Heartbreak Symphony Songlist


Side A

Song

 

Artist

Happy Ending Mika
Time Pink Floyd
When You Were Young The Killers
She Talks to Angels Black Crowes
Raining in Baltimore Counting Crows
In Our Bedroom After the War Stars
Pompeii Bastille
Glycerine Bush
Jumper Third Eye Blind
 

Side B

Song

Grey Cell Green

 

 

Artist

Ned’s Atomic Dust Bin

Closer Ne-Yo
Bizarre Love Triangle New Order
Another Rainy Night (Without You) Queensryche
Little Lion Man Mumford and Sons
Rock On David Essex
Demons Imagine Dragons
I Miss You Blink-182
Panic Switch Silversun Pickups
Sex On Fire Kings of Leon
First Cold War Kids
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The Making of “Heartbreak Symphony”


This project started out as what I thought would be a simple idea. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, a lot of us who were teenagers at the time would try to impress the people we had crushes on by making them mix tapes. For those of you who are too young to know what those are, they’re kind of like playlists that you had to make with cassettes (no I am not going to explain what those are, just Google it), and they had a limited run time.  You had to find just the right blend of songs to express what you wanted to say in the time you had to work with, and there was definitely an art to it.

I got to thinking about that old art form, and about how sometimes you would pick a song because of a certain line or phrase, and how in many ways you were crafting a poem with someone else’s words. That inspired me to do just that – to write a poem completely out of other people’s words, taken completely out of context but arranged in the order that made sense for my needs, to express my feelings. I also wanted to do it in such a way that it would make a good mix tape, because that was an essential element of the original art form as well – it couldn’t just be a random jumble of songs. Well, I suppose it could, but a poem can also just be a random jumble of words. That doesn’t make it good. The artistry is in the flow, putting them in a certain order so that they sound good and take you on an emotional journey. I felt that if I could manage to do both, to create a poem that worked while at the same time creating a mix tape that worked, I would have achieved a multimedia art form unlike anything I had done (or seen) before.

The first step was the same as any mix tape: picking the songs. I went through and gathered up a list of over 60 songs by artists ranging from the Eagles to Limp Bizkit, paying particular attention to songs that had lyrics that grabbed me. They didn’t have to be anything in particular so long as it was something unique. From there I compiled all the lyrics of the songs with only two rules in mind: first, I had to use a given line complete as written in the song, and second I couldn’t use any line that contained the actual title of the song (I felt that would be cheating). At this point I started narrowing down my list fairly quickly, as I found many of the songs on my list either weren’t as compelling as I originally thought, or else they didn’t have lines I could use. I also found the general outline of the poem already beginning to form, which may have been due to the songs I selected. Whether it is due to my own particular taste in music or perhaps just the nature of pop music itself, I found that most of the songs I was finding quality lyrics in tended toward the melancholier end of the spectrum. (Personally, I think it’s more the latter – the first person who can find any poetic value in “Call Me Maybe” wins a gold star.)

Crafting the poem itself was a bit more of a challenge. It was easy to pick out individual lines I found compelling – too easy, in fact. As the goal was to make a mix tape, I couldn’t use any given song and (preferably) any given artist more than once, and I had a time limit as well. I had to consider the run time of each song I used as part of the poem, and although I have always been fond of the 90 minute cassettes, apparently I am also fond of songs with long run times. Sometimes I wish more artists heeded the mocking advice of Billy Joel from “The Entertainer” and “cut it down to 3:05”.  But I digress. As I went through and wrote the poem, I quickly realized I was piling up a large number of songs and likely would run out of time, so I went back and started adding in the length of each track next to its complementary line in the poem. As I did I saw that I would run out of space before the end of the second stanza, so I made the decision to cut that stanza entirely, which to be honest was not particularly strong anyway.

In this way, the constraint of the time limit turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It forced me to keep the poem tighter than it otherwise would have been and cut weaker material that I might have left in. It also provided me with the artistic guidance to break the poem into two stanzas which equate to the two sides of the cassette. While I believe both the poem and the playlist work very well as a comprehensive whole (and both are meant to be enjoyed that way), there is also a certain completeness to each component part, whether it be the individual stanzas or Side A/Side B of the mix tape.

I hope you enjoy it. Come back tomorrow for a complete playlist so you can enjoy the mix tape for yourself, and feel free to leave any guesses in the comments below.


Heartbreak Symphony


This is the hardest story that I’ve ever told.
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day,
you sit there in your heartache
in certain company.
And I don’t have nothing to say;
if there’s no one there, then there’s no one there, but at least the war is over.
We were caught up and lost in all of our vices –
I couldn’t change though I wanted to.
And if you do not want to see me again, I would understand.

