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When there are no words to speak

When there are no words to speak

Music sings the heart that the mind cannot express.

Edvard Grieg’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” performed at the Musikfestspiele Potsdam Sanssouci by the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg under the direction of Scott Lawton:



“Where words fail, music speaks.” ~ Hans Christian Anderson

Those of you who know me or have followed this blog at all know that singing is a great love of mine. I sing out on the deck, sometimes softly and sometimes quite loudly. I beg forgiveness of my neighbors, but it’s necessary for my sanity that I do this. I’ve tried to limit this activity to the car, but I really need to be free to move, and to direct an imaginary orchestra, and to close my eyes. Sometimes, like tonight, I sing for a little too long and I find that I have become exhausted, but it’s always worth it.

Here is the complete list, generated by a random shuffling of my singing playlist on the iPod. I love to adjust to the changes of voice and genre, but I can’t sing all of the music that I like to hear.

I Want You – Rachel Yamagata
Waiting for the Night – Depeche Mode
Perfect – Alanis Morissette
I Am the Walrus – The Beatles
Closed Circuits – Laurie Anderson
Come Together – The Beatles
Don’t Stand So Close to Me – The Police
Black Horse and the Cherry Tree – K.T. Tunstall
Rain – The Beatles
Angie Baby – Helen Reddy
Rainy Days and Mondays – Carpenters
Turn Back, O Man – (Godspell)
Trouble – Over the Rhine
Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos
Come Along – Titiyo
All I Have to Do is Dream – The Everly Brothers
American Idiot – Green Day
Walk Like an Egyptian – The Bangles
Mama Help Me – Edie Brickell
Kiss Moi – Sportes
Ashes on Your Eyes – Deb Talan
God – Tori Amos
Piss on the Wall – J. Geils Band
Leather – Tori Amos
Dreamland – B-52s
Venus – Shocking Blue
Violently Happy – Bjork
Insatiable – Lily Frost
Touch-A, Touch-A, Touch Me – Susan Sarandon (Rocky Horror)
Money – Pink Floyd
Hushabye Mountain – cover by Stacy Kent (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)
The Eagle and the Hawk – John Denver
Comfort – Deb Talan
Big Wheel – Tori Amos
In the Deep – Bird York
Julia – cover by Sean Lennon (The Beatles)
All I Really Want – Alanis Morissette
Velvet Revolution – Tori Amos
Science Fiction, Double Feature – Richard O’Brien (Rocky Horror)
Sister Moon – Thomas Hellman
Drink Me – Anna Nalick
White Rabbit – cover by Austin Lounge Lizards
Killer Queen – Queen
Strawberry Fields – cover by Cyndy Lauper (The Beatles)
Night and Day – cover by U2
Revolution – The Beatles
Trouble – Cat Stevens
Green Eyed Lady – Sugarloaf
I Don’t Want to Talk About It – Rod Stewart
The Longing – Eels
Without a Word – Yes But
Money for Nothing – Dire Straits
Missionary Man – Eurythmics
The Wrong Band – Tori Amos
Love Me Two Times – The Doors
So Alive – Love and Rockets
Alas for You – (Godspell)
Sweet Transvestite – Tim Curry (Rocky Horror)
Gimme Some Truth – John Lennon
Bloodletting (The Vampire Song) – Concrete Blonde
When Will I Be Loved – Linda Ronstadt
What’s New Pussycat? – Tom Jones
Hallelujah – cover by John Cale (Leonard Cohen)
Willkommen – Joel Grey
All for the Best – (Godspell)
The Meaning of Life – Monty Python
Marlene on the Wall – Suzanne Vega
I Am a Rock – Simon & Garfunkel
Dear Prudence – cover by Alanis Morissette (The Beatles)
The Only Exception – Paramore
Sweet the Sting – Tori Amos
Nowhere Man – cover by Natalie Merchant (The Beatles)
Save the People – (Godspell)
Those Were the Days – Mary Hopkin
In the Summertime – Roger Miller
Raise the Veil – Lily Frost
Diamonds and Rust – Joan Baez
The Future – Leonard Cohen
Sick of You – Lou Reed
God Put a Smile upon Your Face – Coldplay
Comfortably Numb – cover by Dar Williams (Pink Floyd)
Possession – Sarah McLachlan
I’ve Just Seen a Face – cover by Holly Cole (The Beatles)
Sensitive Artist – King Missile
Mother’s Little Helper – Rolling Stones
Wild Horse – Deb Talan
Goodnight Moon – Shivaree

That seemed like a good place to stop. Wow – no wonder I’m tired, that’s a lot. This week was full of ups and downs, but now I feel grounded again.

