|04-03-2004, 02:47 PM||#1|
ob la di, ob la da!
Join Date: Mar 2002
L&L Rules (Read before posting)
[songwriting and lyrics] + [lyrical challenges] rules
most everything i'm asking you to abide by is common sense, but with this wonderful invention called the internet you have to account for a lack of that sometimes here is a basic review of do's and do not's. even if you've been here awhile, you might want to read over just in case, as these rules definitely make this place work wonderfully.
*inserts fine print that makes all lyrics posted property of josh.may2004*
just kidding folks. anything you post is still yours, no one else's.
[+] i would ask that you critique a few (2-3) songs for every one you submit. at a minimum you must crit one song for every one you submit keep in mind that this is the bare minimum, and i would love it if everyone set a goal to critique 5 songs for every hour they browse the boards. just a hopeful suggestion
[+] do not come on here one day, and decide that you should mass post a culmination of everything you have written in the past 15 years. having an entire page of threads of your work clutters the board, and in the end you will get much less valuable input overall. i completely understand (i've been there) when the creative juices flow and you write several amazing things in one day. inspiration strikes. thats fine. post them up. it might be in your best interest to space them out a little bit, however.
[+] posting in response to a song is considering critiquing that song. one phrase /= a critique...im sure you hate posting something, seeing a reply within 2 minutes, and going to read the response "good job."...that helps no one. sure, you can include it with your critique, but at least comment on the structure, vocab, or flow of the work. i make it a habit of mine to always include an "x/10" rating as well. you might want to do the same.
[+] there has been a thread on this before, but do not insult other members. constructive criticism is fine, and most often the best reply to a work one can get. but "that is the worst excuse for a song. crap" is not constructive criticism. one offense gets you a warning, repeated offenders may be banned. another thing, keep the posts generally clean. offensive language, in an offensive manner, will get the same treatment as insults. i understand some people's need to use strong language in their work to convey a tone or something of that nature. this is absolutely fine. just dont be blatantly posting offensive stuff for the sake of it.
[+] all work that you post is understood to be yours. do not post other people's work, or just a band's lyrics that you find nice. this is a forum for original submissions.
[+] alright. that basically covers it. of course the main objective of this forum is to have a great time and provide the optimum environment for us all to grow as writers and critics. have the time of your life. i know i do.
[+]"the wall" has been opened up. oher moderators of this forum will now actively monitor the actions of users. Any user that is seen to be frequently breaking forum rules, spamming, or exhibiting a lack of contribution in general will have their names posted on "the wall." this serves as your warning. names are added along with the date the warning was issued. any users name posted there will be removed a month after the warning was issued. no worries yet. the catch, however: if you are seen violating any rules issued by administrators or moderators (spamming, exhibiting a general lack of contribution, etc.) and your name has already been posted on "the wall" you are now subject to administrative action. pretty much, you may be banned temporarily, permanently, or IP banned at the administrator's discretion.
Added by BenBaker06 - 7/7/04
[+]Do not post more than one song on the forum each day. Users that are seen doing this will recieve a warning. Their latest threads will be closed, but their first post of the day will be left open in order to still recieve critiques.
added by SubtleDagger - 10/11/04
[+]If you have questions about vocals, please post them in The Jam Session, unless they pertain specifically to songwriting. This forum is for writing lyrics and songs, not for vocal technique. Thanks.
added by DFelon204409 - 4/24/05
[+]Do not post audio in here unless it is to supplement the lyrics as an afterpoint. If you want commentary on your music take it to the Audio Arena.
added by DFelon204409 - 5/14/05
[+]If you have questions about how to go about anything that people would talk about in this forum, take it to the stickied thread "tips and questions." Don't spam up the forum with useless "How do I do _____?" threads.
take it easy, but take it!
Last edited by 204409; 04-18-2006 at 12:16 PM.
|05-12-2005, 04:25 PM||#2|
i want tha gold
Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: San Francisco
Though it should be evident on the grounds of bigotry and common sense...
Do Not Use the Word "Faggot" or "Nigger" unless in the Context of a Song. "Faggot" or "Nigger" are ban inducing words. Also, anybody looking for loopholes in the rules by writing songs directed to people and using these or any bigoted words will be banned. End of story.
