I have a confession.
I watched seasons 2-9 of American Idol. I watch Glee, The Voice, The Sing-Off, and pretty much any other show about singing, singers, and/or performing songs. I can list a host of reasons with varying levels of acceptability—procrastination, dislike of watching sporting events, and boredom, among others—but what it boils down to is this: I miss it. I miss performing, and watching others do so helps me relive those incredible experiences.
I’ll save the raw, heartbreaking passion in “Permanent” for a later post, perhaps, because I’d like to focus on his song “Lie” from that self-titled album.
You whisper that you are getting tired
Got a look in your eye
Looks a lot like goodbye
I knew this would be the perfect break-up song. In an instant, this song still transports me to the exact moment I knew my ex would break up with me . . . or the moment, many years before that, when I broke up with my first high-school boyfriend. That *look* is timeless—and it’s captured perfectly in these simple words.
You’re hiding regret in your smile
There’s a storm in your eyes
I’ve seen coming for a while
Hang on to the past tense tonight
Don’t say a word
I’m okay with the quiet
The truth is gonna change everything
This part always reminds me of that deep-down, sinking, gut feeling I have when I know I’m about to hear bad news. I’ve often wondered if David Cook and the other songwriters could somehow hear my inner monologues. See, even when I know awful news, know it deep-down with a terrified certainty, I’ve always sought ways to postpone acknowledging it. I really am okay with the quiet . . . because in it, I am able to lie to myself.
So lie to me and tell me that it’s gonna be all right
So lie to me and tell me that we’ll make it through the night
I don’t mind if you wait before you tear me apart
Look me in the eye
And lie, lie, lie
I know that there’s no turning back
If we put too much light on this
We’ll see through all the cracks
Let’s stay in the dark one more night
This image is, in fact, a metaphor: their relationship is an item with a seemingly solid surface that reveals hidden flaws when illuminated. Again, he asks not to be forced to acknowledge these—he wants to stay in the dark. I can certainly appreciate that impulse.
Don’t want to believe in this ending
Let the cameras roll on
Tomorrow’s all wrong
If you walk away
To me, the significance of this song reaches far beyond the surface relationship implications. It lies instead in my own fear of the unknown. My past actions have proven that sometimes I’d rather stay with something known—even if I’m not happy—than try something new: a new city, a new job, a new apartment, a new way of life. The unknown feels “all wrong” to me . . . even when the known does, too.
So lie to me and tell me that we’re gonna be okay
So lie to me and tell me that we’ll make it through the day
I don’t mind if you wait before you tear me apart
To look me in the eye
And lie, lie, lie
Fittingly, I think, the music simply tapers off after this final plea. There’s no sweeping conclusion, no witty couplet that explains how the illusion can continue. The lies just can’t last forever; that’s the point. Sooner or later, the truth will look him (and me, and, in fact, all of us) in the eye. Despite the hauntingly beautiful pleas, it’s apparent that we all have to find a way to face that truth, live through the pain of it, and move on.
- Street Date: David Cook Performs LIVE, Playing Selections From New Album “This Loud Morning” (q104.radio.com)
- Street Date: David Cook Performs LIVE, Playing Selections From New Album “This Loud Morning” (fresh1027.radio.com)
- Street Date: David Cook Performs LIVE, Playing Selections From New Album “This Loud Morning” (kymx.radio.com)
- Street Date: David Cook Performs LIVE, Playing Selections From New Album “This Loud Morning” (now100fm.radio.com)
- Which American Idol Performance Was Your Favorite? (popsugar.com)
- David Cooks “Light On” Music Video – Love It or Leave It? (popsugar.com)
- Street Date: David Cook Performs LIVE, Playing Selections From New Album “This Loud Morning” (wlte.radio.com)
- Street Date: David Cook Performs LIVE, Playing Selections From New Album “This Loud Morning” (khmx.radio.com)
- Street Date: David Cook Performs LIVE, Playing Selections From New Album “This Loud Morning” (wdok.radio.com)
“Kyrie” from Lord Nelson Mass — Franz Joseph Haydn[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSGa5oJDELE&feature=youtube_gdata_player%5D
“Daemon Irrepit Callidus” — György Orbán[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RNBf3CS9KU&feature=youtube_gdata_player%5D
For me, music attaches most strongly to memory when I perform it. I never learned to play an instrument, although I can strum a few chords on a guitar and pick out a melody on a keyboard. What I did was sing in various choirs throughout my school career. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not extraordinarily talented, nor should I audition for American Idol. Still, my experiences with music will always be colored by performance, by letting music flow not only into but also through my body.
