Song

[Listen to “Icarus”]

Mild tones
Hum, almost hover
In clumsy, oversized air we sing
We know Icarus like our own names

Over a grounding line
The duet
Sounds like taking off
Flying

Two unison voices
Hard to hold
Like steady wings
Make it only more beautiful

Choir comes in
Airy ahhhs push the two aloft
Every chord
A new puzzle to fit

But listen.
LISTEN.
If you don’t:
Forget it.

The path might
Put you at odds on purpose
Collision-course clash
The next note’s only sweeter

When you listen,
Fall into that space
Click: you’re hooked
For life
________________________________________

(Undead)Tim, this poem’s for you. Your soulful tenor tambre reminds me why I love singing. I only hope I’ve done that love justice here.

I adapted this poem from scenes in Thirty Decibels, my YA dystopian (yet music-happy) novel. The main character is an alto in an accomplished choir, and “Icarus” means much more to her than notes on paper.

This recording (from my alma mater’s Jazz Singers) has been with me since first hearing it fifteen years ago. From the first days of writing Thirty Decibels, the song’s been a foremost reference for the story’s mood and tone.
(To Brandon, the tenor in the opening duet: thanks for listening.)

Song credits: “Icarus,” Ralph Towner, arr. Gary Rosen, performed by University of North Texas Jazz Singers on 1995’s Geraldine.

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About Margo Rowder

By trade, I'm Social Media Manager for the Television Academy, which taps into my love for filmmaking, design, and storytelling. My latest personal projects include a YA speculative fiction manuscript, 30 Decibels, and a new (not YA) romantic dramedy called SUPPORT.
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9 Responses to Song

  1. Tim Keeton says:

    (Undead)Margo,

    I am humbly honored by your dedication. The poem (and the a cappella choral piece) is wonderful.

    I particularly liked:

    Two unison voices
    Hard to hold
    Like steady wings
    Make it only more beautiful

    (This has relevance to things other than just singing…it is true about many things in life.)

    I also think you nailed the dissonance turning to harmony with:

    The path might
    Put you at odds on purpose
    Collision-course clash
    The next note’s only sweeter

    And finally:

    But listen.
    LISTEN.
    If you don’t:
    Forget it.

    I get it.

    Truly lovely. Thank you.

    • You’re welcome, Tim. Knew you’d appreciate.
      I thought writing about singing would be like dancing about architecture. But maybe in the attempt – like singing itself – the best comes from listening. (You get it.)

      Those “puzzles” are quite the addiction. I miss them. In high school, after dropping Choir (to make room for Music Theory class!), I went to church just to sing in their choir. (Total heathen otherwise, of course.)

      Huh; wow. I didn’t see that before about the two voices. I guess unison has its own harmony. 🙂

      Sing on!

  2. Pingback: Song (via Undead Poets Society) « Margoblog

  3. Jodi MacArthur says:

    Those voices in the music- just incredible, pure. I can just close my eyes and *feel* the words. Your poem is so gorgeous. The stanza Tim pointed out was also my favorite. I love that this is adapted from your YA novel. Amazing the beauty our characters and music can bring. Beautiful *undead*ication

    • Isn’t that an amazing recording? The singers kick serious a** on other tunes like Daahoud and Anthropology. Same album. I highly recommend, but apparently it’s out of print! Grrr.

      Thank you, Jodi. I’m glad you enjoyed it. You’re right about the amazing process. In fact, I never planned on this specific part of the book. I think it waited for me at the end of the path. 🙂

  4. Kavita says:

    Music indeed has a lot more to teach us, than just music..
    And all we need to do is listen.. listen well
    A lovely poem!
    thanks for sharing.. 🙂

  5. This is amazing stuff Margo. As one who tends to “talk” or “drown out’ listening has become a focus in recent years. I also have a particular affinity to Icarus., so the combination here is particularly appealing.

    I am drawn back to these stanzas repeatedly. I feel the message, truth and emotion of it all live here:

    “The path might
    Put you at odds on purpose
    Collision-course clash
    The next note’s only sweeter

    But listen.
    LISTEN.
    If you don’t:
    Forget it.

    The “world” IS. I either am or not. I use my experiences and senses to grow and go, or “forget it”.

    Great stuff. Thanks…

    • Thank you so much. I’m so glad you enjoyed. “Amazing” is an amazing honor.

      In the beginnings of writing the novel (oh, almost three years ago?), I’d asked another writer about adding Icarus to the story. She (Audrey Niffenegger, you might have heard of her 🙂 ) was right to say no, not in the story. But I’m so glad that it made its way into some part of the world – if only in song form. I totally didn’t plan on it! I love that about writing.

      I love that variation – learn or get out of the way.
      🙂

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