, with the major body of writing acting an interpretation of the composite story. full LP, as in Large Pain in my ass. instrumentally it's been a cinch, lyrically it's gone nowhere in two years of preparation. i even bought the new testament on cd to listen to in the car.

 

 

Ever heard John Prine's "Jesus: The Missing Years"?

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