I can clearly remember the dress rehearsal for my first high school concert. We were singing Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass. At the time, I sang in the women’s choir, so I was only used to hearing the soprano and alto parts along with the piano accompaniment. At the rehearsal (and in the concert), the advanced choir—complete with tenor and bass—would join us, as would four professional soloists and my school’s orchestra, who had practiced the same piece for a joint concert.
If you haven’t heard it before, you should check out the first movement—“Kyrie”—from the Lord Nelson Mass. It’s not exactly a shy, retiring melody. Rather, it’s a wall of sound that hits the audience full-force from the beginning. On the afternoon of that dress rehearsal, I was stunned by the power added by the men’s voices and orchestral accompaniment. Overwhelmed by the beauty and strength of hundreds of voices and instruments combined, I literally forgot to sing . . . until my friend elbowed me, that is. It was the first time I really felt that potent sense of belonging that comes from being part of something much, much greater than oneself.
That sense of belonging took a slightly eerie turn with György Orbán’s “Daemon Irrepit Callidus,” a quick, devilish Latin number used for the All-State tryouts my junior year. I hadn’t tried out before, so I didn’t know what to expect. We met at the high school early one Saturday morning and drove to another school for the auditions. I remember receiving a tryout number and then walking toward the school’s auditorium with my nervous gaggle of classmates. The imposingly thick, heavy wooden doors—you know the type—transmitted only muffled sound. Once heaved open, that sound expanded into the unbearably strong yet irritatingly tinny noise that can only come from accompaniment on cassette tape played too loudly (and on a continuous loop) through the auditorium’s sound system.
Hundreds of high school students, glassy-eyed with lack of sleep and practically shimmering with nervous energy, perched on the upholstered auditorium seats. They all faced the empty stage with its closed, blood-red curtains. Sheet music in hand, they sang along with the tape, practicing the tryout section over and over again while waiting for their numbers to be called. It was far too loud for conversation, so my friends and I wandered, trance-like, to the first free row of seats, sat down, pulled out our music, and began to sing along, as glassy-eyed and nervous as the others.
There, the sense of belonging was tinged with the strange, cult-like feeling I get whenever I hear (and participate in) groups of people reciting the same thing all at once. It was intense, magical, and somehow just a little bit off—exactly like the music itself.
Don’t get me wrong. I love performing. Whether I’m belting in the shower, mumbling my way through half-understood Spanish-language lyrics in my car, or singing onstage, the act helps me connect to a piece of music in a deeper way. The experience is admittedly hard to define. However, both of these intense experiences epitomize what it is, to me, to be not just a listener but, in fact, part of a song.
- Classical Music Composers (mademan.com)
- Marlboro Music Festival @ Marlboro, Vt., 7/18/10 (timesunion.com)
- How the great symphonies became our soundtrack to a changing world (guardian.co.uk)
- How did Joseph Haydn influenced music (wiki.answers.com)
- Haydn: Piano Trios Vol 1, Nos 24, 25, 26, 31 – review (guardian.co.uk)
- Beethoven’s Fifth: the Base and Peak of Romanticism (nightofzel.wordpress.com)
- J.Haydn – Cello Concerto No.1 in C major – M. Rostropovich and Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields (euzicasa.wordpress.com)