Life Soundtrack Snapshot

Life Soundtrack Snapshot

For historical purposes, here are my current 50 most-played songs on the iPod.

A Thousand Years Sting 5:58
All I Have to Do Is Dream The Everly Brothers 2:25
All I Really Want Alanis Morissette 5:25
All This Beauty The Weepies 3:20
Big Wheel Tori Amos 3:18
Bloodletting (The Vampire Song) Concrete Blonde 6:07
Comfort Deb Talan 3:16
Counting Stars Sugarcult 3:38
Daily Living Eldar Djangirov 6:12
Down to Nowhere Thea Gilmore 3:54
Dream of You Mary Fahl 3:44
Drink Me (Acoustic Version) Anna Nalick 3:03
Everybody Knows Concrete Blonde 4:44
Feelin Way too Damn Good Nickelback 4:15
Goodnight Moon Shivaree 4:04
Gotta Have You The Weepies 3:22
Green-Eyed Lady Sugarloaf 3:40
Hold On KT Tunstall 2:58
Hushabye Mountain Stacey Kent 2:38
I Summon You Spoon 3:56
I Want You Rachael Yamagata 2:56
In the Summertime Roger Miller 1:45
Infinity Merrick 3:21
Jonathon Fisk Spoon 3:16
Kiss Moi Sportes 3:27
Kryptonite 3 Doors Down 3:54
Life During Wartime Talking Heads 3:42
Love Hurts Nazareth 3:53
Make My Day yes but 3:52
Novocaine for the Soul Eels 3:09
Persephone Kula Shaker 4:43
Phantom Doll Tracy Grammer 4:09
Raise the Veil Lily Frost 2:42
Rollin’ And Tumblin’ Bob Dylan 6:02
Sexybeast Paul Sabo 3:51
Sister Moon Thomas Hellman 5:48
Sleep to Dream Fiona Apple 4:11
Song Beneath the Song Maria Taylor 4:00
Strawberry Fields Cyndy Lauper 4:24
Sweet Dreams Tori Amos 3:40
Take Me As I Am October Project 4:38
The Creationist Kerli 3:38
The Dreaming Dead Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter 6:04
This Will Be Our Year The Zombies 2:08
Trouble Over the Rhine 4:01
Velvet Revolution Tori Amos 1:19
Waltz of the Malcontent Lily Frost 3:53
Without a Word yes but 4:15
Writing On the Wall Blackmore’s Night 6:01
Your Rocky Spine Great Lake Swimmers 3:36
Childhood Music, Take One

Childhood Music, Take One

I’ve been thinking about narratives, how people create stories about themselves – even (maybe even especially) private stories.

I’m not sure whether it’s our culture, or if it’s just me, but music anchors me even more than sight or touch. It rivals smell for the primal whole-self response. I had an idea to free-associate, to simply list the music I strongly recall enjoying. For almost a minute, I had the illusion that that I could make a whole list. I suspect that if I did this again, some songs would stay and others would fade back, replaced by others through a different train of constructive memory.

Tonight, at this moment, here is the music that I recall enjoying, as it occurs to me in a roughly autobiographical, chronological order.

All Through the Night
Star Light, Star Bright
I’m a Little Teapot
Good Morning to You
Oh, What a Beautiful Morning
Home on the Range
Sweet Betsy from Pike
I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad
Oh, Susanna!
Au Clair de al Lune
Rose, Rose and Up She Rises
I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
My Knapsack on My Back
Funiculì, Funiculà
Cool, Clear Water
Erie Canal
Shulamite Maiden
Sleeping Beauty
When the Bell in Lighthouse Rings Ding Dong
Oh, How Lovely is the Evening
Silent Night
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Have You Seen the Ghost of John?
Cruella deVille (101 Dalmations)
Someone to Watch Over Me
The Beatles
In the Summertime
Forward, You Witnesses
There Was a Rooster
Joy to the Word
If You Go Away
Where Do I Begin? (Love Story)
Hushabye Mountin
West Side Story
The Mama’s and the Papa’s
The Sound of Music
Cat Stevens
South Pacific
Jesus Christ Superstar
The Doors
Jackson Five
Tony Orlando
The Carpenters
Love is Blue
The Locomotion
Classical Gas
I Think I Love You – The Partridge Family
The Monkeys
Seasons in the Sun (and side b) – Terry Jacks
Helen Reddy
Simon and Garfunkel
John Denver
American Pie
Laughter in the Rain – Neil Sedaka
My Eyes Adored You
The Eagles
Barbra Streisand
Elton John
Tom Jones
The Bee Gees
Olivia Newton-John
Steve Miller Band
Crosby Stills Nash and Young
Rolling Stones
The Who
My Sharona
Maggie May / Rod Stewart
Starry Starry Night

Looking back over the list, I’m convinced that it must be so off, in a number of ways. I also laughed. It does get better than this eventually (smile).