When your desire has been found
I just can’t pull myself away –
living a life that I can’t leave behind.
You leave me wanting, always leave me wanting more.
But it was not your fault but mine,
and where do we go from here?
I need to let you go;
I cannot sleep, I cannot dream tonight.
Could I be anything you want me to be?
But it’s not forever –
Call it a dark night of the soul.


A Personal Interpretation


Fair warning: I follow where my muse takes me, and the other day she took me to a very dark place. If you don’t want to be depressed, I suggest visiting Disney.com. I hear it’s very nice.

I can still remember how
A very long time ago
Acting used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had a chance
I could make people laugh, or cry, or cheer,
Even if it was only for a night.
But the day came I had to admit the truth,
If only to myself
I would never have the dream
And a dream was all it would ever be.
I can’t remember if I cried
That day I finally let it all go
But something inside me was lost
The day my childhood died.

So goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

Did you inspire my boyhood crush?
Do you believe in a higher power?
Is it just because you read it in a book?
Or do you believe in art, music, and dance?
Does culture connect you to something greater than yourself?
And can you teach me how to make love and not just fuck?
I know you two are an item. I saw you off by yourselves at the party.
You were off in a corner alone –
-I was off in a corner brooding.
I was a lonely teenage spastic dork
With a leather jacket and a station wagon.
I knew I was out of luck
The day my childhood died.

I was all alone singing goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

For ten years I was in a daze,
Bouncing around from place to place
But that’s not how it was supposed to be.
When the Buddha first came on the scene,
With a voice filled with agony and rage,
He was hailed as the voice of my generation.
And while the Buddha was feeling down
He graced himself with a blood red crown.
The bodhisattvas all were scattered,
But the legend was eternal.
And while Al exposed an inconvenient truth,
The market rose like Icarus,
And we all danced while Nero fiddled
The day my childhood died.

He was playing goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

The end of our world was televised:
Matching towers falling from the sky.
A hole was made that never can be filled.
A lonely field became a heroes’ grave;
The blue and red tried to salvage the day
While the fool sat bewildered with his pet goat.
There was a brief reprieve of unity
While we were all bound together in grief.
Imagine the greatness that could have been
That was stillborn in the legacy.
Because the fool had to avenge the king,
Which reopened the wounds that had never healed.
Which side of the lines did you stand on
The day my childhood died?

As they were chanting goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

So there we were, all in the same boat.
A generation sacrificed on the altar of September
With no semblance of an exit plan.
So Georgie Porgie Pudding Pie,
Georgie Got An Eye In The Sky,
How are you gonna make this one okay?
As the wars raged on and empty promises were made,
The faces changed but the tune stayed the same.
And as the boys and girls bled in the sandbox
Their broken toys lying all around them
In the end what did we accomplish?
The day my childhood died.

They were crying goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

I knew a girl with the voice of an angel
And I asked her to sing for me one more time
But she just smiled and turned away.
And I went down to the sacred places
Where I dreamed my dreams so long ago
But the sacred places had long since closed and moved away.
And in the streets nothing’s really changed
Hearts still get broken every day
People scurry here, and scurry there
We do our best to make it somehow.
And the three things that I clung to most –
My grandfather, my father, and my belief in my own immortality–
They all left me at the same time:
The day my childhood died.

And they left me saying goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.

Goodbye innocence,
I looked inside and the well of inspiration ran dry.
All my friends of yesteryear
Have long since faded away,
Long since faded away.


Dating Advice From Famous Poets


Maya Angelou

By York College ISLGP [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By York College ISLGP [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Dear Ms. Angelou,

I’m writing to you because I’m quite vexed over my father’s intractable position vis-à-vis the proposal of my commencing a relationship with a boy. I am fully capable of making my own decisions, having already attained twelve full years of age, and while I have not yet reached menarche, I am still as much a woman grown as any of the other girls in my class, many of whom have already gone on one or more dates. I think he is being completely unreasonable. What say you?

Signed,

A Caged Bird, Too

 

Dear Fledgling,

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and risks unknown
are hers to embrace
without a care
to cast aside the chains
of a life left behind.

But a bird that stalks
down her narrow cage
held back by father’s
blindness and fear
her wings are clipped and
she knows not why
so she opens her throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and her tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird gets cruel education
on the price of casual flirtation
and the handsome boys not as good as their word
and her eyes with tears are blurred.

But a caged bird knows more than a father could
He’d lighten up if he understood
But he still says “no” and locks the doors
so she opens her throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and her tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

 

Edgar Allen Poe

Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, known as the "Annie" Daguerreotype.

Daguerreotype of Edgar Allan Poe, known as the “Annie” Daguerreotype.

