There are buildings that stand and buildings that have crumbled in the Roman Forum, pictured above.
Stability and Instability.
Yes, it does sound like an episode of the English TV comedy Blackadder, or perhaps an undiscovered Jane Austen romance, but, in fact, stability and instability is serious business for a songwriter.
This is not just because we can seem quite unstable at times to our non-writing friends.
This notion is a key to achieving prosody, a word that describes the sense of unity which we aim for in our songs – all elements working together to convey and inspire the same feelings. A deliberate consonance of content.
If we move our metaphorical oars through the water in the wrong direction or at the wrong time, this ship of song that we are trying to steer will go nowhere and our intended journey for the listeners will be confused and confusing.
We were asked during the week to come up with a verse/chorus that showed our grasp of this key element of prosody, the notion of stable or unstable lines of lyric. Lines with matched numbers of syllables tend to feel stable. Unmatched numbers of syllables feel unstable.
The concept is to employ stable structures with stable lines deliberately when we want to give the listener a stable feeling, and equally we would prefer unstable lines to support or heighten an unstable feeling. This is very useful, since we should be watching for ways to strengthen the prosody in our creations. We don’t want to contradict the feelings we’re invoking in the listener by using a stable set of lines to describe an inherently unstable situation or event.
I looked in my “dead file” of old song fragments that went nowhere for an idea to recycle that would match the assignment brief – which was to create an unstable verse that was followed by a stable chorus. I found something where the line lengths worked but the existing lyric did not match the emotions I needed to provoke – unstable then stable. I revised the lyric to come up with the following and I discuss it very briefly below, after the lyric:
THIS MOMENT (M. Holland 2013)
Gave the game away
Did I make a mistake?
Say “I love you” too soon?
Have I opened up a wound?
Cold winds blowing
As I’m driving you home
You didn’t tell me that you loved me too
Here in THIS MOMENT
Just me and you
Clear in THIS MOMENT
That I need you
There’s an unstable verse, with differing line lengths line by line, and an uneven number of lines (7 in all). The topic of the verse is unstable – the singer needs to know why the relationship has not moved as fast (or as far) for his partner as it has for him. He said he loved her and she didn’t return the affection he had hoped for. He is uncertain, feeling he has misread her feelings for him, and knowing the present moment (the WHEN of the song) in his car on a rainy night (the WHERE of the song) as he drives her back to her place is heavy with the possibility that she does not feel the same way he does about her. An unstable verse fits the bill.
He expresses his very stable feelings for her in the stable chorus. He knows exactly how he feels when he is with her, and has told her so earlier in the evening, but he is worried that the feeling is not returned. The chorus uses balanced, even couplets with matching lengths and number of lines. I use perfect rhymes that match quite literally, repeating the same rhyme ending of a line twice for additional impact and clarity, as follows:
(…in THIS MOMENT, …YOU, …in THIS MOMENT, …YOU)
This repetition is a mnemonic device and rams home the stability even more, I think. Repeating things is a nice hook a lot of the time.
I have also written some nice music for this, which musically supports the sense of prosody well in each section, and a recording is partly completed as I write this.
I will post a link to SoundCloud (so you can check out the recording of the song) during the weekend. I can’t wait to find out if you like the music, but for now enjoy the lyric above and let me know what you think. Come back tomorrow night for the music and comment.