What mishearing Canadian accents tells us about racism, what irony (and Socrates) really means, and how Speech Act Theory might illuminate internet debates.
The Friend Zone meets Guardians of the Galaxy, C. S. Lewis, and American health care legislation.
We explore signaling theory in education and social life, we distinguish two types of explanation, and we wonder why we like songs that are mean to us.
Is music an illusion? Is (American) conservatism incoherent?
Listen to the episode: Subscribe via iTunes | Listen via Stitcher Go to previous episode | Go to next episode The Songs “Before He Cheats,” by Carrie Underwood And here are the lyrics. “Maybellene,” by Chuck Berry And here are the lyrics. Supporting Songs “Creep,” by TLC “Hold Up,” by Beyonce “Hound Dog,” by Elvis Presley “Ida Red,” Read more about Ep. 32 Notes (“Before He Cheats,” by Carrie Underwood / “Maybellene,” by Chuck Berry)[…]
Listen to the episode: Subscribe via iTunes | Listen via Stitcher Go to previous episode | Go to next episode The Song “What It’s Like,” by Everlast And here are the lyrics. Supporting Songs “Jump,” by Kriss Kross “Jump Around,” House of Pain “Lose Yourself,” by Eminem “The Red,” by Chevelle “She Blinded Me with Science,” by Thomas Read more about Ep. 31 Notes (“What It’s Like,” by Everlast)[…]
How do revolutions happen? Marx, Locke, Heidegger, and emotional contagion all lend a hand.
Being independent is good. If it’s possible. And if it’s actually good. Is it?
Nu Metal, parental problems, toggle melodies, and living with contradictions.
Why phones are scary, home is friends, and manspreading is fascist.
Black Lives Matter meets Continental philosophy as we ask, “What is it like to be human?”
Philosophical zombies, moral zombies, empathy, art, and hope.
Now, back to the rhyming. The version of the lyrics created using the second standard foot has lines that end with: “beneath,” “lies,” “parts,” and “will.” None of these even come close to rhyming. This is frustrating, but also means that our options are wide open. We could go with any one of the five Read more about 10.4 Can We Do It Again?[…]
You may be concerned, however, that to create the rhyme we had to destroy the meaning. What in the world is a “supergroup collusion”? And does being “parts of some collusion” really mean the same thing as being “parts of some supergroup”? Is it worth getting a rhyme if it turns the lyrics into something Read more about 10.3 But Now It Makes No Sense![…]
Now, it would be nice if, in making either of these adjustments if we could also get the stanza into rhythm as well, so let’s reintroduce the three rhythm-sculpted versions of the stanza and see if we can work our rhymes into them. Non-Standard Foot: Do you think reality lies above us or below us Read more about 10.2 Rhyming the Rhythimified[…]
You may recall that what we’ve been doing is practicing for situations in which you have something you want to say. First, I told you just to write it down, and not to worry about rhythm and rhyme. Then, we did three chapters of practicing the introduction of rhythm into the rough lyrics we created Read more about 10.1 Sculpting Lyrics for Rhyme[…]
Now for line 4: “Or submit to being nothing but the parts of some supergroup.” We could start the line with, “Or parts of some supergroup.” However, we would then need to figure out how to fill in the rest of the line. It so happens that the notion of “the general will” is often Read more about 9.5 Stamping Our New Foot on Line 4[…]
So far, we have this. Reality lies where? Above or beneath? And what do we see here? Surrounded by lies? And our next line is: “We either must reduce ourselves to the particles that compose us.” How shall we make it fit? How about “Should we reduce ourselves to particles?” Let’s write it out to Read more about 9.4 Stamping Our New Foot on Line 3[…]
But what of line 2? . , . . , . . , . . , . And what do we see here? Surround with illusion? Hmm. Well, that works, technically, but I don’t like the word “illusion” going further into the fourth foot than its first syllable. Perhaps instead we should say: . , . . , . . , . . , And what do we see here? Surrounded by lies? This would create an interesting link with the word “lies” in the first line, especially since the two words, Read more about 9.3 Stamping Our New Foot on Line 2[…]
Let’s take a minute, then, to reexamine the stanza we’ve been sculpting. I sometimes worry that reality lies above us or below us And what we see at our level is an illusion We either must reduce ourselves to the particles that compose us Or submit to being nothing but the parts of some supergroup Read more about 9.2 Stamping Our New Foot on Line 1[…]