Last edited by 204409; 04-18-2006 at 12:15 PM.
|05-30-2005, 01:03 PM||#4|
Generally, do not post joke songs. If your song is supposed to be stupid and/or funny, it will probably be closed. If you really think that I will find your song funny, you can go ahead and post it, but I'm warning you now, I will probably not, and you will be dealing with the consequences.
|10-20-2005, 08:45 PM||#5|
Thru leaves,over bridges
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Vancouver, BC
How To Be A Better Writer / Critique Walkthrough (READ BEFORE POSTING)
AN ADVANCED SONGWRITING GUIDE
- Caleb D.
Now I've noticed a lot of people have had issues developing imagery, metaphor and mood in their work. So here's a practical guide to getting started fixing some of those things. Please note that this is not intended for people who are trying to write very basic songs. I shall start with the use of Line breaks, sound devices and syntax before moving on to simple exercises to help with the larger questions.
Concept 1: Line breaks
Most people don't think twice about where they break their lines. It's generally assumed that it happens at the end of the idea or where grammar demands it. People forget that line breaking can help create both interest and ambiguity. As a songwriter, line breaking forces innovation and improves your melodic sense. As an example, I shall use Mx's Benjamin Lee South's song that was on the first page yesterday.
Now we watch our children's children eat away at their arms,
trying to escape approval. We don't live up to expectations
just to be looked down upon. We are cunning and smart.
Specifically, look at the last line. We are cunning and smart. It tells you the obvious, that the narrator's group is both cunning and smart. Now the word smart by itself can also mean hurt. Eg: Oww, that smarts. I'm sure eating away at arms is not a pleasant exercise and must hurt. So, breaking the line would help convey two ideas.
Just to be looked down upon. We are cunning and
Benjamin has now introduced two ideas. He has created ambiguity as to which meaning is right, allowing the reader a chance to think for themselves as well as created interest. Cunning and..? Leaving the reader hanging makes the reader want to go on to the next line just so they know what the entire thought was.
Concept 2: Sound devices and rhyme
We're songwriters here, right? We deal in sound. I'm not asking you to count syllables here and rhyme continuously, but be aware of alliterations and sounds and other things that are only obvious when read aloud. For example, your piece is about snakes. Snakes hisss. Now you can easily assocaite a sound to a snake- the -sss. Use alliteration to get the -ss sound where you want it, for the right feel.
eg: Silver serpent, I know you slide so carelessly around sober answers.
Or whatever. Just as long as you got the general feel.
So the first rule of thumb is : Read your piece aloud so you can connect it further to your theme. One of the best things you can do in song is to use internal rhyme and half rhyme instead of obvious full rhymes. I'm sure you've already managed to rhyme 'heart' and 'apart'. Have you managed to rhyme 'apart' and uproar yet? One way to make these kind of rhymes work is to split it into its constituent syllables. Apart can be deconstructed to ap-art. Now instead of rhyming them together, rhyme just ap or art. Lots of possibilities are now open. If you're concentrating on syllable two 'art' then 'artistry', 'ortodonist' etc can be used. Again, depending on how you're singing it, you might stress the beginning, middle or end of the phrase 'art'. Now rhyme something that corresponds to aaaa, arrrrr, rrrrrt or ttttuh. The possibilities are endless. Dont restrict yourself to the limited full-rhymes that anyone, even your 3 year old baby sister can come up with.
Concept 3: Syntax
Another common problem songwriters have is that they feel forced to use grammar at its most basic. Remember that language is meant to convey messages, not serve the rules of syntax. This often ruins flow. Most often, what ruins your flow is not the big words you use but the little words you feel obligated to use, like 'with', 'and', 'but', 'had' and 'like'. No one disputes that its impeccable English to use those but dont feel like you have to.
Consider this: You are an icon with impeccable grammar and your diction makes me feel how it must be to speak in tongues with Gods.
You'd think it would be worse for flow to use words like impeccable and diction but the line is much improved if you simplified it and used your punctuation rather than words. Additional ideas come after punctuation, that's a good thing to keep in mind.
Now consider the same thing:
You are an icon, impeccable grammar, your
diction makes me feel
how it must be to speak in tongues
Elimination of the unnecessary words and line breaking helped this flow and gave it a sense of melody. Which one would you rather sing? Remember that if you have an idea in mind and you think the words are too complex, its always best to look at the small words surrounding it. They're the base. Fix it and you can have your space to do what you want.
