Songwriters love to write songs about songs, meditating on the meaning and power of music. You can listen to my playlist Metamusic: Songs about Songs on RDIO as you read this post about metasongs or follow the links on the titles to Youtube.
Songwriters love to write songs about songs, meditating on the meaning and power of music. You can listen to my playlist Metamusic: Songs about Songs on RDIO as you read about “Your Song,” lyrics by Bernie Taupin and music by Elton John, the first of a series of posts on metamusic.
The song begins “It’s a little bit funny this feeling inside.” The feeling, of course, is love. “I don’t have much money,” John sings, “but boy if I did / I’d buy a big house where we both could live.” The songwriters, longtime collaborators, may not have had much money when they wrote the song, but it became their first pop hit and is now worth a fortune, enough to buy two or three houses.
For the seven-course meta-dinner, I put together a five hour list of mostly metamusic. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have taken a step back to examine how I use the prefix “meta-.” Is a rock ‘n roll song about rock n’ roll — for example, Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” — meta? Metaclass participants agreed that it was and Ian Latta pointed out that it is much more common for music (and poetry) to contain meta elements, references to the art form, than for fiction and film, which tend toward a more naturalistic presentation, the illusion that what you are reading or seeing is “real” and what actually happened. With stories, we want to be fooled. With music and poetry, we don’t mind being reminded that we are listening to or reading an artificial creation.
I Love Rock ‘n Roll, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
In honor of Michelle Okafo (the more or less grown-up version of the wacky poem writer), who is moving to L.A., meta-class participants and I threw a seven-course meta-dinner last week. However, I wasn’t sure whether or not the dinner could honestly be called meta. Ian Latta, I think, has been more careful in the use of “meta-” than I am. I fear I have been too liberal with the term, so I was wondering whether Ian would consider food that repeats itself meta or not. Because of my doubts, I was more inclined to call the event a self-reflective dinner. So, we had silver balloons and I wore my silver shirt and I served the appetizer on a mirror. (I wanted to cover the tables in Mylar, so we could see ourselves eating, but couldn’t find any.)
Sali de mi casa un dia camino de Santander y en camino encontre un papel que asi decia, “Sali de mi casa un dia camino de Santander y en camino encontre un papel que asi decia, ‘Sali de mi casa un dia camino de Santander y en camino encontre un papel que asi decia . . . ‘”
Translated: One day, I left home for the road to Santander, and on the road I came across a paper that said, “One day, I left home for the road to Santander, and on the road I came across a paper that said, ‘One day, I left home for the road to Santander, and on the road I came across a paper that said . . . ‘”
(Kids’ song from Spain. Thanks Omar Rodriguez Rodriguez!)
Meta-songs, or “songs about songs,” are songs whose lyrics talk about the song itself or the creative process of singing, composing, or performing music.
A few more self-referential songs:
Only a northern song
“Only a northern song” by The Beatles from their “Yellow Submarine” movie, later album. The lyrics are pure meta-delight:
If you’re listening to this song
You may think the chords are going wrong
But they’re not
He just wrote it like that
When you’re listening late at night
You may think the band are not quite right
But they are, They just play it like that
A few self-referential songs:
The Music Goes Round and Round
“The Music Goes Round and Round,” sung by Betty Boop, aka Helen Kane. Originally featured in the film “The Music Goes Round” (1936), played by Riley-Farley & the Onyx Club Boys. (I am more familiar with Louis Prima’s version of the song, but couldn’t find a copy to share with you.)
The lyrics give you simple instructions on how to play a trumpet:
I blow through here
The music goes ’round and around
And it comes out here.
I push the first valve down
The music goes down and around
And it comes out here.
The following verses describe pushing “the middle valve down” and then “the other valve.” And just like that you can play the trumpet!
Well, that didn’t work. I intended to leave this post blank — thirty empty lines followed by the “more” function (“Read the rest of the entry”), then two hundred and sixty three blank lines, another “more,” and one hundred sixty lines, each line representing a second of silence in John Cage’s famous song “4’33,” three movements of no music totaling four minutes and thirty three seconds, composed for any instrument or combination of instruments. However, WordPress will not allow any blank lines. Although cyberspace is relatively cheap and there is an apparently limitless supply of it, the program edits out the empty spaces. On WordPress, I can write anything I want, except nothing. So, I will have to break the silence Cage created.