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Words: Behind the Song

September 16, 2016

 

 

*If you have read Absence feel free to skip the next two paragraphs! 

 

As a part of my master’s capstone I submitted two songs that I had written during the program with the story behind each song. I did that because I needed to share my own voice.  I absolutely loved my masters program. The people, the subject, the growth: though if I am being honest, academia has always been a struggle for me. In the academic world there is a particular way of knowing, doing, and sharing that hasn’t and didn’t come naturally to me. Social Work published an inspired editorial piece by Ann Hartman titled “Many Ways of Knowing,” where she describes the limits of one avenue of research or way of knowing. Basically she says that there are many truths and many ways of knowing. Each deepens our understanding and adds another dimension to our view of the world. As far back as I can remember my avenue has been music. My truth has always been felt first and articulated second, allowing a synergy between music and lyrics. I had also read Sara Bareilles’ book Sounds Like Me: My Life (so far) in Song. And fell in love with her honesty, story telling, and ability to just share. Not trying to sound a particular way or impress anybody. It was refreshing and I decided that I wanted to, needed to, was going to… do the same. Honest storytelling through the songs themselves and the story behind the songs. This process totally saved me from myself and gave the added resilience I needed to finish my capstone. I decided to share them here as well because... well why not!

 

This process also inspired me to share my beloved songs from my first EP in a five part series coming soon. Below is an mp3 of “Words” as well as the lyrics. Following your own preferences, you can read the explanation first, second, while listening to the song, or after reading the lyrics. The songs were recorded on my laptop in the newly designated music room in our home. Pictures were yet to be hung, we only had cajons (wooden box hand drums. WARNING: do NOT google Cajons… I made that mistake at work once and had an awkward conversation with IT which they found hilarious and I was just embarrassed not to mention scarred for life) for chairs, and an old rug passed down from my parents lay on top of new carpet in an attempt to “add character” to the room. It worked. I love being in this room and although it was not the best for recording, I enjoyed writing the songs and recording them in this space to share with you today.

 

Words By Tricia Fox

Lyrics and Mp3 https://soundcloud.com/tricia-fox-music/words

 

They say words create worlds
The smallest drop turns to a wave


My hurt and your hurt
You know that we can talk about it for days and days

On the screens are painted images of all the wrong that ever did show us the meaning of hate


I wanna know

If they showed us something beautiful

That our hope would change

 

Cuz I’m not naïve enough


To think that our words don’t mean that much

They can silence just ‘bout anything


But it won’t stop the caged bird singing


Or from having wings

 

There’s a flag flying high
with thirteen stars marking the sky

There are hundreds and thousands of people with a desire to be right

There was a dream in spite of difficulty


that lead a nation on a fight to be free


and what if we were judge by our character and by the content of our words

 

Cuz I’m not naïve enough


To think that our words don’t mean that much

They can silence just ‘bout anything


But it won’t stop the caged bird singing


Or from having wings

 

In that world where that word happened to start a wave

There are people that care willing to carry the change

 

 

Explanation of “Words”

 

“Words create worlds” is a common phrase in positive psychology. This can mean the words we use or the words we hear, which is why I am so surprised that lyrics have not been well researched. David Cooperider (2005), founder of Appreciative Inquiry, uses this as a philosophy in his work with organizations, reminding them that the type of questions they ask themselves matter. For example, there is a difference between asking, “What are we doing well?” vs. “What are we doing wrong?” When a company asks, “What are we doing well?” the company takes on a “strengths-based” approach, which enhances innovation, productivity, profitability and sustainability. Many other fields utilize this idea that what we say or listen to influences our well-being. I wrote the first verse inspired by the phrase “Words create worlds:”

 

They say words create worlds
The smallest drop turns to a wave
My hurt and your hurt
You know that we can talk about it for days and days

 

The second stanza talks about the media’s role in our world:

 

On the screens are painted images of all the wrong that ever did show us the meaning of hate

 

It is almost impossible for me to watch the news these days without seeing how glorified the hateful things are. This is changing, though. Cathrine Gyldensted (2015), contributor and writer for The Huffington Post and The Guardian, as well as a graduate of the Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from University of Pennsylvania, is working to incorporate aspects of positive psychology into journalism to bring balance back into the media.

 

I have had songs take 20 minutes to write and some that I have started years ago that probably won’t be finished for years to come. As for “Words,” I wrote that first verse in about 30 minutes and then couldn’t find the right words or melody for the chorus, so I took a break. A few weeks later, on June 17th, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a mass shooting shook the United States. A gunman entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, killing nine people. Not only was it another mass shooting, but it was also another tragic event steeped in racism. The conversation that followed had a large focus on the Confederate Flag, which was still flying high in the state of South Carolina, as it was many other states in the U.S.:

 

There’s a flag flying high
with thirteen stars marking the sky

 

The coverage and dialogue felt so polarized, like the conversations were never intended to change anything for the better, but rather only to prove that one side is right and the other side is wrong:

 

There are hundreds and thousands of people with a desire to be right

 

During times of overflowing societal emotion and public friction or injustice, the urge to write songs overcomes my heart and mind. Writing and singing songs remedy my problem of never knowing how to get involved in conversations that are so full of hatred and blame. It doesn’t feel like there is room for another person to join the conversation, so I turn to my guitar and to songwriting. Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, I started to write the second verse. I had in mind the historical journey from the initial flying of the Confederate Flag to how far the nation has come, but, also how much further we have to go. It was evident to me that the words we choose during these moments of crisis and pain matter:

 

and what if we were judge by our character and by the content of our words

 

The chorus was written from the anger I felt about oppression and the hope I feel about the human spirit and ability to rise above. Maya Angelou’s poem, “Caged bird,” inspired the chorus. Though many are caged and oppressed, their ability to express though music cannot be taken away; the possibility of flight won’t disappear because of oppression. I genuinely believe that no matter how voices are silenced:

 

...it won’t stop the caged bird singing or from having wings.

 

The last line of the song ends halfway through a verse. I felt like it needed an abrupt ending to leave the listener with the message that it takes action, people willing to carry a change in order for change to happen:

 

In that world where that word happened to start a wave There are people with voices willing to carry the change.

 

Tricia Fox is a singer songwriter, thought leader on lyrics and wellbeing, and master of applied positive psychology from the university of Pennsylvania. Join the conversation on lyrics and well-being and to stay up to date on Tricia's music. 

 

 

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