I once was successful

For some reason, iTunes picked an old file of mine to play this morning, the bare-bones MIDI rendition of “I’d Never,” from Mike Funt’s zany A Day in the Moonlight, back when he still believed I could write songs for it in a timely manner. Foolish, foolish man.

Anyway, it reminded me of that song’s scabrous lyrics, how much fun they were to write and how wonderfully awful they were. The play itself is a Marx Bros. version of Edmund Rostand’s The Romancers, better known in its musical comedy version as The Fantasticks. The song was somewhere in the second act, I think, and was the Groucho character’s patter song about all his former loves.

At the risk of appalling my more sensitive readers, I append here the lyrics to this cringe-inducing song with the hope that it will distract you from my pitiful failure to make progress with the cello sonata.

There’s a lot you could say for Gertrudë
She was clean and she came when you called.
But I’m afraid I could not have been rudah
When I found she was totally bald.

I would never (he’d never)
I’d never (no never)
deride or disparage an ex:
I’m such a defender
[last verse: and not an offender]
of the delicate gender,
[last verse: in all of their splendor]
my feelings so tender
for all of the opposite sex.

For Carol was crazy and Lucy was gay,
And as for poor Karrie, well, what can I say?
For as much as I’d love to have wrung all their necks,
I’d never, no never, disparage an ex.

And then I was dumped by poor Mimi
Because I failed one of her tests:
It was bad that I ran away screaming
When I found that she sported three breasts.


For Maggie was toothless and Eleanor lisped,
And Susan would sunbathe till burnt to a crisp.
Alicia most closely resembled T. rex,
But I’d never, no never, disparage an ex.

I was ready to wed my dear Julia,
But she threw a wrench in my plan:
“Oh darling, I’m sorry to fool ya,
But you see that I’m really a man!”


For Chloe was cross-eyed and Doris a drunk
And Rita regrettably smelled like a skunk.
So I’ll say it again – if no one objects,
I’d never, no never, disparage an ex.

Dissociative disorder Delores
Offered multiple ways to have fun.
When she sings it is always a chorus,
Till one of her pulls out a gun.
[Except when she flourished a gun.]


For Gladys had gangrene inside of her thigh,
And Molly made innocent child-er-en cry.
Though many have given me herpes simplex,
I’d never, no never, disparage an ex.

Romanian gymnast Ivana
Had many intriguing techniques.
But then she would take a banana and
Put you off of fruit salad for weeks.


Amanda had scurvy, Felicia was fat,
And Winifred would end a sentence with “at.”
Because with them all I had excellent sex,
I’d never, no never, disparage an ex.

Then there’s the lovely Vanessa,
a scrumptious, delectable dream:
Every time I’d begin to caress her
She’d grab both her buttocks and scream.


For Betty Ann’s body was covered in hair,
And you’d only date Natalie once on a dare.
Though mostly they’re known for their creepy effects,
I’d never, no never, disparage an ex.

I thought I could love Amaryllis,
A waitress I stumbled upon,
But then she would give me the willies
when she followed me into the john.


[huge catalog]
Leilani, Lolita, Letitia, and Lou,
Ula and Uma and Ursula, too:
For though they were total emotional wrecks,
And never forgetting the excellent sex,
I’d never, no never, (What, never?, Well, hardly ever)
I’d never, no never, disparage an ex.


I don’t have a coherent post to offer today, just random thoughts.

I’ve been having a recurring dream for the past few days. It’s annoying and I can’t figure out why I’m fixating on this particular image. It involves the Union Jack and its components somehow: I am usually trying to explain the pieces, or assemble the pieces, or explain how to assemble the pieces, or something. I’m not clear on what’s going on, and I’m thinking the dream itself is not very linear.

Sometimes a little girl is involved (hush, Jeff), sometimes a large group (hush, Jobie). The overriding feeling is one of frustration, but since I don’t have any clear (waking) idea of what I’m trying to accomplish, I’m not sure what the frustration is about. It’s entirely possible that not knowing what I’m trying to do in the dream is the frustration.