Have you ever thought about the music that resonated with you at a young age?

Ne Me Quitte Pas: Song for a Melancholy Day

Ne Me Quitte Pas: Song for a Melancholy Day

If you’re wanting to really enjoy some melancholia, and you’re a hopeless romantic like myself, it’s hard to beat “Ne Me Quitte Pas” by the Flemish/Belgian/French Jacques Brel. It’s the number one song on my self-pity list.

My friend Hayley reminded me of the song recently on Facebook. I hadn’t realized how awful the English translations and revisionings have been until my other friend Dot pointed it out. My French isn’t that great.

The first time I heard the song was as a child. My mom had a Rod McKuen album, and I loved that song – until I heard Brel’s original. Now I can’t stand to listen McKuen’s song. The bombastic style reminds me too much of Frank Sinatra, and that presentation misses everything. An impressive list of other artists have covered the song in a number of different languages. It might be fun sometime compare them all – in the style of bible concordances – but first I want to listen. I trust my ear and spirit more than I do my thoughts.

Dot directed me to another subtitled video that is closer to the original meaning:

Don’t go way from me
We must forget
All can be forgotten
that’s gone by already
Forget the times
of misunderstandings
The time lost
in figuring out how
Forget those hours that
sometimes killed
– with blows of why –
the heart of happiness
Don’t go way from me (4x)

Don’t go way from me
I will bring you pearls of rain
from countries
where it doesn’t rain
I will dig up the earth
until after my death
to cover your body
with gold and light
I will create for you a realm
where love is king
where love is law
and you will be queen
Don’t go way from me (4x)

Don’t go way from me
I will invent for you
nonsense words
which you’ll understand
I will tell you of these lovers
who saw their hearts
set ablaze twice
I will tell you of a king
who died from not being able
to meet you
Don’t go way from me (4x)

Often you see the flame
of an ancient volcano
thought to be too old
There are, it seems,
burnt out lands that give
better wheat than
the best April
And when night comes
to light up the sky
the red and the black
don’t they marry?
Don’t go way from me (4x)

Don’t go way from me
I won’t cry anymore
I won’t speak anymore
I’ll hide there
To watch you dance and smile
Listen to you sing and laugh
Let me become
the shadow of your shadow
shadow of your hand
shadow of your dog..
Don’t go way from me (4x)

On a board at, I found another translation that I liked as well.

Do not leave me.
One must forget
that which is bygone.
Everything can be forgotten –
Forget the instances
of misunderstandings
and of the moments lost.
Knowing how to
forget the hours
that sometimes killed
the very heart of happiness
– with all their Why’s.
Do not leave me. (4x)

I will offer you
pearls made of raindrops,
found in countries where it never rains.
I will traverse the Earth,
until after I’m gone,
only to cover your body
with gold and with sunlight.
I will establish a kingdom
where Love will be king,
where Love will rule,
and you will be Queen.
Do not leave me. (4x)

Do not leave me.
I will invent for you
nonsensical words
which only you will understand.
I will tell you stories
about the lovers
whose hearts have been
twice ablaze,
and of that king
who died for not having met you.
Do not leave me.

One has often seen
a fire erupting
out an ancient volcano,
thought to be extinct.
And it seems
that a scorched earth
could give more wheat
than in the best of springs.
And when the evening falls
do the red and the black not unite
in order for sky to be set aflame?
Do not leave me.

Do not leave me.
I will no longer cry.
I will no longer talk.
I will just hide where
I can look at you
dance and smile,
and listen to you
sing and then laugh.
Let me become
the shadow of your shadow
the shadow of your hand
the shadow of your dog.
Do not leave me. (4x)

Still, even with my shaky French, there is nothing that captures the very sound and texture of the original lyrics, especially if you listen rather than watch (Monsieur Brel sweats a lot). Here they are:

Ne Me Quitte Pas

Ne me quitte pas
Il faut oublier
Tout peut s’oublier
Qui s’enfuit deja
Oublier le temps
Des malentendus
Et le temps perdu
A savoir comment
Oublier ces heures
Qui tuaient parfois
A coups de pourquoi
Le coeur du bonheure
Ne me quitte pas (4x)