Note: Benjamin Lee South's poem was used here without permission. I will ask him for it as soon as I can.
Last edited by ATC; 10-20-2005 at 08:48 PM.
|10-20-2005, 08:49 PM||#6|
Thru leaves,over bridges
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Vancouver, BC
part 2: Simple Exercises To Improve Your Skills
Condense your point into a single word, not necessarily an abstraction like love or regret etc. Suppose your song reminds you of long grained rice, perhaps, whatever random or not so random image you can connect your piece to. Now sit down with a clear head and list the number of thematic jumps you can have with said image of long grained rice, the many things it makes you think of. Obviously a lot of it will be random but your brain generally has a reason to have it come out that way.
Have you played 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon? That is how this is.
Now comes the starting point. Get your first idea/image that's semi-concrete. Put it down. Where do you want to go? Put that down as well. What's in between is the 6 degrees to get there. Once you've got about ten different images worked out, you can begin arranging them in between so you have a general feel. Now flesh it out with sentences, phrases and other songwriting type things. Of course, some of the images may be so brilliant that you want them last. Be flexible enough with that. Obviously, this style is not suited to simple poetry or song but if you practice it, it'll get you used to metaphor and mood and imagery enough to be able to use it anywhere.
The list has been used famously by all sorts of famous writers, poets and songwriters. Obviously you aren't going to be a Ginsberg the first time you use the list but it should help you avoid the cliches.
Suppose I am writing a song on Revenge. I want to start off with the idea 'I wish revenge was an item on a restaurant menu' and I want to end it with 'I peed in your soup'. Or whatever idea.
Now that you've associated revenge with a menu, you might get random thoughts like 'tomato ketchup is good fake blood', 'why does the waitress take so long? Is she getting it up her butt in the backroom?', 'Japanese rice falls from the ceiling like rain', 'my kitchen table has that exact same scar' 'I love you, but I hate you', 'I will die of a cholesterol overdose but not before lightning strikes my pinkie twice' etc. None of these thoughts have obvious connections to each other but they have slight connections to the general theme. Its your job now to place them in order. Number them if you like so it goes
Start-Idea 3-Idea1- Idea 2-Idea 4-Idea 5Idea 6-End.
In this particular order, Japanese rice is vaguely vaguely related but out there, it draws attention, allowing you to go on to the fake blood part, since you're plotting revenge. You can then connect the waitress to your crappy ex and use her as the object of your hate. Now you are free to use the I love you, i hate you chorus that you wanted to use so badly. Then go into that breakdown about how even if you will die of a cholesterol overdose or whatever, it wont be until the day something crazy like lightning strikes you twice, by which time you'll have taken her down, thus proving your superiority over her etc etc etc like all your favorite songs do.
That's how you connect these plotpoints. Shift them around, merge them, mess around with them until they fit your pattern.
That's exercise 1. For the record, it makes a great surrealist drinking game.
Last edited by ATC; 10-20-2005 at 09:03 PM.
|10-20-2005, 09:14 PM||#7|
Thru leaves,over bridges
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Vancouver, BC
Exercise 2: Force yourself into your favorite song
You've obviously got a songwriter or poet you admire the hell out of. And you just can't wait until you're good enough to write a song worthy of him/her. This exercise is meant to teach you discipline. Its not immediately usable but it's worth the trouble. Let us presume your favorite band is Pink Floyd and you desperately wish you could write a song as good as 'Wish you were here'. Could you make up a song that you can sing the exact same way? Ie. can you write new words to that song that you can sing along to instead of what Roger Waters does while keeping the same rythm, time and melody? Get to it. Now don't do this line by line. You have to write it all down separately first, going according to how it fits n your head. If you do that, chances are the words wont fit perfectly. Don't panic. That's what's supposed to happen. But it doesn't matter. Try and fit it in anyways. If there's that one word thats two syllables too long, don't cut it. Fit it in somehow, even if it changes the melody somewhat. You'll be forced to work on your musical innovation again. Now that it fits, does it sound like something you think sounds great? Practice this with heaps of different songs.
Now step back from Pink Floyd and back into your song about revenge and tomato ketchup. Now that you've written the words to your song, try using the new things you were forced to come up with in the practice Pink Floyd song. Use the vocal stylings that helped you come up with those innovations. Ps: Don't copy the practice song (which incidentally, mustn't be too far away from your style of music). Do you find you can come up with ideas quicker? Forcing yourself to think like a great songwriter usually makes your song greater since it'll have a hint of the class of the masters.
