Words are Much Trickier

Excerpt from Andrew Bird's essay "Words Will Tell" posted on the New York Times music blog Measure for Measure:

Almost every breath contains some fragments of an escaping melody. If I shape my lips so as to whistle, my breath will take on a musical shape like sonic vapor. Words are much trickier. I would forgo words altogether if I didn’t love singing them so much. My choice of words and my voice betray so much and that’s what’s so terrifying and attractive about it.

I’m not the most forthcoming person — I only speak when I have Armchair Apocryphasomething to say. What is becoming more challenging of late is dealing with so many fully formed melodies that are unwilling to change their shape for any word. So writing lyrics becomes like running multiple code-breaking programs in your head until just the right word with just the right number of syllables, tone of vowel and finally some semblance of meaning all snap into place.

I’m kind of the opposite of the confessional singer-songwriter who fills notebooks full of poetry and intones them over a bed of chords. Meaning or “the truth that’s in my heart” usually reveals itself well after the record is released. I’m often surprised that the things I care about actually end up in my songs. Until then I’m mostly concerned with shape, tone and texture. I’m really an instrumentalist who sings words...

[Spare-Ohs]