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How to write songs you love

Song Idea: Making The Same Different (III)

Song Idea: Making The Same Different (III)

Song Idea Finale

 

Now that we’ve looked at several aspects of both the song and the poem, we’ll put together the final pieces to help understand how the same idea can be presented so differently.

The primary differentiation between the two ideas is the point of view taken by the speaker/singer in each. This creates a very different angle on the subject matter. Neither approach is common, and both help us understand a bit more about ourselves – always the ultimate goal.

We’ll look at the structure of each as well as the point of view in more detail.

 

How Does The Meter, Or Rhythm, Compare?

 

“My Papa’s Waltz”

The meter, or rhythm, replicates the actual dance motion of the waltz and the 3/4 pattern: long step, short step, short step with a measure of the music – or line in this case.

 

“Dance With My Father”

As you’re listening to the song, you can feel how it blends with the first image of the family spinning around to some unheard music: not too fast, not too slow.

This sets up the rhythm of the song, which results in a chorus that is slightly faster in phrasing, which creates a rhythmic change to help differentiate the verse from the chorus, but it never leaves the tempo created in the first verse.

So, while very different in the type of “dance,” both the poem’s and song’s writers are very cognizant one is taking place.

 

How Are The Poem And Song Idea Different Or The Same?

 

I thought I would use a tip Jimmy Webb gives in his book Tunesmith for understanding your song concept, and finding the idea.

He suggests writing a letter. The goal of this kind of approach is to be in the moment. If you’re going to find images and a title to bring your concept full circle, this is one of the best and easiest ways to accomplish it.

So – let’s write a letter for both the poem and the song.

 

“My Papa’s Waltz”

Dear Dad,
I remember when I was small and you’d come home from work at the mill. I could tell you’d been drinking, but I wanted to spend time with you, to be held by you, I never really cared. You would dance with me – probably not the best dancing – it was more of a pounding romp than a dance, but it was with you, so I was happy.

When we’d get tired (probably more you than me since you had been working all day), you would carry me upstairs to bed, clinging to your shirt – I was always happy to dance just to be held. We never shared much, and now, as I look back, I know you were trying to connect with me the only way you knew how: showing me you cared, but being uncomfortable I might see too much.

 

“Dance With My Father”

Dear Heavenly Father,
One of my most precious moments as a child was when my father would cradle me in his arms, hold my mother close, and we would spin around the room.

We danced together until I was tired, and then, he would carry me up the stairs to my bed. That was a moment I’ll cherish forever now that he’s gone. But the hardest loss isn’t mine – it’s my mother’s. He was the only man she ever loved, and I remember how sad she was when he died.

She would cry in her room so I wouldn’t see, but I knew. I just want her to be happy again – he was taken too soon. I know you can’t bring him back, but can you do something for her – to let her dance with him again?

Clearly – very different!

 

The Key Takeaways!

 

#1  There Are Two Different People Being Spoken To.

When you write a letter you have to decide who is being addressed. The song and poem speak to a very different audience. The poem is talking to the speaker’s father, while the song is speaking to a higher power – a prayer if you will.

#2  One Is A Reflection – The Other A Realization

“Dance With My Father” is a reflection on a moment and “My Papa’s Waltz” is the realization of the father/son relationship (poem), and the other is a prayer for the mother (song). The beauty of “Dance With My Father” is the song itself: it answers the question in the letter, which is why it resonates so well with an audience.

#3  Stay In The Moment The Letter Suggests

While these two ideas may have started out in a very similar way, i.e., I remember when my father would dance with me then carry me to bed. Neither are ideas – they’re general concepts around a common event. The ideas are brought to their individual focus (or angle) by staying in the moment, and the speaker understanding it from their perspective.

#4  Sentimentality – Avoid It

Another thing worth noting in terms of similarity is neither is sentimental. Oscar Wilde once wrote, “A sentimentalist is one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it.” Yeats wrote, “Rhetoric is fooling others. Sentimentality is fooling yourself.”

Despite each being a tender moment, neither tries to use the sweetness of tucking an infant into bed, or in the case of the song, the death moment of the father, to bring heightened, unearned emotional response to the work.

 

Parts 1 And 2





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