Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mr Composer Head: The Right Tool

(Editors note: This post will also appear in Mister Composer Head, a new blog dedicated to the posts of (wait for it), yes, Mister Composer Head himself.

He refuses to start his own blog, although he should (in my opinion). So I've started it for him.

For a while I'll post his writings both here and there in identical format.
But eventually, like maybe the next time, I'll post an announcement here, with excerpts - the Reader's Digest version - and my three readers can click over there to read the whole thing. Hey, that would be way cool, huh? Or what?

The red squiggle pictures don't have anything to do with this post - but I had them ready and was going to run them anyway. That's what Mr. Composer Head gets when he lets me run his blog. /David - Mr. Composer Head's Amanuensis)

red squiggle logo on a bike shop
Okay, so folk wisdom has it that you should use the right tool for the job. I can go with that, and I have quite a few tools. In fact, I have most of my power tools thanks to an N.E.A. grant. They stopped giving those to composers right after I got mine. I wonder why? Never mind.

But what about the right tool for the song? Where does folk wisdom get you on that one?

“If I had a miter saw (and I do) I’d miter saw in the morning…”

Hmm, not quite there, let’s try

“If I had a complete set of socket wrenches - both SAE and Metric …”

Maybe not.

“If I had a radial arm saw…”

Now that one’s good, because I don’t have a radial arm saw, but would like one. Where’s the N.E.A. when you really need ‘em? Are you starting to catch my drift?

“If I had a cordless screwdriver,
I’d cordlessly screwdrive in the morning.”

I sort of like that, but I’m not convinced by the image of a Cordless Screwdriver of Justice, which is what the song is getting at.

So you need to have the right tool for the song.

red squiggle ess on a hair salon
What is the right tool for the song? Obviously, a hammer. But why?

Because it sings smoothly, has a kind of authority that, say, “wood rasp” lacks, and most importantly, “hammer” is both a noun and a verb.

You can have a hammer, and hammer with it, in the morning or the evening as you like, all over this land.

But you can’t really “plumb bob” in the morning. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to.

Although a “level” of Justice does seem to make some sense.

So anyway, you have to have the right tool for the song. And you can’t just make this stuff up.

red squiggle someone cleaning their brush on a wall
There are rules that we do not make, but by which we must abide.

So, for example, why did people, in the 1980’s, start making verbs out of nouns? Because you have become a parent, you are therefore “parenting”? That is so lame. I think I understand why people try that, but that’s just not how language works, as far as I can tell.

Just try composing the salutation for a letter to someone you don’t actually know! Ha! Try sidestepping gender specificity. NOT easy to do. Language likes gender differentiation. There’s a Hammer of Justice for ya!

“Hey, I got your Hammer of Justice…”

Which reminds me of another song about a tool.

“I’d rather be a hammer than a nail…”

Simon and Garfunkle. My sisters were huge fans, and always said they liked “folk music”. Sorry gals. S & G were (still are I guess) pop stars. Folk music is another thing altogether.

Right Tool Left Tool Tags: . . . . . .


Daniel Wolf said...

Just an idle thought -- which names for instruments are both nouns and verbs? I've got:

fiddle (but not violin)
harp (indirectly related verb)

It's interesting that each of these represent basic classes of instruments with archaic roots.

David Ocker said...


The online dictionary definition of the verb "harp". Check out #2

Verb 1. harp - come back to; "Don't dwell on the past"; "She is always harping on the same old things"
ingeminate, iterate, reiterate, repeat, restate, retell - to say, state, or perform again; "She kept reiterating her request"
2. harp - play the harp; "She harped the Saint-Saens beautifully"
music - musical activity (singing or whistling etc.); "his music was his central interest"
play - perform music on (a musical instrument); "He plays the flute"; "Can you play on this old recorder?"

from from here - I'd check the OED but my eyesight isn't good enough.

And ...
Hands up, everyone who knew the meaning of the word "ingeminate"

Peter (the other) said...

There's a good one to use on a significant other, "my dear, you do ingeminate so wonderfully (about the garbage)". At least if there are no dictionaries handy.