A new song, Museum Made of Glass, and an explanation.
I wrote this song after watching all of Twin Peaks in three or four sittings. The initial push to pick up my guitar came from my admiration for Agent Cooper’s unselfconscious trust in the power of his own dreams to reveal truths. Dreams have always been interesting to me on a psychological and even neurological and evolutionary level, but I also share the feeling of many that dreams are only really interesting if they’re your own. In other words, hearing about other people’s dreams is usually extremely boring. So the question I had when I started writing a song about a dream of mine was whether setting a dream narration to music would make the narration at least bearable, and at the optimistic most, interesting. The first and second verses, which are the dream verses, went through a few versions. It started feeling a lot better to me once I eliminated any mention of the narrative as a dream at all, which was something I may have picked up in creative writing classes at Columbia, where there was a lot of talk about giving realistic scenes a dream-like treatment, or dreamy scenes an entirely realistic treatment. But the verses are indeed a telling of one of the worst dreams I’ve ever had, which I dreamed more than ten years ago, but still remembered in detail. I have one or two vague interpretations of the dream, which I’d included in earlier drafts, but I decided to leave them out and stick to the story.
I finished those verses and the refrain in a day or two, but then I was stuck for a couple months. I was excited enough about the fragment that I played it out at Ceol and Path Cafe in New York by itself, and I got a lot of good feedback. (I sure do miss my circle of smart and attentive songwriting pals in New York.) But it wasn’t til I flew out to LA to start recording my new record that the thing got finished. My first night there I was getting all kinds of drunk with my friends and CatBeach Music owners Bob and Jen Hartry, and I played the fragment to see what they thought. They seemed excited about it and encouraged me to finish it. But I was stuck as stuck could be. Having started the song with a grand apocalyptic scene, where in the hell could a third and final verse go? One thought I had was to write about the most boring, quotidian scene imaginable. For example, I am trying to get a loan at a bank, and I have to fill out all these papers, and the loan officer is using all these big words… This seemed interesting to me, because then the listener could make all kinds of inferences as to how the apocalyptic scene informed the everyday scene. But my problem was that 1- I didn’t know the connection myself, and 2- I didn’t think anyone would wanna sit through a song about a loan application. So I decided that if the first verses were about the most horrible images I’d ever imagined personally, then maybe the last verse should be about one of the most horrible images we’d all shared collectively in hard reality. For me, one such image was of the people in the towers on 9/11 who’d had to jump to their deaths to avoid being burned or suffocated to death. I had some conversations with Bob and Jen at the studio about this, and it seemed important to me. I’d never written about 9/11 before, and I felt like I should. I struggled over the verse during breaks at the studio, and when I I finished it Bob pressed record.
The problem still remains for me as to what the two parts really have to do with each other. But this sort of excites me, to have written a song that was, in a way, a little ahead of my own understanding. That way, the more I play it the more I can understand it bit by bit, hopefully. There are a few things I think you’ll find about this song, if you care to at all, that exemplify a few new general songwriting things I’ve endeavored to do in many of the songs on my upcoming record. I mention it just because I feel like I’m growing a bit as a writer, and that’s always good. One of these things is the use of an image or images to tie thematic threads throughout a whole song. Meaning, an image or theme I bring up early on appears throughout the song as a sort of foundation. In this song, reflection of all kinds is the theme, and so you have many images of reflection. I don’t know whether giving so much info about a song will enhance or take away from your listening–maybe you could let me know either way–but that’s what this song is about and how it came to be. And this is a video of me playing it in my back yard.