Dear Mr. Poe,

I’m planning to propose to the love of my life, my beautiful girlfriend of many years, and I want to do it somewhere special, someplace so magical she’ll never forget it. Can you offer any suggestions?

Thanks,

Searching for the Moment

 

Dear Lost in the Moment,

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
I proposed to a girl you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;–

Let’s just say things didn’t exactly work out
The way that I thought they would be.
If I had it all to do over
In that kingdom by the sea,
We would have just gone out to a nice dinner–
I and my Annabel Lee.

My advice? Bundle up, stay inside, stay warm —
STAY AWAY FROM THE SEA.

 

Dr. Seuss

Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) half-length portrait, seated at desk covered with his books / World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna

Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) half-length portrait, seated at desk covered with his books / World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna

Dear Dr. Seuss,

I’m not sure who to ask about this, but here goes. I’ve started noticing the boys in my class, and I think I like them, you know, in that way. Which would be great, except I’m a boy too.  Which I guess means I’m gay? And some people say being gay is bad, and other people say it’s not, and I just don’t know what to think. What do you think?

Signed,

Confused and Lost

 

Dear Lost and Found,

There once was a girl named Julie Madevin,
A charming young thing the age of eleven.
She had a crush on a boy in her class,
The boy known as Billy Sassafrass.
Julie thought that he was quite alright;
His eyes were blue, his pants were tight.
But there was something the other kids would say:
They all insisted that Billy was gay.
Julie didn’t know what to do,
So she ran home and asked her mommies two.
They told her this was quite alright,
And Julie slept quite well that night.

 

Lord Byron

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, by Richard Westall, from National Portrait Gallery, London.

George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, by Richard Westall, from National Portrait Gallery, London.

Dear Lord Byron,

I want to do something really special for my wife for Valentine’s Day this year. It’s been a rough year, and I really want to show her I love her more than anything in the world. You’re renowned as one of the greatest romantics of all time; can you please give me something to show her just how much I love her?

Signed,

Truly Desperately In Love

 

Dear Truly Desperate,

I dunno. Flowers?

 

 


Love is in the Air


Spring has at last sprung, and as the great cycle continues, so does a person’s fancy turn at this time of year to thoughts of love. But not everyone expresses that fancy in the same way. Let’s pause for a moment and consider how different folks might express themselves using a classic formula.

 

Atheist

Roses are red, violets are blue,

That has nothing to do with God, because He doesn’t exist.

 

Feminist

Roses are red, violets are blue,

Infantilizing love poetry is a sign of the Patriarchy.

 

Surrealist

Roses are red, violets are blue,

Green fish toaster.

 

Dog

Roses are red, violets are blue,

I already peed on them, are you gonna eat that?

 

Cat

Roses are red, violets are blue,

Who cares? Worship me.

 

Teacher

Roses are red, violets are blue,

Stop running in the halls and keep your hands to yourself.

 

Jewish Mother

Roses are red, violets are blue,

When are you going to come visit? And what, I don’t even get a phone call?

 

Engineer

Roses are red, violets are blue,

Redundancy is good, and violets are blue.

 

Anarcho-Capitalist

Roses are red, violets are blue,

You can have as many of each as you like for the right price.

 

Communist

Roses are red, violets are blue,

I take them from the rich and give them to you.

 

Right Wing Radio Host

Roses are red, violets are blue,

We’d have more flowers if it weren’t for government regulations stifling American innovation; I personally blame Barrack HUSSEIN Obama and his kleptocratic cronies who insist on bleeding average Americans dry so they can support their bloated bureaucracy rather than let the free market decide what the people ACTUALLY want, unless of course that something happens to clash with my own personal morals and beliefs.

 

Left Wing Radio Host

Roses are red, violets are blue,

You’re listening to NPR.

 


Metis Song


I was inspired to write this by the RPG Werewolf: The Apocalypse, which released a 20th anniversary edition last year-ish. If you aren’t familiar with the game this won’t make much sense to you, but it might resonate anyway. If not, just take my word for it that it’s pretty darn good.

Metis Song

you
ignore us
call us obscenities
deny our very existence
even though you made us
even though you are
the ones who
sinned against
Gaia

those
who should
accept us are
the ones who call
us corrupt; the ones who
would corrupt us are
the ones who
would accept
us

we
bear the
shame, the pain
the sorrow you earned
forced to live apart from
tribe, sept, kin, for
the crime of
having been
born

you
deny us
glory, honor, pride
even the ancestry that
is clearly written in the
form we never chose
our form at
birth and
death

far
more than
you will ever
understand we feel it
pure as we can never
be in your eyes
we feel anger,
we feel
Rage