Tuesday, June 06, 2006

 

Settin' on the ranch


I've been relishing the time and space here at the Ucross ranch in Wyoming, and particuarly enjoying settin' by the streams on the ranch. I've even gone swimming in the swimming hole. It's been mostly work and fewer adventures in Woming than it was for me in Minnesota, which has been a nice change of pace, especially as I have new songs to show for the additional time.

Many of you know that I've been working on songs for a project I call the "Ordinarily Unsung project" which is a song cycle about people in American history who are not usually covered in traditional history classes or literature. Ordinarily Unsung subjects include prostitutes (as in my song "Butte") and sideshow performers (as in my song "Andy the Lightbulb Eater"). I've been writing a few more of these songs since I've been out west on my residencies. Here are two very low-fidelity recordings of two new songs for the Ordinarily Unsung project. Lyrics below the links. All songs copyright 2006 Elisa Korenne. By the way, if any of you have suggestions for other subjects for an Ordinarily Unsung Song, please let me know.

Empty Me A dark story in an upbeat Vaudeville style about a real-life immigrant with Munchausen syndrome who wanted his organs taken out.

This song is inspired by the protagonist of the forthcoming novel Book of Life by literary talent Shelley Salamensky. Shelley was at Ucross with me, and when she told me about her book, the lightning went off and bells started ringing in my head. Book of Life is based on the life of Shelley's great-grandfather, Menny Shirts--the German-Jewish immigrant with Munchausen's syndrome who narrates my song. She kindly spent the time to answer my questions about Menny Shirts and give me the dirty details that appear in this song. (Lyrics still in draft form. CAUTION: This song includes graphic implications of strange, violent behaviors. )

Deadline An old-style folk song about Civil-War era women who used to sneak food into prisons for enemy prisoners-of-war, in the hopes that someone would do the same for their imprisoned relatives.

Empty Me

Came home from the doctor’s office
Feeling better this one was honest
Back-alley butcher that he was
On the street with the boarded-up store
Behind an unmarked cellar door
I told the doctor, “Make the cut”

Appendix, gall bladder, lung and spleen
One less kidney makes me feel more clean

Empty me, of what I don’t need
Deliver me, from this human taint
If I cut the bad parts out
There won’t be any doubt
That I’m as pure as you

Mendel Sheretz was my name
Changed to Menny Shirts once I came
I might change it yet again
Left the Old Country to change my life
Even tried to leave my wife
But she followed me and then

Complaints, pain, frustration
Maybe I should have tried castration

Empty me, of what I don’t need
Deliver me, from this human taint
If I cut the bad parts out
There won’t be any doubt
That I’m as pure as you

When they tried to chase me down
I went underground
Then I came to the United States
I like to study and not to work
This drives my wife berserk
I think it’s one of my better traits

(It gives me) Time to purify my soul
Clean my body and I make it whole.

Empty me, of what I don’t need
Deliver me, from this human taint
If I cut the bad parts out
There won’t be any doubt
That I’m as pure as you

Deadline

I have five daughters and little to spare
Since my husband was taken prisoner down there
I know he’s hungry somewhere
So for others I care
If he sends letters they don’t arrive
But they tell me he’s still alive
And that they’ll treat him well
Till the Union prevails

Here, soldier take my hand
I’ll give you all I can spare
All I ask is your prayer
That your woman will do the same for my man

I walk up and down the deadline each day
Some days the guards order me away
I make my retreat
Just beyond their beat
I hide my bundle under my shawl
I wait to hear the captain’s call
Then I slip in
To help whom I can

Here, soldier take my hand
I’ll give you all I can spare
All I ask is your prayer
That your woman will do the same for my man

How low we make our enemies fall
They’re only men after all
Ragged and pale
Hungry and frail
My husband could be yours
And your sons could be mine
So please be gentle and kind
Out there on your deadline

Here, soldier take my hand
I’ll give you all I can spare
All I ask is your prayer
That your woman will do the same for my man

Comments:
"Lord, I have a problem!"
"What's the problem, Eve?"
"Lord, I know you've created me and have provided this beautiful garden and all of these wonderful animals and that hilarious comedy snake, but I'm just not happy."
"Why is that, Eve?" came the reply from above.
"Lord, I am lonely. And I'm sick to death of apples." "Well, Eve, in that case, I have a solution. I shall create a man for you."
"What's a 'man,' Lord?"
"This man will be a flawed creature, with aggressive tendencies, an enormous ego and an inability to empathize or listen to you properly, he'll basically give you a hard time. He'll be bigger, faster, and more muscular than you. He'll be really good at fighting and kicking a ball about and hunting fleet-footed ruminants, But, he'll be pretty good in the sack."
"I can put up with that," says Eve, with an ironically raised eyebrow.
"Yeah well, he's better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick. But, there is one condition."
"What's that, Lord?"
"You'll have to let him believe that I made him first."
:D :D :D

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