The easy symbolism is that it’s a metaphor for my composing. I know what the pieces are and have some idea of how they go together, but I don’t know enough to actually assemble them. What the little girl has to do with it, I have no idea. It’s like Faulkner’s Little Sister Death that I mentioned the other night at the Lichtenbergian Annual Meeting: in the face of some college student’s question, he claimed not even to remember the character in The Sound and the Fury. (I think I placed her in Absalom, Absalom at the meeting, but I got the character Quentin Compson right.)

As for the Lichtenbergian Annual Meeting, let’s just say that I was the essential Lichtenbergian: of the seven goals that I had listed at last year’s meeting, I had accomplished not one. The ones I can remember are picking up painting again; completing the symphony; completing the songs for A Day in the Moonlight; writing a trio for piano, trombone and saxophone; and getting some pieces done for a couple of choral competitions. There were two more, but I can’t remember even what they are.

I put off working on Moonlight to work on the symphony. That was scuttled when Czarkowski decided not to return to GHP. I didn’t have time during the summer to work on the trio, and no drive to work on the choral works, and then everything was subordinated to the labyrinth. So there you go.

All the non-Lichtenbergians in my life ask if I just rolled them all over to next year, and the answer is, of course, no. I’m pulling back in a lot of ways. Fewer goals, smaller goals, baby steps. Who knows? Perhaps the symphony will come bursting out of me in January, but I’m not planning for it.

Lichtenbergian victim #1

Lichtenbergianism claims its first victim: the setting of the German text of “Song of Solomon” for the Festival European Sacred Music Schwäbisch Gmünd. It was to be postmarked tomorrow, and I haven’t even looked at it. Ah well. Check!

Despite the headway I’ve been making on the Moonlight songs, I had a panic attack tonight coming home from the Masterworks small ensemble practice. I am supposed to be starting the symphony, but I’m going to be behind already, and that scares me to death.

Part of it is of course that it’s the tail end of the holidays, and now it’s time to take all that stuff down. As a matter of fact, even as I type this, Ginny’s downstairs asking for help bringing in all the storage tubs she’s bought. I’ll be right back. Maybe.

All right, so far I’ve lived to tell the tale. But you see the problem. If you haven’t read Leaf by Niggle, by J.R.R. Tolkien, I highly recommend it. In it, a second-rate artist (Niggle) can’t get his work done because of all the duties his society calls upon him to do, plus all his neighbors and acquaintances call on him for favors. Because of all the distractions, even though he knows he ought to be preparing himself for his journey, he never quite gets his painting done. Even though there’s a Faëry ending for Niggle and his neighbor Parish, the overall outlook for Art and Artists is very bleak, even to the point of nihilism.

Ironically, today is Tolkien’s birthday.

I’ve written another verse and a half for “Dream Land,” which makes it way too long, but people can use it if they want. I’ll try to finish that up by the weekend.

I’ve also started “Fedallini’s Catalog,” and I think I have the melody down. I might extend it to a full 16 bars, but I’ll see. Lyrics are sketched and sketchy, so I can try to nail that down in the next few days. I still have to set the intro, but that’s just a matter of making up a wild cadenza for the piano. Fedallini doesn’t sing this song, just speaks it. I may have Thurgood chime in at the end of each verse. Pinke, of course, says nothing. If I’m very clever, I may have him mime some obvious and rude rhyme.

And the Act I finale, “Tear Down That Wall” has begun forming itself in my head. I can at least get that blocked out this weekend.

The problem is, the symphony has also begun forming itself in my head.

Dream Land

Inspired, or shamed, by my copper chalice with my Lichtenbergian coals here in front of my monitor, where it catches my eye like a flame on the edge of my consciousness, I spent yesterday looking over “Dream Land,” the young couple’s song from Day in the Moonlight. My goal was to finish it and make great strides with Fedallini’s “Catalog,” but all Lichtenbergians know how that went.

This morning I tightened up some harmonies, cut a few measures, squeezed in a few new lyrics, and I think it’s done now other than the constant second guessing.