So far, we’ve taken two approaches to rhythmically sculpting our lyrics. In one, we allowed the rhythm of the first line to dictate that of the others. In the other, we imposed a two-syllable foot on all four lines. However, the foot we used in the previous chapter is far from the only one. There’s Read more about 9.1 Sculpting to a New Foot[…]
Therefore, our first stanza is: I worry that reality’s above us or below us And everything we see here at our level’s an illusion We either must reduce ourselves to pieces that compose us Or bow to being nothing but the parts of something bigger Compare that with the product of rhythmic sculpting we did Read more about 8.7 Comparing the Two Versions of Our Stanza[…]
So, on to line 4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 , . , . , . , . , . , . . Or submit to being nothing but the parts of some 1415 16 , . , supergroup As the line stands, we cannot treat “Or” as a pickup, because it has to be stressed. And it has to be stressed because “su-,” in “submit,” has to be unstressed. If we could find another word that started with a stressed syllable, however, Read more about 8.6 Stamping Our Foot on Line 4[…]
Now for line 3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 1213 . , . , . , . , . . , . . We either must reduce ourselves to the particles 14 15 16 17 , . , . that compose us What we need is a 14-syllable line with at most a 1-syllable pickup, for a total of fifteen syllables. So we need to get rid of two syllables somewhere. The most obvious place to look for expendable syllables is in the areas where the rhythm Read more about 8.5 Stamping Our Foot on Line 3[…]
What, therefore, if we rethought the beginning, changing “what we see here” to “everything we see here”? Let’s try it. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 . , . , . , . , . , . , . And everything we see here at our level’s nothing 13 141516 , . , . but illusion So, lines 1 and 2 are now: I sometimes worry that reality’s above us or below us And everything we see here at our level’s nothing but illusion But Read more about 8.4 A Mistake, Quickly Fixed[…]
Can we rewrite line 2 with the same stress pattern? 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 111213 . , . , . . , . . , . , . And what we see at our level is an illusion But since the “And” is unstressed, we can treat it as a pickup. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 101112 . , . , . . , . . , . , . And what we see at our level is an illusion That has a kind of stuttering rhythm to Read more about 8.3 Stamping Our Foot on Line 2[…]
But that’s too fancy for us just yet. Let’s start off with one of the simplest feet possible: “, .” with the understanding that a line can have a single pickup syllable that is unstressed. How many times should we repeat the foot on each line? As many times as we need in order to Read more about 8.2 Stamping Our Foot on Line 1[…]
We are working with the following set of lyrics. I sometimes worry that reality lies above us or below us And what we see at our level is an illusion We either must reduce ourselves to the particles that compose us Or submit to being nothing but the parts of some supergroup Last chapter, we Read more about 8.1 Rythmic Sculpting Continues[…]
And finally, for line four: “Or submit to being nothing but the parts of some supergroup.” We’ve already used “nothing but” in line 2, so we probably should get rid of that here. It is, as it were, “too soon” to repeat it. Likewise, we’ve already used “parts,” and so we need to change that. Read more about 7.5 One More Duplication (Line 4)[…]
Now for line 3: “We either must reduce ourselves to the particles that compose us.” The phrase “particles that” fits the section of the rhythm where “reality lies” and “see with our eyes” are in lines 1 and 2. But to get it in the right place, we’d need to shorten the first part of Read more about 7.4 Duplicating the Rhythm in Line 3[…]
Now we need to figure out if we can make the other four lines fit the same rhythm. At the moment, line 2 says, “And what we see at our level is an illusion.” That is too short. We need 15 syllables, and it only has 13. Furthermore, its first word is “and” which would Read more about 7.3 Duplicating the Rhythm in Line 2[…]
Some inspiration from “Pop Goes the Weasel” helps us refine the first line.
Is “Hey Ya” by Outkast? Or by André 3000? Did America elect [???]? Or was it just a small group of crazy people? Social ontology is fun for the whole family!
We begin sculpting the rhythm of the rough lines from the previous post.
We start by just getting what we want to say on paper. We’ll worry about HOW we say it later. It’s okay to write something clunky, awkward, and boring-sounding to start.
