Letters to Inspiring Writers: Essex Green, I picked you over Genocide
dear the essex green:
I know the subject line seems alarming. Before you call the police, the Pentagon, or Human Rights Watch, let me assure you that i never have intended to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group.
But, let’s rewind to November 12, 2005.
You can imagine my elation when I found out that you were playing at Modern Formations. You? The Essex Green? One of my favorite bands of all time? Damn! Couldn’t you reschedule your visit for another weekend?
the next day, i had to e-mail a polished draft of a seminar paper to two professors, who I genuinely respected and greatly admired, and thirteen of my law school classmates. my paper centered around genocide, which as a crime against humanity is not as warm and fuzzy as it may sound. i had spent weeks at the library, reading about mass murders, machetes, and general brutality. and law students? in case you don’t know any personally, well, let’s say they’re not too shy about doling out criticism – constructive or otherwise!
after much contemplation, i decided that i only live once. i turned my back on genocide (gosh, Samantha Power – don’t hate me!) and i saw you live!
Now that you know I’ve never broken any international conventions, i’ll tell you the *real* purpose of this e-mail.
Fast forward to present day.
i’ve set out to e-mail all modern day writers who inspire me. in order to increase the chances of hearing responses from my inspirations, i am not asking for interviews or signed posters. i am limiting myself to one question. i am posting this series of e-mails on a collaborative website to which i contribute (it’s really cool!) and your response will be posted there as well (unless you e-mail me back, beg me not to put it on the site, & throw a dinner party for me.)
let me tell you, the essex green, writing this letter to you was not a piece of cake. i’m not sure if it was stage fright or nerves or because i wore white flip-flops the day after Labor Day but nothing was flowing. instead, since last Tuesday, crumpled balls of wasted paper piled up near my desk.
i decided that i needed to sit down and brainstorm what may be causing my impotence.
Here’s what I came up with (haha, notice, i said ‘came’ – sorry, i’m 10-years-old):
first, there’s the problem of categorization. If there was an encyclopedia that listed all of the creative people in the world and sorted them by artistic talent, you’d most likely be found in the music section. However, this column is called “Letters to Inspiring Writers”
second, there are fundamental differences between language and music. broken down into its simplest form, music still has the power to spark an emotion. if i sat down by a piano and hit the same key over and over again, it would evoke some kind of reaction. at least, in general, it would evoke a greater reaction than if i repeated the same word over and over again. (unless, perhaps, that word was “x” and you said it ten times really fast. on a playground. with lots of third-graders around.)
basically, in my opinion, it’s much easier for me to evaluate why i like certain melodies than why i like certain lyrics.
but, even in the face of adversity, i’m no quitter. (though i’m an excellent procrastinator!)
i carried a pen and paper around with me all week. i created a playlist on my ipod, called it “fraction_of_elephant6,” and listened on repeat.
here are my scribbles:
YOUR LYRICS INSPIRE ME BECAUSE
- they are whimsical nonsense and as confusing as the world (“the sea is coming through the floor/oceans in the hall“). (*note: sorry, i had to throw in this song. i know it’s not technically the essex green. still, it’s my favorite song by ladybug transistor.)
- there are just enough literary allusions to make me feel smart and not too many to make me feel stupid (“An eye for an eye/Under the microscope/A mythic paradise/Another year, another try/On we go, on we go“).
- they create beauty out of self-doubt (“So let me down slow, let me down real easy/Even giants have to watch how they decline“).
- they don’t ignore the complexity of the world and relationships (“Now the season ends/You say we’re better off as friends/…Tryin’ all you will/I’ll marry you still“).
- they tackle delicate subjects politely and respectfully (“You’ve done so well, you’ve kept/So you must have an angel under your spell“).
- they use sports metaphors to describe falling in love (“In the woods what will we find?/This day was made for you and i“).
- they mention Pittsburgh (“It’s no Pittsburgh/Ohio“).
- they subtly remark about serious topics (“I read the news with all its angles bent“).
- they recognize that the universal language of art is ironically difficult to translate (“And a hundred singers singing songs of love/Whatever they knew about it/Love/Whatever it meant to them“).
your lyrics, your melodies, your songs have had a tremendous impact on my life. they’ve spent time with me when i felt like no one else was around. they’ve shared happy moments with me. they’ve gotten me through troubled times and difficult decisions.
thank you. thank you. thank you.
now, for my one question, http://www.nonpretentious.com is a collaborative website that was “born” less than two months ago, based on your own experience as part of the Elephant 6 collective, what tips would you give to us newbies to ensure our long-term success?