Today’s post, in two-part summary:
1.) I do not speak French.
2.) I invite you to hear and enjoy my new album, The Midnight Loneliness of the Sunflower, which was recorded entirely in French.
# # # # #
A little more context, perhaps.
Over the past year-plus I have been confronted by a gradual slipping of my communications skills. This is a concern, as these skills are at the heart of both my job and my leisure hobbies.
– I don’t think my writing and other communication at work is as sharp as it used to be. It still gets the job done, but not very imaginatively.
– My inspiration for this blog and my other blog has very much dwindled. I don’t write for fun nearly as often as I used to, and when I do, I don’t do it well. (I have continued to write the other blog on a weekly basis, but only because that’s the pace I promised the readers … and in any event, that blog’s going bye-bye in a few weeks.)
– I feel less and less interested in sharing my opinions on anything with the world. I am not culturally deep enough to have much of interest to say; my perspective is lacking. Plus, no one gives a damn, really.
– I find that my ability to remember words and facts is not what it used to be. I can’t always find stuff on the tip of my tongue. (It’s not sliding enough to make me worry. And in some ways it might be healthy: I’m consciously trying not to be a know-it-all any more. Still, I find it mildly frustrating, and at times it poses a minor block to my ability to communicate.)
Faced with these assembled setbacks, the idea of recording an album in a language I do not speak seemed oddly appropriate, appealing and potentially therapeutic.
It summoned new kinds of inspiration, while allowing me to throw conventional forms of inspiration out the window. It took hold of my imagination and lifted my spirits, which in and of itself was worth the effort.
The original idea was for a group of lulling, lilting bossa nova tunes with lyrics whispered in French — a language I took a quarter-century ago, vaguely remember, but have never used.
Real bossa nova guitar requires chops I can only dream of. So the project mutated. Some of it is Latin-influenced; some of it is not.
Midway through the project, I also decided to spice up the gentler acoustic tunes with a brassy layer of fire alarm. These alternative presentations appear at the end of The Midnight Loneliness, and I hope my listeners will enjoy them as much as, if not more than, the originals.
I recognize that The Midnight Loneliness will not be amusing to anyone who actually speaks French. They will find any number of mispronunciations, not to mention lines where Google Translate — yup — handed me phrasings no real speaker of the language would use.
I am not bothered, and I hope they can find a way around their expectations and not be bothered either.
It was not my goal to pass for an authentic French speaker (or lyricist). If I had wanted that, I would have taken the necessary steps to pursue it, like taking a refresher course in the language and finding a more trustworthy translator.
Being an amateur, with all that entails, was more fun — and much more in tune with the curious spark that led to this recording in the first place.
The Midnight Loneliness of the Sunflower, like my earlier recordings, is available as a free Bandcamp download. The lyrics, in French and English, can be read on the home page if you want to know what’s (more or less) going on.
So check it out. Consider downloading it, even. That’ll make me happy, and downloading doesn’t obligate you to actually listen.
(I thought about offering a prize to anyone who emails me a screenshot showing a Midnight Loneliness track playing on their iPod, iPhone, iTunes or other audio player. I don’t really have any prizes beyond gratitude … but if you listen, send me a snapshot anyway.)