Exercise 3 coming up after I finish dinner. I'm starved.
|10-20-2005, 10:01 PM||#8|
Thru leaves,over bridges
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Vancouver, BC
Exercise 3: Mood
We've all got experiences that we'd love to put into song. Remember that really creepy guitar riff that made you think of the time you were locked in after school and you were afraid the boogeymen came to get you or your step dad tried to rape you or whatever. Or that one melodic line that made you think about how beautiful your girlfriend's face is when she's all flustered and bedraggled after having walked in out of the rain? You want to capture that but you dont think you can do it justice. Right?
Here's what you ought to do. Remember every little thing about that scene in your head. Everything is significant. Don't skip over the little pebble in your shoe. It's an important plotpoint for your creative vines to tangle around. Before you try to capture mood, its useful to put yourself back in that frame of mind and try to remember each tiny detail and note it down. Obviously you won't use most of them, sometimes none of them. But if you dwell on it, they should help you perform some creative leaps. Now, that pebble, write a short 4 line poem about it separately while keeping in context of your scene. Now repeat that for the chair you were sitting in at the library that the film crew for 88 minutes turned into The Health Sciences Building. (I saw Al Pacino yesterday at the shoot). Repeat for about 10 objects that were around you when the scene occured.
Now go ahead and write your song. You'll have, if you've gotten around to making 10 little specific verses, a little store of images, feelings and metaphors that relate to the general mood at hand so you can use em when you like in the song. This way, you never run out of what to say when you want to describe that feeling of intense sorrow or loneliness or joy etc.
As a friend who's majoring in film told me, "The purpose of technique is to free the unconscious. If you follow the rules ploddingly, they will allow your unconscious to be free. If not, you will be fettered by the conscious mind [which] always wants to be liked and wants to be interesting. [It will] suggest the obvious, the cliche [...] Only the mind that has been taken off itself and put on a task is allowed true creativity". That quote is by David Mamet.
That completes my little guide. Feel free to think up other techniques to help you. Hope this helps make you a better songwriter than you used to be. Any questions, comments or suggestions welcome. Guide may be used for your purposes long as credit is given. Peace.
Last edited by ATC; 10-20-2005 at 10:16 PM.
|04-11-2006, 01:32 AM||#9|
How To Be A Better Writer (Please Read)
I'm going to be honest: the quality of writing in this forum, for the most part, is terrible. No, this is not a thread I made to offend our entire userbase, it's a thread to help you starting writers out, because the reason many of the writers on this board are not good is that the majority of them are new to writing altogether, or have little to no experience. This is the big guide for aspiring writers of all experiences.
Part 1 - Basics
Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: lyrics are a form of poetry. Yes, you could have a hit song with your rock band chock full of sexual innuendos and macho crap, but this forum is for the songwriters who actually want to write better poetic material, not those who want to write the next hit on the charts. The truth is, lyrics really are just poems put to music. They don't have to rhyme, they don't have to follow a specific form, they don't even have to make sense (though if they don't they won't be any good). Don't go into writing thinking there is a set "writing style" you have to follow because all that should concern a good writer are the basic poetic ideas and his/her own feelings.
Now, I suggest you learn about the fundamentals of poetry if you haven't already. From Wikipedia (this is huge, but necessary):
Do your research and it will definitely pay off. The best way to do this aside from looking up poetic essentials in a schoolbook is to actively read poetry (literature always helps too). Find writers you enjoy because reading and analyzing their work will allow you to understand why what they write is effective. Yes, this also includes songwriters, but it should be mentioned that the majority of songwriters have no clue what they are doing and are often times not poetic in the slightest (the more popular and generic ones usually end up utilizing the basic pitfalls I'll mention in the next section). You may feel whatever you do when hearing the song, but you'll know a good writer when you can read a set of lyrics from a song you've never heard and they have that poetic effect that a good poem can give you.
Part 2 - Pitfalls
Every new writer makes mistakes, and they usually learn from them the hard way (i.e. getting criticized quite harshly). If you are familiar with the most common mistakes beforehand, however, it is possible to avoid them. Let's run through the most common issues with new writing (this will take a while):
These are the big no-no. They are also very confusing to most new writers, because many do not undertsand the problem with clichés to begin with.