The verses are cute and the chorus is very good. The bridge will serve. Hey, Mike, I’m assuming that we’re relying on the talent to make these songs work, right?

Here’s the PDF piano/vocal score, and here’s the mp3. Will it serve, do you think?

Dream Land

I was actually able to work yesterday. I chose to forge ahead on the cute little number between Garrison and Elizabeth, “Dream Land,” in which they fantasize about how perfect life will be when they run away from their parents to get married.

Here’s what I added:

We’ll have
all of the money
to have all the fun we
Summers in Maine
and winters in Spain,
Glamorous parties
with tables at Sardi’s
Friends by the bucket,
a yacht in Nantucket,
We’ll face life unafraid
with dozens of maids
to serve us in

(in) Dream Land,
Life’s good
as it should be,
Everything’s peaches and cream,
We will be,
you and me, in
Dream Land.

Who knew that perfect wedded bliss
like this
could be ours today?
I know it’s true for me and you
when we both run away to find our


Insert Busby Berkely chorus ad lib.

I hacked out a couple of tunes for the bridge, but it’s got to work just right to point up those –erve rhymes. So far, it’s not functioning.

Fedallini’s Catalog

It’s Tuesday, and I’m home with a raging cold, so not therefore up to writing an extensive post, but I did get some work done on Moonlight on Sunday that I could talk about.

In Act I, Thurgood (Groucho) is hiring Fedallini and Pinke (Chico and Harpo) to kidnap the girl so his son can be the hero. He expresses doubt that Pinke could die convincingly, whereupon Fedallini strikes up a cheesy saltarello and catalogs the many ways Pinke kicks the bucket.

Here’s the intro:

You think he look healthy,
like in-a da pink,
He no kick-a da bucket,
Dat’s what-a you think,
But he’s great at da croaking
and dat’s-a no lie;
Give him some room-a
And watch-a him die:

The rest of it’s in couplets, and I don’t have one I’m happy with yet, although this one comes close:

You can chop off his head wit’ da axes of steel,
He can cough up da blood like dat lady Camille.

One problem is that “I Would Never” is still fresh in my head (and why not, since it’s not complete, either) and that song’s triplet melody keeps intruding. No independent melody has suggested itself at this point, so I’m contenting myself with working on the words.

Another problem is that this kind of patter is very hard to write. It not only has to make sense and rhyme in a meaningful way (meaningful = within the sense of the lyric and often setting up a punchline if not a frisson of delight at the mastery of the lyricist), but it has to, more than most lyrics, be speakable. It can not trip the tongue. It can’t even approach tripping. That’s why the “dissociative disorder Delores” verse in “I Would Never” will be the first to be cut: dis-sosh-tive is impossible to sing.

There are two lyrics I’m very proud of that illustrate what I’m talking about, both from Figaro. The first is from Bartolo’s Act I aria:

Digging through cases for clarification,
I’ll cover our bases for alienation.

That’s damn good, folks. The crafty old lawyer is going to take up his housekeeper’s breach of promise suit against his enemy Figaro and has worked himself up into a lather at this point in the song. Notice the internal rhyming as well. Mostly notice how the singer’s tongue never has to make a false move here, especially if you ‘tip’ your r‘s like you’re supposed to.

The other example is from the end of the Act II finale, when Bartolo, Basilio, and Marcellina burst in, waving the contract and demanding justice. Each has a little outburst, starting in eighth notes but erupting into sixteenth notes halfway through:

See the contract that he’s signed here,
It’s designed to be unbroken
With his promises unspoken,
And I want to make it clear!

As her lawyer, I’ll defend her
And intend to publicize it
So the world will recognize him
As a scheming profiteer!

As a man who’s known for living
Well, I’m giving testimony
That he promised matrimony
If he couldn’t pay the dear!

In each case, I went da Ponte one better and threw in that quick cross rhyme at the end of the first line. The –eer rhyme was the “anchor rhyme” of the scene, the one that was used across the entire scene. That was a handy way to signal a shift in the proceedings.