Is it really okay to use negative feelings and experiences as inspiration for writing lyrics? Does focusing on negative things like that just make you depressed? Or is it part of redemption?
Let’s talk about some strategies for coming up with something to write about. First, I find it easiest to get motivated to write about things that make me feel scared, angry, worried, or frustrated. So, if you’re looking for something to write about, you might start by asking yourself what you feel scared, angry, worried, Read more about 6.2 Finding Inspiration[…]
Our list of reasons for writing lyrics began with several different situations in which you actually have something you want to say. When you have something to say, you don’t need to have music first. What you want to say will be the initial constraint that guides your writing, rather than listening for parts of Read more about 6.1 Writing Words without Music[…]
In this post, we examine another set of lyrics to explore the various ways in which lines can be interlinked.
To see more concretely what it means for lines to have internal links (rather than just rhyming ends), let’s examine a song I wrote. (I don’t want to violate anyone’s copyright by quoting their song in full.)
C. S. Lewis was an amazing poet, though most people have only read his prose. In this post, we examine the way Lewis used internal links and other structure to make his poetry awesome.
Let’s practice filling in the words between rhymes some more. But this time, we’ll be guided by the concepts we’re trying to express (not just the rhythm of the melody).
Let’s get some practice with writing lyrics by finding rhymes and then filling in the words between. This time, we’ll let the melody’s rhythm guide our choice of filler words.
Need a refresher on the various types of rhyme schemes (the various rhyming patterns)? Well, this post has got you covered.
Sometimes part of a melody will “sound like” a phrase. If you can then rhyme the phrase, you’re well on your way to creating some good filler lyrics.
Now, we apply the seven rules of stress in English to the phrase, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation.”
When we speak “naturally” in English, we are unconsciously following seven rules about which syllables get emphasized. As a lyricist, you need to keep these rules in mind.
Get a feel for how you analyze the stress pattern in a sentence by examining this sentence: “Investigate the trailer till it delivers up its secrets.”
Do you know how emphasis (or “stress”) works in English? It’s not what you’d expect. At least, it’s not what I would have expected.
Rhythm means thinking about not only when a note begins, but when it ends. Fortunately, we have dashes for that sort of thing.
In this post, we continue our discussion of rhythm. We see how rhythm involves repetition, as well as stretching and contracting time.
Today, we learn a general form of rhythm notation that will come in handy later.
Melodies come in two general forms. Some are “in 3,” while most are “in 4.” To write lyrics for melodies, you need to be able to recognize those two forms.
Learn a bit more about rhythm notation for writing lyrics. Still nothing fancy, and still very useful.
Learn the basics of rhythm notation for writing lyrics. Nothing fancy, but still very useful.
Sometimes you write lyrics simply because you’ve got a song, and it needs lyrics. The music provides constraints that help to guide what you write.
Occasionally, a lyricists job isn’t to write new lyrics. It’s to find a previously-existing text that needs to be more widely known.
Writing lyrics about (or in the voice of) fictional characters has a long a glorious history. It can also be helpful when you want to write but aren’t feeling inspired.
Sometimes you write a song to tell a story. And often that story is about someone else (someone who may not even exist).
You can write lyrics because you’re on a mission. This may sound intellectual, but this doesn’t mean you can write without emotion. So, what do you do when you’ve got no inspiration?
There are some things you argue for, and some things you just see. In this episode, we learn how to see Plato’s forms and moral truths.
One reason to write lyrics is to express your emotions. But sometimes, you write so you can figure out what emotions you’ve got.
Do song lyrics need to make sense? Do you have to have a point when you write lyrics?
So far, I’ve claimed that a good song needs good rhythm and a good melody. I’ve even explained what makes a rhythm and melody good. It’s been amazing how right I’ve been at each step in the process. I’ve said the final word on the issues discussed so far.* But if songs are an exploration Read more about A Good Song Needs Good Lyrics[…]
Contrast “Take on Me,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “What Child Is This?,” with any melody Drake has ever written. When you do so, you’ll see a melody’s need for volume and variety.
A good melody has the same structure as the plot of a novel. This involves building and relaxing tension through rising and falling pitch. But one Christmas carol seems to break the rule.
Love languages: what are they? Let’s compare “Breathe,” with “Five Candles,” “More than Words,” “Enjoy the Silence,” and others to find out.
