Song Profiles

Song title: Diagram of Love
From the album: A Broke Machine

In late Spring, 2007, I thought that my new album, A Broke Machine, was in its final stages. The first six songs were delivered to be mixed, and the remaining six songs were on their way to completion. However, a few months earlier I had a spot of writer's block and decided to set aside these songs in lieu of composing experimental instrumental tracks instead. I called the side project "Story of My Ghost" because each of the experimental songs reflected some sort of creative crisis I experienced while writing A Broke Machine. They were ghost sticky undercurrents of a more substantial album project. The experiment was a personal success for me, as it helped gear me out of the slump, and allowed me to focus back on the original album.

So as Spring moved into Summer, with half my album in the hands of the mixer, I began to feel settled the project was complete. I'd met my first deadline and delivered the first half of the songs, and all I wanted to do was congratulate myself for pushing through the blocks that had held me down earlier in the year. Quickly, the weeks flew by without much measurable progress on the album. It was as though I blinked and the Summer was gone. Once I realized that I was wasting time, I flew into panic mode. How could I motivate myself to move forward again?

I remembered the Story of My Ghost project, and thought that maybe working on it again would breathe some new life into my creative flow. Sitting down at my keyboard, a very plain, chordal melody flew out of my fingers. As soon as I had the piano, I immediately began work on the rhythm and supporting instrumentation, completing the instrumental song that afternoon. I really loved how it sounded. The next day, I listened to it again and all of a sudden, I heard lyrics. I pulled out my creative writing journal and wrote this thought:

The courage
and the mouse
In secret language
share sympathy.
Unwed syllables
and a silver cord between
Walking on incandescent stones
Footings loose and loosened.
Moving from one tongue
to the other
With careful exchange.
I am the smallest bit
Or the fullest gap
Between the lip and the fall.

At the time, my head swam with theories of torsion field physics, the disappearance of bees, and the search for underlying order in the universe. I gobbled up information about the communication of scientific principles through the faulty medium of language, wishing there was a pure way to express the experience of being alive.

I scribbled on dozens of sheets of paper, recorded improvised lyrics, and jumped down the rabbit hole, making Diagram of Love the first song I ever worked on with the music and lyrics being two separate processes. The song is ultimately about perfection, trying to understand, communicate, and experience the elegant blueprint of existence. Very existential of me, no?

Once I finished the production on this song, I knew it had to be included on the album and from there on out, the remaining songs became unstuck and rushed out of my gripping control. This song was like a creative lubricant for the album, which is kind of a gross way of putting it. But I couldn't imagine A Broke Machine without Diagram of Love. I love all my songs in different ways, but this one is probably my favorite.

October 2008