Thursday, 28 August 2014

The book of love. . .

This song request is for Lynda Miller :-)

Originally released by the Magnetic Fields as part of an epic three volume album set, The Book of Love was one of 69 love songs featured on this album, aptly entitled yes, 69 love songs.  
The rich and gravelly vocal tones of the lead singer is reminiscent of Johnny Cash and Nick Cave.
The lead singer is supported by a male background vocal in a call and response fashion.  The simple guitar accompaniment to me symbolises the simple beauty of love.  The song lists all of the attributes that are normally associated or commonly associated with love - experiencing love together from the same pages, through music and the usual exchange of material gifts such as flowers and chocolate.  The song culminates in the ultimate exchange of gifts - the formalisation of love in a public declaration of love with the exchange of wedding rings.

The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts, facts and figures and instructions for dancing

But I,
I love it when you read to me
And you,
You can read me anything

As a songwriter, you think about compositional devices to help make the song memorable and for people to enjoy, as well as having the autonomy for yourself to create music however you like.
The use of "I' and "you" in the chorus helps the listener to focus on the relationship between themselves and their significant other.  Songs that help to position yourself emphasises the feeling of empathy, creates understanding and bands people together.

The book of love has music in it
In fact it's where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb

But I,
I love it when you sing to me
And you,
You can sing me anything

I love this description in the lyrics about love being both transcendental and sometimes being really dumb.  Peter Gabriel's rendition of The Book of Love reveals a change of timbre with the inclusion of orchestral instrumentation and the female vocal which kicks in during the music-themed second verse.  I love the nuance of the syncopated quaver cello motif that is interspersed amongst the beautiful legato harmonies in the upper strings.  These harmonies are further explored when the violins and violas play their parts again but an octave higher to help heighten the tension before the final chorus hits.

The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we're all too young to know

The way the lyrics are expressed show an almost child-like response to love, that sometimes it can be long and boring.  The focus on the objects of affection, the symbols of love that we have been taught to believe from very long ago continue to this very day.  This is epitomised in a hugely profitable and  commercial way during Valentine's Day with the overabundance of flowers and heart-shaped boxes.

But I wonder about the things that we are too young to know.
Do you wonder about the things we are too young to know?
Does this mean that even as we age, we will never be old enough to know everything about love?

It could be our own naive views of love, where we might choose to ignore the complexities that love has.  The book of love has so many chapters, people may read it from the beginning, but once they get impatient as the chapters progress, they might become bored, lose the fascination and wonder that love tries so hard for us to stay enamoured with - so we fall out of love.  In some tragic chapters of our love journey - we might lose love, when love dies with the physical body of those we love and we are left with memories of love.  There are also instances of "not even" love - on one hand, unrequited love where love is one-sided and wrong love where you are committed to someone but choose to love another and act on that love (depends whether you think that's wrong though!), and even bad love - where you love somebody so much, that even though they break your heart, spirit, mind (and sadly, even some body parts) but you STILL love them regardless.

It is no wonder that the book of love is heavy and hard to lift.
Everybody's story of love is different and extreme.

But I,
I love it when you give me things
And you,
You ought to give me wedding rings. . . 

Whoever you choose to love, I hope you love with all that there is in within you.
I hope your book of love sustains you throughout anything you face in your life.
I hope it becomes a favourite book to read with dog-eared pages, notes scribbled in the margin, highlighted keywords and page numbers circled with all of your decorative bookmarks - so that you know exactly where you are - in your book of love.