Clichés are, simply put, words and phrases that have been used since the beginning of poetry. They are old. They are stale. They are dull. And worst of all, they are easy to avoid.
Here's the easiest way to not use clichés: ask yourself if what you're writing is novel or really means anything. Songs/poems about broken hearts, love (or the lack thereof), or pure sadness are BORING. This is not to say your writing can't concern these things. What it means is that if you are writing something and it is only about these things that have been written by thousands of bad writers countless times before, you should take a step back and find a different approach.
Here's a basic guideline for starting out. If it sounds overly corny or cheesy, cut it. If you've heard a phrase you're using used a billion times before, cut it. Some phrases are above this if used in the right context, but chances are that if you're new to writing, you will use them wrong. Just try not too be too angsty or typical.
(continued in next post)
|04-11-2006, 01:32 AM||#10|
I will often see a new piece and say it is "generic" or "too literal". What I almost always mean by this is that you're giving me nothing meaningful in your writing. This is seen quite often by writers who are not using basic techniques such as symbolism, metaphor, simile and imagery to make their writing evocative. You cannot write something so simple as "I love you" or simply state events and feelings as they are and expect them to have any resonance with the reader. You have to explain it to the reader with words that put them in the right perspective; you have to be able to create a mood. This is almost always one of the hardest things for a writer to be effective at. It's also coupled with clichés quite often.
The easiest way to avoid this is to proofread your own work; does it read like a note to someone? Does it sound bland, like something someone would just state, or like something in a bad speech? Are there far too many pronouns (I, s/he, me, my, we)? Chances are it's far too literal. Even moderately good writers are guilty of this to certain degrees... you simply must assess when you're guilty of it. It is best to use the same solution used for clichés and/or to adjust phrasing or structure wherever necessary to solve this issue.
If you are using a rhyme scheme in a song, always be sure that it sounds natural, or you'll end up with this problem a lot. Never, I mean never, use a word that doesn't get the point across simply because it rhymes. Do not go out of your way to fit a rhyming word into the scheme of things. By "out of the way", I mean change your original intentions. It is perfectly acceptable to adjust structure to get the scheme and rhyming right if you say what you mean. The point is that you never sacrifice scheme or rhyme for purpose. If it just isn't working, then you might just have to go back and phrase things differently. Just be sure that your intentions are never plagued by awful, "forced" rhyming.
Make sure there is some semblance and structure to your poem. Learn how meter is used in poetry (it's a long lesson, just look it up, do some research, and read things out loud when you write them), and be sure to follow at least some sort of progression, even if you make the pattern yourself. It is wholly unnecessary to have two stanzas with five lines, one with two, two with three, and half of them with rhyme schemes. The reader will see this as completely random, which is probably true. Give the reader some sort of pattern to follow, as it can be immensely rewarding to read a poem with an interesting and well-executed meter. Read what you write out loud to make sure the rhythm is somewhat naturalistic.
Lastly of course is grammar and vocabulary. There's nothing I can tell you aside from the simple truth: you need to study your native language, read and write, and proofread for errors. Just do it; typos won't make anyone take you seriously.
Part 3 - Ego
Even the best writers can get caught up in their own ideas. Once you get the hang of writing poetry and the basic tools of the trade, it's easy to get a bit out of hand (or go crazy, but I'm not going to talk about abstract stuff). I think a big piece of advice for every writer is to not get too caught up in your ego; a little humility goes a long way. Is someone not understanding your work because it's genius or because it's just too ambiguous or misleading? Do all those metaphors and similes actually relate to their counterparts appropriately, or are they just for show? Are all those big words actually aiding with clarification or are they just making everything more confusing?
You can't just focus on yourself, you really do have to focus on the audience, too. This doesn't mean you should write what you think the reader wants you to write or to sell yourself out to your audience, it means that you should always consider how the reader will assess the song/poem. The reader may have to do some research if you write about something obscure, but what you write should at least be intelligible and sensible to the point that the reader can get something out of it. This is one of the hardest things for decent writers to overcome, because many are too caught up in their writing to change it for the reader's conception.