Moi je t’offrirai
Des perles du pluie
Venues de pays
Ou il ne pleut pas
Je creuserai la terre
Jusqu’apres ma mort
Pour couvrir ton corps
D’or et de lumiere
Je ferai un domaine
Ou l’amour sera roi
Ou l’amour sera loi
Ou tu seras reine
Ne me quitte pas (4x)

Ne me quitte pas
Je t’inventerai
Des mots insensés
Que tu comprendras
Je te parlerai
De ces amants là
Qui ont vu deux fois
Leurs coeurs s’embraser
Je te racont’rai
L’histoire de ce roi
Mort de n’avoir pas
Pu te rencontrer
Ne me quitte pas (4x)

On a vu souvent
Rejaillir le feu
De l’ancien volcan
Qu’on croyait trop vieux
Il est paraît-il
Des terres brûlées
Donnant plus de blé
Qu’un meilleur avril
Et quand vient le soir
Pour qu’un ciel flamboie
Le rouge et le noir
Ne s’épousent-ils pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

Ne me quitte pas
Je ne veux plus pleurer
Je ne veux plus parler
Je me cacherai là
A te regarder
Danser et sourire
Et à t’écouter
Chanter et puis rire
Laisse-moi devenir
L’ombre de ton ombre
L’ombre de ta main
L’ombre de ton chien
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

And – don’t miss Nina Simone…

Poem: The Vine

Poem: The Vine

The Vine — A VirusHead Poem

All this talk of trees, on and on for the phallic market
Strategies of an oily snake for leafage sales (once his hanging
Globulars were taken). Sublime awareness must be more
Than a petty lesson from a parent uncomfortable
With the shape of fruition, death more complex
Than effect catalyzed by theft of figgish ‘apple’, or …
Lest we ruin another ancient secret, the swords still whirl.
But there was a gift, a scion, benevolent mutation,
An ancient cousin, less fond of the veil game,
Connections ‘r us – in moderation, not that there’s anything
Wrong with that. Playfully, the vine invites us:

‘Yes. Take, eat, suckle, nibble, drink’ – a homeopathic dose –
The measured amount that nourishes just enough,
(Just barely enough) on the wastes of flesh, for the new
Sinuous snake of wordflesh to spread, and
Not to burn. Note the nice black snakeskin cover.
What is good? What is evil? Forget fruits, we have
The BOOK. Stroke it. Hold it in your hand. Yes, it’s a fetish.
No fast-talker, this, but a breed of medusa. Don’t look!
Or not so closely that you get lost, but turn a mirror back
On the endless reflexivity. There is a back door.

A glimpse we have, and still unguarded,
A taste of the kiss of veritas. Glory seed, it waits
In cold confining, firmly packed and heavy,
Odorous manure of word, tradition, interpretation,
Community’s spores – embedded soldiers –
Shovel it, and spread thick muddy mundacity, while busy
Microbial servants work endlessly, and so, so fruitlessly,
To keep things clean. But they can’t stop it.
Reaching out, tendrils wisp and unfurl – beauty!
Out of the pungent darkness, a tiny finger
Crawls out of its tunnel and is born into the light. Free but rooted,
Held but yearning, the spirit of the vine.
Was there ever a more pleasing green?

Though it would, the vine cannot touch the sky.
It must – at its limit – extend horizontally, like
The famous crossbeam on the hill. Infected by the spirit,
You are, but the blood of it might not be what you expected.
Watch out for stomping peasants.
Rambling through the billion intersections
Of light and darkness and twilight and moonrise,
Absorbing rain and glare and breezy accidents
Of hills state and province, all with vineyard care
into a shimmering feedback loop, it forms
An eternal recurrence, the golden mean in fractal path,
Perfect, perfect imperfection. Like the face of
The lover, experience marking the quality
Of the vintage, the bouquet… the aftertaste.

The very sunlight is touched, and lovers
Everywhere feel it, as they lie intertwined
With and around and within each other
Under the bluer sky. You might not like
The hoofed Dancer, but those pipes were jazz.
Rhythm and melodic joy brought them up to
Dance and love and feel the world worlding,
Silly, erotic, full of life – even violent –
Just as (un)truthful, maybe (un)lying.
But some still choose to whisper “die”
Painting nature’s music the devil, the adversary,
Only to find themselves pulled by karma’s trowel,
Just dour weeds, withering now so close
Touching close, to the vibrancy
Of what they refused to know
While they lived by the scythe.

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