Saturday, August 13, 2011

wrestling with names

I now have rough mixes in hand. After a long session of sorting through a lot of basic tracks last weekend, Tom and I have now finished the important step of getting the roughs. Next step will be mixing the record into it's final shape...and that will happen over the next couple of months.

Recently, I've been consumed with naming the record. Naming things can be tough! Be it a song, a project, or a dog (!), offering up a name can be a difficult challenge. There is the opportunity to clarify elements within the named, but also the danger of obfuscating, or distracting the audience. For this reason, I like to trust my subconscious when it comes to naming things. My subconscious seems to operate according to an aesthetic logic that often trumps my waking mind. An idea will pop into my head, and then my conscious mind will find all sorts of cool reasons as to why that idea is good. This is the ideal situation, as sometimes the subconscious mind can turn out some pretty terrible shit! So, it's a balance I guess, between synthesis and analysis. All elements of the mind need to be working together, like tag-team wrestlers hungry to get back in the ring.

The first name I came up with was "Gallery of the Graveyard Heart." It fit my idea of this record as a series of character-driven snapshots, and directly dealt with the heavier subject matter of the songs. But then, as this title stewed in the noggin, I came up with alternatives...first was "Misfit Melodies." Now that seemed to be a lighter title, less laden with the darker aspects of the songs. More like an invitation, a hook, to invite the listener in. But Tom remarked that it reminded him of the cartoon series Merry Melodies...and seemed to him perhaps too lighthearted.

Randomly, the title "Book of Shadows" popped into my head one morning, while I was at work. That seemed cool, until a Google search let me know that it's also the title of a key religious text for Wiccans (!) and also the title of a solo album by Zakk Wylde, former guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne (!!). Nothing against Wiccans, or Mr. Wylde, for that matter, but I needed to look elsewhere.

So then I went fishing in my songs for titles. This ploy can often prove successful, as the landscapes of my tunes are littered with curious phrases and verbal jumbles that might "have legs" (as they say in journalism). I flirted with the lyric "prayers of fortune" (from "New Year's Day") but it seemed too pedantic and borderline pretentious. Seemed more like the title of a magazine for mercenaries! (ha ha) Then I came across the phrase "shook the shadows in the heart of night" from "Song for Janis." That seemed promising, especially when shortened to "Shadows in the Heart of Night." A Google search of "heart of night" revealed that it was the title of an episode of the television series Miami Vice. Awesome. That made me laugh! Also, it is the title of a poem by a Canadian poet, William Bliss Carman. I'd never heard of this dude, and was thus intrigued:

O doubter of the light,
Confused by fear and wrong,
Lean on the heart of night
And let love make thee strong!

(from "The Heart of Night")

Cool. Light and dark, love and fear, weak and strong...Carman seems like a legit player when it comes to the world of dualistic struggle. I can dig it.

But I keep coming back to my original title, "Gallery of the Graveyard Heart." Even though it's one syllable longer than "Shadows in the Heart of Night," it just seems to flow better. I dunno, maybe I need to trust my instincts more. Whatever the case, I plan on delaying this decision as long as possible! The wrestling match continues... If you have any thoughts on this, let me know.

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