The point is that “patter songs” are devilishly tricky. It’s not enough to have something that rhymes and makes sense. It also has to be singable in a way that is much more comfortable than every other kind of lyric.

It occurs to me, just now, that Fedallini isn’t going to sing this song anyway, he’s going to speak it, so I don’t have to worry about the whole lyric/melody/character nexus at all. Well, that’s one problem solved.

I Would Never

I worked on “I Would Never,” Groucho/Thurgood’s Act II novelty song, in which he sings (for seven verses and choruses) how he would never disparage a lady just because she had some hysterically funny thing wrong with her. I wrote the music for the verse, then started patching it together.

It still lacks an intro, in which he’ll introduce the concept (referring to Lydia and Egyptian Ella in the process), and it lacks the end, in which he lets loose with a long catalog of names. I’m also going to work in a Gilbert and Sullivan-esque chorus for him.

Here’s the piano score, and here’s the mp3. This is a long song.

A little work

I got a tiny little bit done this evening on Moonlight, just a couple of lyrics and some accompaniment for “Dream Land.” I’m in one of those phases where nothing’s coming and I don’t have the focus to make it happen.

In other news, I am extremely disappointed that David Wilson’s new play, John Wallace and the Vampires, is not being performed this Friday night after all. It’s only being performed on Saturday night, and I have a social engagement for then. Dang it.

On the other hand, I now own autographed copies of Curse of the Vampire and Wrath of the Vampire. I went to Scott’s Bookstore this afternoon and had the author all to myself. We chatted about Mrs. Marjorie Hatchett, our drama teacher in high school and a tremendous inspiration to us all, albeit clearly in different ways. David was ebullient and chatted freely about the issues the Grantville Playmakers have been encountering in their creative journey. Shame on the Grantville City Council! And shame on those no-loads who commit to a production with the GPers and then back out at the last minute. I cannot imagine such shoddy behavior.

I have read the first page or two of Wrath of the Vampire, and all I will say is that this roman à clef is living up to its predecessor right off the bat. It is everything you think it might be.

My reading of Tolstoy may be interrupted for a while.

Dream Land

Lest you think that all I’m doing these days is summarizing Proust Tolstoy, I did work last night. I plugged my lyrics for “Dream Land” into a simple little schottische, which will at least give me something to work against.

It’s funny that Jeff should proffer a verse about tooling around in a car, since one of the skeletal verses in my notebook is exactly that. He missed one of the subtleties of my rhyme scheme, which is OK since I personally find it difficult to understand lyrics on the page in terms of what music lies underneath them, unless they’re totally strophic.

So far, I’m not overly happy with these songs. They’re just filler, which I know is all they are anyway, but I’d like them to be a little better quality than just styrofoam pellets. The melodies are not resounding with me yet. I will persevere.

Some work

Spent some time getting Day in the Moonlight back in my head, and then I buckled down to write something, anything.

I played with a melody that I thought might work better for the opening of “Sheer Poetry,” but I decided to stick with the old one.

Then I worked on a bridge passage for “Sheer Poetry,” but that ended up not fitting that song, so I turned my attention to the other projected numbers. The phrase I had written sounded like a ballad, but at the moment there don’t seem be any ballads in the lineup. This is a serious flaw that Mike needs to fix ASAP, I’m tellin’ ya.

At any rate, I ended up writing the lyrics for a couple of verses for what used to be called “We’ll Run Away” but is now entitled “Dream Land.” The gist of it is that when Garrison and Elizabeth elope, their married life is going to be absolutely perfect… in Dream Land.

In Dream Land I will wake you up
with a cup
of coffee or two
Then I’ll head off to my den to write
a great new play for you to star in

In Dream Land I will keep the house
as a spouse
is delighted to do
Then I’ll head off to learn my lines
in that great new play by you I star in

Life’s good
as it should be,
Everything’s peaches and cream,
xxx in
Dream Land.

Now off to read my Tolstoy. B&N still doesn’t have the new translation. They have fourteen copies “on order.” Feh.