David Bowie’s lyrics was definitely at the very least an indirect catalyst, especially when researching his technique of cut ups, which I shall explain as detailed as I can. I firmly believe that there is something very distinct about Bowie’s Linguistics and lyrical content. It didn’t take an incredible amount of time to find any details regarding this technique that Bowie used. The concept of cut ups is based around cutting up diaries and articles and putting passages together. In a video posted on the BBC website, Bowie Explains:
“If you take three or Four dissociated ideas together and created awkward relationships with them, the unconscious intelligence that comes from those pairings is really quite startling sometimes, quite provocative”.
I had attempted to use the “Cut Ups” technique with fiction novels at first. This simply didn’t work as nothing ignited my imagination in the slightest. Why? I simply don’t know. I tried this again with a newspaper article, once again, simply didn’t work for me. Why? I don’t have a full confirming answer. Upon reflection, I can only confirm that written stimuli in the form of books and articles just isn’t an effective enough stimulus.
To begin explaining, I was particularly advantaged in this idea of putting dissociated ideas and words together in my head. This will come across possibly sinister, however nonetheless was a helpful tool for me. It just so happens I have multiple conditions that make my brain and thought patterns very analytical. OCD and GAD being mental disorders, this can make my brain very active and chaotic. As far as writing lyrics are concerned this is actually useful. Furthermore my brain is very practiced in words coming in and out of cognition quickly and finding and analysing connections or possible dissociations. I also experimented with moving visual stimuli (moving pictures, cinematic etc.) and audible stimuli. While watching or listening to certain things, my imagination would be ignited. Coincidently this occurred very consistently when listening to “1969”. I found “Janine” to be the most influential song throughout my whole entire song writing process.
“An actual Bowie Sixties pop song also concerned with deception and ill-matched love. In “Janine,” however, there was a sense of play—Janine might be an affected ingénue, but the singer was just as much of a fraud, and there was a smile in Bowie’s singing, in all of his blustering attempts to win a round against her” (Author unavailable).
This definitely relates into how I perceived the song and what concepts were ignited in my imagination. Bowie states in another interview that:
“What I’ve used it for more than anything else is igniting anything that might be in my imagination and it come often come out with interesting attitudes”.
At first I aimed to imitate this idea of using a name as a hook (Amber) but I found this to be very limiting. It seemed as if I was using a name for the sake of it and it also didn’t establish a relationship with the rest of the song. In the end the word “Ember” erupted (pun not intended) in my cognition as a really dissociative yet relatable hook to the rest of the lyrics.
“Ember, a colour of sky that sets to leave.
A rose by any other name could never smell as sweet.
When night falls I’m roam lands blessed by your feet. I’m eager to grin at your voice, And revel in the sound of your voice.
Embers,you’re red inside but now life is green. You’ll never know that on your throne that who you kill is me. And there are things that I possess that will bring me to defeat
But I still pine to hear again your voice. And dwell upon the sound of your voice
Embers, to shade philosophy. And let the inner narcissist free.
Embers, to taint catastrophe.
And let inner narcissist free.”
The dictionary definition of embers is “a burning piece of wood or coal in a dying fire”, and I felt this to be an ideal word to add a relationships to other lyrics that could be seen as dissociated ideas, as at no other point in the song so far do I mention anything to do with fire specifically (e.g. other terms like “inferno” or “burn”).
“Embers, you’re red inside but now life is green “was a very satisfying lyric to write. I thoroughly enjoyed constructing this metaphor. To fully explain what I mean, I felt that taking the word “ember” and “red “which you could connect with red being a colour associated with fire, and then connecting the words “green” and “life” together and the combing them all together. I used this idea of changing the colours from red to green to convey a change from the ending of something that can be described as burning (e.g. a burning desire) and how it has changed into a life filled with jealousy, a feeling that is associated with being green. What amazes me is how one metaphor can explain so much about a narrative (subjectively of course).
“Like a polish wanderer I travel onwards to your land”. I was incredibly influenced and responded rapidly to this concept of travelling to reach someone as if they are a venture or conquest… I tried to make how much this lyric spherically influenced me as apparent as possible with the lyrics “When night falls I’m roam lands blessed by your feet”. I interpreted some disdain from the speaker in “Janine” especially in the lyrics above, so I’d say that I wrote the lyrics to “Ember” with a hint of disdain also. I think this is reinforced by “You’ll never know that on your throne that who you kill is me”; almost placing who the person or entity being addressed by the speaker is being placed on pedestal.
“Ember, a colour of the sky that set to leave” is also an example of creating relationships between dissociated ideas. This is intended to symbolise a relationship that was once thriving is now truly ending and obsolete. I took the idea of an ember being the setting of a sky (a sky that is above everything) and instead of using the word “fall”. The word “Leave” made the sky an entity or character that is intentionally moving. I’d argue this contributes to the feeling of disdain I was trying to portray.
This song was arguably the most influential piece of music I heard from David Bowie during the song writing process and it is defiantly song I am going to develop further in the future on my own.
Pushing Ahead of The Dame: David Bowie, Song by Song
Posted March 12th 2012
Last Viewed on (22/5/2016)
Janine- David Bowie
Posted by Charles Warren (2012)
Last Viewed on 22/5/2016
David Bowie Explained How He Used To Cut Up To Create Lyrics
Posted by The BBC (2016)
Last Viewed on (22/5/2016)
Bowie, D. (1969). Janine. [Online] London: Philips. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEMcyO5myeY [Accessed 22 May 2016].