And to close, one last important piece of advice: never consider yourself perfect. It is crucial that you keep writing and never settle for your current style or talents. If you are serious about getting better, it takes more practice and criticism than many passive songwriters can muster. Of course, it pays off in the long run. A good writer will never get to the point that what he writes is perfect or "good enough"... poetry can always be better, there are always things you can improve or different ways to write. Write as much as you can, get feedback, and above all, listen to the feedback. Bowing to every critic's whim will not help you, but heeding the words of other writers you respect will improve your writing greatly.
|04-17-2006, 05:03 PM||#11|
New rules effective immediately
We are changing S&L's interface for songs and crits. We are now enforcing a critique policy. Right now we require one critique of another song for every song you post (the one song a day rule still applies). This will probably go up soon but we're starting slow for moderating efficiency. Critiques must be at least a paragraph long and ideally help out the writer. Crits will be watched from now on and anyone not following these rules will receive a ban deserving of their lack of crits (i.e. one crit still due before posting another song is a closed thread and warning, two is a one day ban, etc.) Please do not post "crit please", "crit for crit" or anything like that because this is now an enforced policy. Users who owe crits should try to crit songs with the lowest amount of crits.
In light of this, please do not make "crit for crit" threads. We want users owing crits to look at threads without many crits and provide feedback, not to crit for a crit received. Do not specifically ask for crits of your piece either.
Last edited by SubtleDagger; 04-17-2006 at 05:26 PM.
|04-21-2007, 09:10 PM||#14|
Join Date: Oct 2003
HOW TO RESPOND TO POETRY, Courtesy of RunAmokRampant
How to Respond to Poetry
Hopefully this guide will help readers and writers alike, and as there is a guide for writing poetry, I thought, why not make a guide concerned with responding to poetry? Note carefully that I have used the word ‘respond’ rather than ‘critique’. When approaching poetry, it is quite different to some other medium such film or novel. A good poem entices your senses, feelings, emotions, creates intrigue and mystique, and while it is natural to read a poem and pick out things that feel odd or awkward, think how it does that rather than just telling the author its wrong or saying that it doesn’t ‘feel’ right. Poetry can be regarded like painting, its subjectivity can spread from either end of the spectrum; someone may view an artwork as messy, childish, awkward and incoherent, while another person may view the same piece as well strategically placed, witty, wild and unpredictable. But essentially, responding to poetry in a way in which you engage yourself with the poem is what good poets strive for, rather than trying to selfishly grasp poetic perfection. I think readers instinctively feel the pretentiousness seep from a poem if a poet is trying to achieve this. Anyway, this guide I hope will enlighten those who are stuck when trying to give feedback to authors when confronted by something that they can’t quite make out and don’t know really what to say.
Begin by reading the poem aloud, preferably more than twice at least. By reading the poem a loud, the words and phrases seem to sink in better with the mind especially if the poem has many enjambments and run-on lines. It also helps determine the flow and tone of the piece if read aloud, just like what one would do when rehearsing a script for a play.
Now that you’ve read the poem a couple of times, what initially sticks with you? What stands out in a way that attracts you or puzzles you, or even repel you? It is necessary to recognise these features as it will help gain entry to the poem on a deeper level and begin to engage with it. With this in mind, work out the general genre of the poem, whether it is a soliloquy, a lyric poem, or more of a narrative. Also work out what the poem is based on. Is it more involved in themes or based on the thoughts by the consciousness of ‘speaker’ of the poem? It is essential to be able to do this before giving any kind of feedback to the author.
Next is to focus your attention on the language and imagery that is being used. Firstly, decide on what images the poem present and how they evoke the piece as a whole. Are the images consistent or abrupt? How does this affect you? Imagery is an important factor in poetry, but it is not the sole purpose of a poem to present lovely worded phrases and wonderfully embellished lines. Feel out how the language interweaves with the imagery and how the rhythm is created by these two elements. What strategies does the author use? There are many types of poetic strategies that are used but the most common ones usually used are assonance and alliteration, where the author uses a repetition of similar vowel sounds or similar initial consonant sounds respectively, in relative succession. Other more common uses of language techniques are the figures of speech such as metaphors, similes and personification, which I’m not going to explain these terms because they are generally known as common knowledge.
Now that you’ve come to establish a kind of connection with the piece whether it be positive or negative, you should be well and truly beginning to pick apart the piece. A good way to do this is to identify the formal elements of the piece (or lack of). How is the piece structured? Is it in stanzas? If so, are they equally spaced out or vary from stanza to stanza? How does this change or emphasis the other elements of the poem? Structure is very commonly overlooked by readers, and many inventive poets will try new and innovative ways to suggest meaning through indirect and non-verbal ways. Is the poem in a regular or irregular metre? Is there some kind of pattern? Does the flow jam up in certain sections of the piece? Rather than just assuming that the poet has made some error, think how the stuttering flow alters the piece. Does it highlight certain aspects of the piece or detract?
