Song Portrait #4: Nemesis

I had been working on a song about Narcissus when I got sidetracked by the detail of how the beautiful boy, Narcissus, ended up at the river bank where he ultimately met his demise.  Researching the story led me down another path which led to the creation of a whole other song.

Narcissus was quite vain and proud.  He was admired by many suitors, but none of them were good enough for him.  One of these suitors was a nymph by the name of Echo.  She had been a talkative nymph who was admired by Aphrodite for her voice and song.  This ended when she tricked Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus.  Hera put a curse on Echo so that the only thing she could say was the last word said to her.  Echo fell in love with Narcissus and followed him through the woods.  When he finally met this strange creature who could only repeat back his own last words, he rejected her.  After this, the heartbroken Echo withered away in despair, until only her voice remained.

The goddess Nemesis soon heard of this and decided to punish Narcissus by luring him to the river, where he would become mesmerized by the only creature perfect enough for him – his own reflection.  The name Nemesis is derived from the Greek word nemein, which means “to give what is due”.  She is an avenger of evil deeds and undeserved good fortune.  She is also a spirit of divine retribution for those who fall victim to hubris.  The words “echo” and “narcissist” clearly have meanings derived from the characters in the story.  The word “nemesis”, however has evolved to mean something different in modern English.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of nemesis is  “one that inflicts retribution or vengeance” or “a formidable and usually victorious rival or opponent”.   Most people associate the word with vengeance, when in actuality, Nemesis is a goddess of justice.

I starting working on this song during the peak of Occupy Wall Street, so I was thinking a lot about the ideas of justice and redistribution.  I worked on it a little bit over the course of a few days and the song pretty much wrote itself.  I’d say it is 1/3 current events and 2/3 classic mythology.  I am finding that every instance in modern life has some parallel mythological story – and that is why these stories are so loved and continue to be told.

So, what happened to Narcissus?  Well, because of Nemesis and his own hubris, he did perish.  I do not necessarily think of him as a bad guy though.  You will see how I feel about him when I finish his song – which I am still working on.

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Song Portrait #3: Fruited Plains

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I wrote Fruited Plains in February of 2011 as part of my second RPM challenge. The RPM challenge is a home recording challenge where participants complete an album of original music in the month of February.

I was really enjoying my life this particular February. I only had to go to my day job three days a week on account of being seven months pregnant. I had free time. Aside from nesting, I was studying things that interest me, and working on the writing and recording required to complete the RPM challenge. I started out the challenge by recording a few songs I had already written. For one of the previously written tracks, “Ballad of a Folk Singer Waitress”, I had added a banjo track that I was quite happy with.

I do not really play the banjo. My husband plays tenor guitar and tenor banjo. I live with these instruments (we live with a lot of instruments) and I understood the tuning and a few basic chords.  It was not, however, an instrument I was truly proficient at. While adding the banjo track, I had become mesmerized with the timbre of the instrument. I had also been forced to learn some more chords and become more familiar with the instrument. After I finished recording a few previously written songs, I needed to write some new material. The banjo provided the perfect inspiration.

I wrote the music to the song and lyrics soon followed. The music I had come up with made me think of some documentaries I had recently watched about agriculture in the United States and the Monsanto Corporation. The topics covered included the legality of patenting seeds, the power of lobbyists, GMOs, and how farmers receive a subsidy for overproducing crops that are not fit for human consumption. There was a profound sadness in hearing farmers talk about how a once noble profession was being destroyed by greed, corporate bullies, and a system that works against what is best for farmers and consumers. I added some lyrical elements of “America the Beautiful” and then twisted them to create the image of a dystopia. Some songs take me years to write. This one took less than two hours.

Aside from the vocal and banjo tracks, I added an acoustic guitar part and some back up vocals. The recording I finished for the RPM challenge is available on my website, www.erinjordan.com .

I am a huge proponent of eating organic and my day job is actually working at an organic food restaurant. This song is particularly timely because the spending bill HR 933 which includes a “farmer assurance provision” (section 735) was signed in to law recently. Referred to as the “Monsanto Protection Act,” this provision was written with representatives from Monsanto and bars courts from restricting the use of GMO crops and seeds regardless of what new information comes to light about the harmful effects of GMOs.

There is a huge amount of information available about these issues.  If you are in to brevity, below are two articles that briefly explain the bill in question and how the Monsanto Protection Act became a part of it.   For now, I am going to continue working on my own organic garden.  The baby I was pregnant with when I wrote this song is now two, and is a great gardening assistant.   He picks out all the rocks and gives the worms plenty of love.  These are my small ways of telling Monsanto to suck it.

Monsanto Protection Act: 5 Terrifying Things To Know About the HR 933 Provision

How the Monsanto Protection Act Snuck in to Law