Art Song: Schubert’s Erlkonig

I’ve been writing lyrics that have been closer to poetry than what is usual for a 3 minute pop song.

I had been wondering about the sequence of writing lyrics first or music first. Many times if I write them independent of each other, I will fit the lyrics to the music and that always means chopping what was a poem into smaller phrases so they fit.

I accidentally stumbled on a book called Art Song by Carrol Kimble and I now have a reference. I then stumbled on Shubert’s music set to Goethe’s poem about a father who is transporting his son by horse and where the child is delusional and thinks an elf king is following him and sucking the life out of him. The boy is dead by the time they reach the farm house. I feel that the child had delusions due to a dangerously high fever.

Now that is totally German – a la Grimm and others. Back then, the child mortality rate was high, and since most people were farmers, they had big families. I have done genealogy going back to 1500 on both sides of the family so I know this was the case in my own family.

I have to say I can really see where I get my “gothic” tendencies from, since my father was from Stuttgart. However, it’s tempered by my mother’s British side, so in my mind, gothic stories become a lot more like Monty Python’s Holy Grail. But I digress.

Now, the Art Song is a form that I love and is kind of like a mini opera, and I really like it. It feels like the forerunner to the 3 minute pop song, but is far more musical and far more literate.

Some of my favorite lyrics are from R.E.M and 10,000 Maniacs, but better yet, The Decemberists. In fact, now I totally see where Colin Melloy got his ideas from – especially his magnum opus “The Hazards of Love”. I like “The Crane Wife” more, but I very much appreciate the attempt. My favorite Decemberists album is “The King is Dead” followed by their first three albums, but I digress.

Prog rock and the rock opera tries to be the modern pop version of Art Song, but I think it doesn’t do the art form very well. When you listen to just piano and a singer do an art song, it’s quite the amazing experience. It’s just long enough to tell an interesting story without the long drawn out miasme that is opera.

I’ve never liked opera much, although I respect it – but this Art Song genre is my idea of the best of what opera could be. Maybe it’s “opera for the short attention span commoners?”. If so, I’m in.

The Library

When I was young
Preacher man
Said everything
Has its Place,
That I Was part of
God's great Plan

I don't know
About you
But something
Isn't right
About this
Place and Plan


I tend to think
If everything
Has its Place
Then we are books
Ready to be checked
Into a library

Its Been a While

It was cathartic to hear a song I wrote 36 years ago and compare it to my song writing today – especially since I didn’t touch a musical instrument for more than 34 of those years. I also remember my band mates and these lyrics just poured out.

Shortwave Radio
Its been a while
Since we played
And sang our songs
Never again
Now that you're gone

Its been a while
Wishing you well
Wherever you are
Thirty six years
Have come and gone

Its been a while
The saying goes
There's no guarantees
Anything can happen
To you and me

Subtle Winter Scene

In between the vineyard vines
There is mustard popping up
Brilliant yellow carpet green
My very favorite Winter Scene

Some may say there is no Winter
In Northern California
I know that's just not true
Snowy mountains are my proof

In the valleys near the coast
Winters subtle but its there
Creeks are running grass is green
Its such a lovely Winter Scene

The Shoes on Their Feet

When you see others
Out on the street
You should remember
To look at their feet

Think about walking
Around in their shoes
You'll then learn why
They do what they do

Life isn't easy
But it is wonderful
With our compassion
There's nothing we can't do

Love For The Fretless

Love for the fretless
Is neither bad nor reckless
If it moves your spirit
When you play you'll hear it

As you gently bow
You will surely know
If it moves your spirit
When you play you'll hear it

You might fiddle around
Then one day go to town
If it moves your spirit
When you play you'll hear it

New Testament

My fifth song with Cello. Its a challenge, but the more I play Cello, the more I love it.

This a New Testament
Religious, in a pagan way
Worshipping Nature
What God hath made

No need for text
Prose or sermons
Just open your eyes
Your soul is yearning

Gentle thoughts
Relaxing and kind
Opens your soul
Opens your mind

The Minds Eye

The Eye has a better lens than a camera
It's fantastic
What we humans see
When our eyes are open
Internally

The Internal
Affects the External
When our eyes are open
Autumnal or Vernal

The External
Influences our brain
Bringing pleasure
Or pain

Autumn's paradox
Such color in death
Vernal is green
A baby's first breath

Images beget moods
Color the minds eye
Accentuate the positive
Or scare us deep inside

Take the moon
You'll either sing
Clair de Lune
Or songs filled with doom

You get to choose
Decide what you see
Darkness and sadness or
Light and Beauty

Flaming Aspens

Rendered Version of This Autumns Aspens
Flaming Aspens
All aglow
Red, Copper, Orange
And Yellow

Autumns Fireworks
In one small tree
Soothed my soul
Set me free

Trees of green
Hide and seek
But when Fall arrives
We leaf peep

The Ghost of Autumn Past

Last year in our own backyard
Why not look back
And reminisce?
Our time together
I'll cherish forever

You and I talk every day
And all the time
You are my intended
Life with you is splendid

Together we see the world
As with beauty and humor
Every day is new
Life is exciting with you