A good melody needs both structure and surprise. Without structure, it just wanders. Without surprise, it just repeats.
A good melody needs three pairs of properties. The first is cohesion and concealment. Without one, it falls apart. Without the other, it loses mystery.
Melodies are not just notes strung together. They are wholes that grow from a single note. But a single note contains a world of tones.
To objectify someone is to reduce a person to a body. But that implies people are more than their bodies. What more? Listen to the episode and explore background material.
A good rhythm gets you moving. So, to understand rhythm, you need to understand dance. Today we explore the origins of dance in walking and talking.
Every note has a world of tone inside it. (It’s something called the harmonic series.) And melodies explore that world.
Rhythm is a debate about time. You start with a pulse, then stretch it, shift it, or add emphasis. The clearest example of this is the good old rock beat.
What are relationships? Why does money (stop) work(ing)? Listen to Episode 20, and explore a wealth of supporting material.
Songs are an exploration of the tonal and rhythmic aspects of talking. So, a song is a way of talking, taken to the next level.
Is contemporary Christian music just as good as mainstream pop? What about production problems? And what makes a song good, anyway?
People think CCM is bad because they don’t like feeling obligated to be fake. But doesn’t the same criticism apply to every love song you hear on the radio?
Songs are an invitation to sing along, and there are some parts we’d rather not play. That’s why people think CCM is “just so bad.”
In some sense, people actually listen to music for the lyrics. So, if there’s a problem with the lyrics, there’s a problem with the song. This is the key to the difference between CCM and mainstream pop.
Everyone thinks CCM is terrible. But it isn’t, and I’ve got proof.
How relationships are organized and develop (or decay) is fascinating and confusing. Listen to the episode and explore background material.
A mysterious song has us asking what mystery is and how it’s created. Listen to the episode and explore background material.
Happiness depends on your social and physical context. Or does it? Listen to the episode and explore background material.
Authenticity: can you change while remaining true to yourself? And what makes you yourself, anyway? Listen to the episode and explore background material.
Justice and collective action. (Which of the two types of justice do you focus on? Is it possible for a group to do things?) Listen to the episode and explore background material.
I recently finished listening to the audiobook version of Berkley philosopher Alva Noë’s Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature (Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Hill & Wang/MacMillan, 2015). Point 1 (of 5). More Philosophy Audiobooks, Please First, I want more philosophy audiobooks like this. Moooooooooooooooaaaar. Though my Ph.D. is in philosophy, I’ve always found reading difficult. That is, Read more about Alva Noë’s <em>Strange Tools</em> on music[…]
The problem of other minds: can you know what’s going on inside another person’s head? Is it possible to share experiences? Listen to the episode and explore background material.
Does virtue change? Do cultures make progress in understanding virtue? Might “Eye of the Tiger” represent a regress? Drama! Listen to the episode and explore background material.
What is the connection between free will, creativity, and redemption? Are they possible? How do they work? Listen to the episode and explore background material.
Are emotions active or passive? Do we impose them on the world, or does the world impose them on us? Also, the difference between harmony and counterpoint. Listen to the episode and explore background material.
Does death give life urgency and meaning, or mean that nothing makes a lasting difference? It’s the Easter season, so what if we believe in reincarnation or resurrection? Listen to the episode and explore background material.
Do you love or hate your roots? Is anyone self-consistent? And can postmodernism help? Listen to the episode and explore background material.
Theme: dependent identity. Topics: cultural appropriation, three kinds of signs, and personal identity. Listen to the episode and explore background material.
What are the three types of knowledge? Is it people, place, or culture that makes a state? And what is the value of stories? Listen to the episode and explore background material.
Manipulation: subliminal messages, the equivalence of physical and emotional pain, and the problem of proportional punishment. Listen to the episode and explore background material.
Where does music come from? Why are notes “higher” and “lower”? And why is reason “higher” than emotion? Perhaps it’s all in the human body. Listen to the episode and explore background material.
What does it mean to steal someone else’s intellectual property? What if Plato, Aristotle, or Ockham was right about identity? How do names actually work? (For real this time.) Listen to the episode and explore background material.
We explore nihilism, revolutions, and Hegel’s dialectic in Nirvana’s most famous song. Listen to the episode and explore background material.
In this episode, we explore the topics of ownership, belonging, and being together/alone in the Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” Listen to the episode and explore background material.