Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why so serious?

Over the weekend I finished writing a protest song. I have no idea if it's any good.

As far as the music goes, I'm happy. It's a decent little na-na piece. Lyrically? Hard telling. I've never written this sort of thing before. I tried to convey righteous indignation without falling over the edge into preachiness. I tried to avoid a technique that annoys me in other protest songs, namely getting too detailed about the specific issue at hand.

Mostly, I wanted to give the song's target audience a sense of optimism, a sense that it really is possible to change things for the better. I wanted to inspire people -- including myself -- to take action, even if that action is small.

* * *

After finally watching United Breaks Guitars and getting a few good laughs out of it, it struck me that if I want to effect change through music, protest songs might not be the best way to go. Humor is so much more effective. Make the thing you're fighting appear ridiculous, and listeners can't help but understand where you're coming from.

The problem, I realized, is I don't have the slightest clue how to write that kind of song. An interview from today's Songwriting Scene contains a few good tips, but I still wouldn't know where to start.

* * *

Shortly after posting about "United Breaks Guitars" and contemplating whether I could do satire or parody, I came across a news item on Ryan Baldwin. Ryan is the kid who's in foster care because he has ME/CFS, and the authorities suspect his parents of "factitious illness by proxy." The parents have been fighting this decision in court. Apparently they lost the case in June. Ryan is staying in foster care.

This is exactly the kind of thing that inspired the song I just wrote.

I don't know how to make something like this funny. I don't think I can.


DeppityBob said...

"Factitious illness by proxy"? Whatinnahell is THAT?

Ehrich said...

I left you a response on the Eric Schwartz interview. Now that I read it, it almost sounds critical in the beginning, which isn't intended.

cinderkeys said...

Factitious disorder is pretending you're sick because you derive some psychological benefit from assuming the sick role. Factitious disorder by proxy is forcing some other healthy person into the sick role.

I have no idea how many real cases of this there are. Given the tendency of many doctors to cry "it's all in your head" when they don't know what's wrong, however, my guess is it's less than the number reported.

In any event, Ryan Baldwin obtained his diagnosis from people who knew what they were doing. He doesn't think he's sick because his parents told him so.

cinderkeys said...

Erich: Just went and read your comment. It wasn't critical. You pretty much confirmed my instinct that a goofy humor song would be the wrong approach here.

Jannie Funster said...

Some things te eheart just can't find the humor in, and that's just fine. There are many kinds of mood for songs, as long as the mood is consitent per song, a songwriter is on good course, I do believe.