After all these considerations and contemplation, you should have a good idea of how impact of the poem reflects or challenges you. One thing I’ve noticed over the years on this forum is people complaining or stating that they don’t know what the poem means or what the poet intended. It is never a good approach with the mentality that a particular piece of poetry has a single meaning that the author intended, and that all other interpretations are incorrect. There is no such thing as an incorrect interpretation in poetry and never doubt yourself in your own reading of the poem. It is your own interpretation and unique response to the poem. This is not a guide to critiquing poetry. It is a guide to responding to poetry and hopefully you’ll gain a little bit of insight into responding to poetry to enable further accuracy to your critique. In the end, art is art. Creativity is a beautiful aspect of human nature and we all should cherish in how we create and respond to it. After all, what is art without an emotional response? What is poetry when there are no readers?
Any comments, suggestions a or advice for improvement will be greatly appreciated and recognised as contributors to this small but hopefully helpful guide.
|09-07-2007, 11:11 AM||#15|
Join Date: Jun 2006
Case Study 1 - Down Through - Simplicity.
This is the first of what might be a series of song analyses for the S&L forum. So I thought I'd start with something simple. That's not to say its basic. There's a difference between simple and basic, and this piece shows how best to simply tell a complex story. The author's simple words hide a more complex event and he's not afraid to let the words speak for themselves. So without further ado, I give you Down Through by the Red House Painters.
I walked down the hill
sluggishly and frail
the wind blew hard
hard on me
I imagined it your ghost white body
making love with me
I walked down the hill
found you crying at the window sill
there lies the bridge
of our lost dreams
I want to see it once more before I leave
I still feel the sting in my hand
from when I hit you
I keep your picture
tidy and safe in a shrine
and hope that in time
We'll have a house on the shore
that showers my soul
washes away the violence that
runs in my blood
drains the pain that I caused you
The verse opens with a simple line, containing no emotion, merely an action. Metaphorically one could ascribe the 'down-ward' movement to be a move towards depression and self destruction, but I don't think that's intended. It is just a simple way to introduce the character into the piece. The next line however is nothing but character. Slow and weak the character seems to be, it lays on the thick the structuralist code of enigma; the audience begs the questions: Why sluggish? Why Frail? Sympathy and pathos are created for the character. Notice how Kozelek makes the audience sympathetic to his character before going deeper into his story. This will be important later on. Remorse is a very powerful tool for creating sympathy for a character. This sense of a beat down character is heightened in the next two lines. Even the weather it seems is against him. A great, not obvious example of pathetic fallacy: the surroundings are reflecting emotions, not in this case of the main character himself, but of his shame, his self pity. It beats him down.
The use of repetition is also effective. It gives the sense of the wind repeatedly pressing down, a real sense of suppression. The next line really throws a curve ball. It develops the character: has he lost someone? Metaphorically i.e. Through the end of a relationship? Or through a death? The answer is left hanging for now. There's a severe juxtaposition between the ghost white body and 'making love'. Such an intimate act is counterbalanced by by the loss of a loved one. That he a likens the wind which is beating him down to the act of love making suggests a combustible relationship. Throughout the verse Kozelek weaves a piece of character intrigue. He slowly reveals pieces of information to the audience and allows them to feel pity for his beaten down character.
The second stanza moves the story away from what was established in the first. The repetition in the first line takes away from ghostly figures and back to the central character. Kozelek's use of repetition is good; he uses it not to merely reinforce a point, but to move the story forward with every repetition. While before, when walking down the hill the character was alone, now he seems reunited with his paramour, albeit briefly. The introduction of the other character seems brief. Its just a memory, trying to be blocked out. His one lasting memory of her is crying at the window sill, seeming to suggest the way in which the relationship ended. As of yet though, we're given no reason. We feel sympathy and intrigue in equal measure and are led to question ourselves why they left one another in such a way. The fact that she appears at a window sill suggests a voyeuristic quality. He is left outside. Is this exclusion self inflicted or mutual?
