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CapriUni Monster Song (?) from CapriUni -- help? (17) RE: Monster Song (?) from CapriUni -- help? 19 Sep 11


Crowhugger has been doubly gracious in her critique of this song -- first, by going through it line by line, and finding places where it could be strengthened, and second, by inviting me to respond to her critiques and questions publicly, in this thread, and for that I give her many thanks (many, many).

Before I respond to her points on (a few individual lines) I want to answer her overarching question of what my goals are for this song, and where I want to take the Listener, on this journey:

In English Major Lingo, the "Storyteller" of this song is what we call 'an unreliable narrator' -- S/He sincerely believes everything S/He says, but at the same time, is so thoroughly blinded by prejudice that S/He can't even recognize that S/He's spewing utter nonsense. I expect most listeners to start out siding with the storyteller, by default, because that's what they expect to do, when they hear a song sung in first person (which is why I deliberately chose to write this in the first-person plural). By the second verse, I want the audience to start questioning the storyteller's reliability. At the end of the song, I hope the audience is cheering for the "monsters'" limited success (and, through questioning the Storyteller's prejudices, start questioning their own). If I leave the (privileged) listener (who may not have thought about these ideas before) with a slightly uneasy, questioning, feeling (Rather than Knowing a Truth), I'll have succeeded.

She asked if perhaps the forest is a metaphor, and it is -- for the isolation, either physical isolation (in terms of Asylums and Institutional homes -- which were built far from population centers, and surrounded by vast spreads of land, so that the buildings could not be seen by the "general public") or emotional/intellectual isolation -- that comes when you're denied access to the community and to your own voice. I had originally considered people trying to lock the monsters in closets and under the beds (other traditional monster habitats), but I ended up going with the forest, because that connotes the far more "alien" nature with which the Storyteller views Her/His subject (and also, it leaves far more space for the listener to fill in the blanks as to what the monsters look like, in the beginning of the song).

Now, on to individual lines and words that you brought up -- ust a few of them (my song lines in bold, her questions & and comments in italics, and my answers in plain text):

Oh, once we were citizens of a proud town (I changed it from "fine" because "proud" seemed, to me, to be a stronger sound, and more likely to be heard)

(Citizen is a legal construct)

Yes, just so. "Citizen" also denotes legal rights, which were not granted to the disabled in America (as a legally defined minority, entitled to rights on a federal level), until I was almost 13 years old. "Citizen" is also used in political speech to denote who belongs and who doesn't, and thus is often used (At least, around this neck of the woods, just a bit south of the Mason-Dixon line) to stir up feelings of gung-ho patriotism. ("A citizen of the United States," etc). And it's for those two reasons I deliberately chose the word. Plus, it was a perfect fit anapestic tetrameter I was hearing the in my head.

Then the monsters came in, and they spoiled our view.

(Phrase suggests monsters deliberately ruined / contaminated / stained / fouled the view.)

Ah, good point. Based on your comments, I changed the line to But monsters arrived and they ruined the view -- also, since births are often talked about as a baby's "arrival" (which isn't deliberate, either, on their part), and at the end of the song, the monsters mention they were born into the community, so by changing "came in" to "arrived," I hope to forshadow that, a bit.

With different bodies, and different brains

(DIFFERENT. Is that all it takes to be ugly and strange?)

Sadly, based on my life experience (and based on online conversations with others in Disability-centric fora): YES. Don't ask me why; I couldn't tell you. But I've had parents scoop up their toddler children and shield them from me with their bodies when shopping in the mall, when I've done nothing more threatening than get too close while using a wheelchair (and "too close" is greater than five feet). I've had able-bodied people stare at me with expressions of open hatred when I'm just going about my business in a public space. I even, once, had a delivery driver run away from me when I came to the door and called for his assistance (he'd put the package I needed on the ground, where I couldn't reach to pick it up, easily). If this strikes you as a logical disconnect, and the Storyteller's/Community's reaction seems all out of proportion to an actual threat, then my song is a success -- because that is precisely the point I am trying to make.

In the more snarky online communities I frequent, the phrase "Being different AT someone" is in fairly common usage, as if simply being different in someone's pressence is a deliberate attack on the value of their "normality" (as in this sample sentence: "He started yelling and swearing at me because I had the audacity to be different at him.").

The experts agreed 'twas the right thing to do

(A specific expert will give a clear picture)

Actually, though, I'm using the plural "experts" as a synecdoche for all of those who have had a hand in shaping public policy toward the Disabled since the 1800s: doctors, educators, clergy, legislators, psychologists, et alia; over the last couple of centuries, people in these professions have come up with theories on how to deal with "the threat of invalids and the feebleminded" (actual phrases used in nineteenth century pamphlets on public policy), based almost entirely on their own fears and prejudices, and then, quote each other to support their beliefs. So it's really the whole social system that I'm protesting, here; pinning it on a single "villian" who got it wrong would be misleading, I think.

But I did realize that simply repeating the opening chorus/stanza immediately before this line went counter to my goal of presenting this as a pattern of actions, through history. So I wrote an entirely new one, to express the passage of time.

It's unfair! They're nothing like me or like you (Though I changed that to It's disgusting! They're nothing... to liven up the rhythm a bit, and to create a fresh rhyme in the middle of the line)

I love your quirky ending ... but ...found it abrupt and I don't know quite how to suggest softening its sudden turn.

Thank you. Hm. I'm not sure, either... except... maybe... How's this for an idea?

I'm now using (a slightly modified version of) "The Irish Washerwoman" as the tune for this song, and the recurring passages that end with "tut-tut" are taken up with the B-part of that jig. ... But only half of the B-part. What if, in the full arrangement of the song, the rest of the part is played between the description of the "monsters" doing completely normal things as part of the community, to give the audience room to visualize it, and the final line about how disgusting and different they are (and how obviously mistaken and bigoted the Storyteller is)? That certainly wouldn't "Soften" the irony, but it might make it less abrupt... Just a thought.


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