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Tuesday, 19 October 2010

songwriting technique: racism and violence. what do you think?

dear person who is interested in what i'm doing,

here's the thing; i want to write a song about an experience i had. i was in a bar and a couple of acquaintances began swapping racist jokes.

i believe that the atmosphere in which racist acts can occur is created, at least in part, by such casual racist exchanges - whether it be an incidence of street-violence or something on a greater scale all the way up to the holocaust - and the use of language to mark a group as 'other/inferior' is despicable because of this. the fact that there are those who don't understand this doesn't make it less so.

i want to link my experience to this thought and express it in terms of a song.

here lies the problem that i'd like your view on. and one that you might, in any case, like to muse on. if an artist presents their audience with something too awful to behold, the audience will turn away and the artist's intention is thwarted. if the artist wants to make the audience think on a difficult matter, they must present it in such a way that the audience can bear it in order that they can then think on it. if, on another hand, the statement is too obvious, the audience is not caused to see more than they knew in the first place and the song is pointless anyway.

in the first draft of my song 'joke' i wrote the following (for the rest of the text, see elsewhere in this blog);

fly a plane into a tower
rape as a tool of war
exterminate by gassing
locked in behind an air-tight door

the question; is this too full-on? is this too harsh on the listener's imagination? is it, indeed, too much of a statement of the obvious, too ham-fisted in its stating of its message?

you see, i got into a discussion with a friend of mine - a songwriter himself whose abilities i respect, who thought it was too stark, too obvious and too much strayed from the personal.

what do you think?

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