Thursday, October 20, 2011

in perfect harmony

should've been smarter
should've been stronger

When I sing, my girl is my audience...and she's the best audience in the world.

She doesn't judge me. She doesn't, upon hearing my voice, break into wild laughter as did one former band member. She doesn't leave the room as has my wife (to be fair, though, as she's only four months old, she doesn't walk yet and thus couldn't walk out...but I like to think she'd listen to me even if she had the option of leaving). She finds my voice calming, much, that is, as her mood, health, and general disposition allow her to find anything soothing.

Nevertheless, I find myself undergoing a crisis of songs, of singing.

I have a pretty good vocabulary of songs I can sing. I generally, while singing my girl to sleep, last about an hour ten before having to repeat myself...and this is, mind you, just the excludes instrumental breaks and the like. But I need more...because so many songs are, the more I think about it, just not suitable for the occasion.

Some are just too peppy or weird for sleep time. Can you imagine, for instance, falling asleep to Hendrix's "Manic Depression?" Others seem inappropriate. The first time I performed the Rolling Stones song "Dead Flowers" for her, I caught myself before I got to the line about being "in my basement room with a needle and a spoon"...because their first year of life is just a itty bit too early for heroin references. There are a few Wilco songs which got pushed out right away for having poetic lyrics which get a bit too close to spousal abuse for my taste...and while I understand irony and metaphor (and thus understand what Tweedy was getting at), it will be at least a year before my girl reaches that level of lyrical sophistication.

I mentioned earlier that my girl likes the Eagles. Therein lies another problem, though, because most of their songs are of the "trials of men and women in relationships." This is what most of all songs are about, though...which adds an additional level of difficulty.

I am worried about my daughter getting (on some level) the idea that people are only defined by their status in relationships. I have seen this happen to many people, and it is sad--someone walking around the earth, desperate for someone to "complete them." I am also worried about the normalization of drug use, the damage to self-worth, the use of violence (ironic or not) as a metaphor for...well, anything. There are a lot of ideas in music which, if one is not prepared to take them in context...or see them with irony...or understand them as metaphors...well, they have the potential to wreak havoc.

None of these reasons, however, are why I'm having a crisis of songs.

I have, as of late, found myself singing Two Cow Garage (my favorite band in the world) to my girl. I love Two Cow wholeheartedly, unreservedly. I love them for many reasons, but one of the chief ones is that they are fully aware of what it means to be a non-major band. They sing quite often about what you do when all hope of ultimate success is gone. What if you knew you would never achieve your dreams? What would you do? How would you act? Would you fight?

This is all well and good for me. Hell, many of the bands I listen to have similar lyrical concerns. I have known for ages that I'd never be a star, never be a success, never be a mover and shaker. First I gave up hope of being a professional musician. Then I gave up hope of being a scholar. I am, in the end, used to giving up hope....and I need art which speaks to my personal needs, my personal disappiontments.

I don't, however, need or want that for my child. Instead, I want her to see a world of possibilities. I want her to discount limits. I want her to ignore barriers. I want her to dream big.

How, though, do I do this when I myself have essentially quit dreaming? How can I help her hope when I can't make myself hope? When I don't believe in hope? How can I inspire her towards something I don't believe anymore exists?

What songs can I sing?

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