The next two lines speak on a mostly metaphorical level. Bridges are a means of communication, a way of getting from one place to another. But here they are coupled with 'lost dreams'. Kozelek suggests the act of rebuilding these bridges is lost. The relationship is over. The next line seems especially pessimistic, this was the one relationship it seems. Beyond this there is nothing. Whilst its not made clear whether the character actually commits suicide, it seems to suggest that at an emotional level, he is very much damaged.
Its been a long time coming, but finally we're given a reason for the collapse of the relationship. Throughout the length of this verse, Kozelek works hard to keep the audience on the sympathetic side, and succeeds. The remorse felt by the protagonist has already been established, and is continually felt through the third stanza. He still feels the 'sting in [his] hand'. It hasn't left him and he can't seem to forget it. Though the relationship is lost, he still feels the pain, both physically and emotionally. It seems to run through like a stigmata, the pain of the act still reverberates through his life.
The delivery of the line 'when I hit you' is kept simple, to the point of brutal honesty. It is this honesty that keeps the audience on the side of the narrator. He doesn't try and justify his actions, or try to dress them up as something they're not. He leaves it simply as a collection of pronouns and a verb. If Kozelek hard tried to weave the scene through some display of over the top imagery then it wouldn't have the same effect. The audience doesn't need to know more than this, and anything else may be detrimental to their engagement with the main character and thusly their engagement with the piece as a whole. This is an excellent example of when to keep it simple.
The final three lines begin to mourn the relationship further. The idea of hope is introduced, but there seems little commitment on behalf of the author. He seems to know that it is over, and he has already enshrined the memory.
This final verse is the emotional crux of the piece. It is the coda, the epilogue. But its conducted not on the facts, but on the hopes of the characters. Based entirely on what-could-have-beens. Continuing from the previous verse, Kozelek uses enjambment to link the two, but spreads them across the verses as to keep the apart. To keep distance from reality, but to link the two emotionally. He previous talked of the picture he kept of her, which has now blossomed into a fully fledged dream based on what might have been had it not been for his hitting her. The idyllic qualities of the house on the beach remain that, idyllic. They are empty. There's nothing inside the house, the descriptions are limited to the surroundings. The house itself remains hollow of description. Kozelek acknowledges this, he suggests that the idea of the house rather than the house itself is what will cleanse (shower) his soul.
The forth line is deceptively simple, and it is the only real solid hint that we are given for the reason for the protagonist's actions. However, as with the rest of the song, they could be considered in numerous ways. 'Runs in my blood', could be a hint to genetics, a link to perhaps his own father: was he himself a victim of domestic abuse that revealed itself in one regretful moment? Has he become what could well be a smaller image of his father? Perhaps not, as its not the only explanation of events. Runs in my blood' could also be a hint at a drugs related problem. Heroin in the blood stream could well be a reason for the sudden flash of violence that the protagonist seems to have demonstrated. Which ever reason the audience takes away from the piece, it subtlety helps reinforce the sympathy for the main character, taking away so of the burden and shifting the moral blame of the action away entirely from him. Like the majority of the piece, that single line is rooted in its simplicity. It is not dwelled on, not elaborated upon, but left to the audience to understand. Kozelek gives the audience enough credit that they can take away their own understanding without him having to explain every for them.
The final two lines a left as an apology. The simple rhyme-within-a-line of 'drain the pain' is obtrusively simplistic, perhaps Kozelek acknowledging the overall simplicity of the piece. However, the assonance leaves a drawn out sound that suggest the difficult process of healing may take a while yet. The closing line gives the song its title. 'Down through', as before hints at a pessimistic point of view; down rather than up, but the through suggest movement, travel, that there may well be a light at the end of the tunnel. The sinking feeling of the line reflects the protagonist's delving into his problems throughout the piece, but the use of 'through' keeps a hint of optimism alive at the end of the piece.
Kozelek's true strengths in this piece are his ability to create a sympathetic character and his ability to keep it simple. The beauty of the piece lies in the fact that the audience doesn't hate its protagonist. Whilst they may not like him and his actions, they can feel sympathy at his remorse, acknowledge that he is sorry for what he did. The simplicity of the piece adds to its integrity and its overall effectiveness. Would you have felt the same way if the piece had been a vivid description of of the event rather than a portrait of the emotions afterwards?
Last edited by Surf; 09-08-2007 at 10:06 AM.
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