Back in February of 2006, Jefferson Pitcher, J. Matthew Gerken, and I set about writing and recording the original demos for these Presidents songs as part of the February Album Writing Month challenge (www.fawm.org). We wrote and did demo recordings of 42 songs (all but G.W. Bush) in Februrary–28 days and 42 songs. Sheesh.
In any case, as part of that, we wrote little texts to accompany each new song as we got them up on the FAWM website. I like looking through them now as they seem part of a crazy, crazy time.
Burr Settles, a fine songwriter in his own right and the FAWM-lord, was kind enough to get me an html backup of all the original texts we wrote, and it includes the comments other songwriters wrote on the demos as we got them up. I’m including those as well.
16 Lincoln (Malice, Charity, and the Oath of God)
I’m a huge fan of Derek Bailey and European free improv scene (and, for that matter, the American improv scene). Lately I’ve been listening some to the Nels Cline / Jeremy Drake collaborative CD (just out!) and to Bailey and others of that ilk.
Of course I’ve also been listening to Belle & Sebastian’s Tigermilk album so there has been some balance.
In any case, I thought I’d try a more abstract approach to Lincoln. With a truly revered President like Abe it’s so easy to fall into cliches and idiocy (I suspect Matthew Gerken will have similar issues with Kennedy). I’m sure Lincoln had his good days and his bad days, was probably a dick sometimes, etc. The historical record tends to show that he was pretty roundly disliked during his day, and of course there’s the old axe that he wasn’t interested in freeing slaves so much as keeping his economic base together as a single unit, and in keeping a hold of renegade states.
In any case, this was essentially an improvisation with lyrics and ideas then pasted over it. The material inbetween the three part harmony sections are clips from Lincoln’s speeches. Lots of political rhetoric about “binding up the nation’s wounds” and whatnot.
This one reminds me a big of some of the stuff from David Crosby’s first solo record, which remains one of my favorite albums ever.
- Daniel Jacob Horine | 2006-02-12 @ 06:37pm (EST)
just want to say, I absolutely love what you’re doing.
I’m a huge fan of Presidential history to start with so right off the bat this series you’re working on is absolutely interesting to me right off the bat. I think you’ve handled your subjects amazingly thus far with your mix of the revered and the obscure, handling both with equal tact and intelligence. I particularly enjoy this one, being a huge fan of Lincoln myself. The lines “John is coming” is brilliant and is the huge payoff for this tune. I really enjoy the abstract approach of this one and I can’t wait to hear your new material. Are you planning on doing all the Presidents eventually? If so, i’d buy that album(s) in a heartbeat. Carry on, carry on!
- Daniel Jacob Horine | 2006-02-12 @ 07:07pm (EST)
ah…a little research and i’ve figured it out 🙂
Great idea you guys had and I can’t wait to hear the all of these songs as a whole! Perhaps I should round up some friends and do something of this sort…maybe with the minor prohpets of the bible or something…or each member of the 1988 Los Angeles Dodgers. Hmmm…
- Christian Kiefer | 2006-02-12 @ 11:26pm (EST)
No DJH, I have the perfect idea: Round up some friends and do the Vice Presidents! Think of it! The mind boggles!
Incidentally, if anyone wants the whole breakdown, the best place to look is http://www.christiankiefer.com/presidents.htm
- jroberts | 2006-02-12 @ 11:29pm (EST)
Wow. Awesome. Inspired. The “you have no oath registered in heaven” melody gave me goosebumps … or goosepimples. Whatever. A guitar god!
- mike skliar | 2006-02-13 @ 09:48pm (EST)
this is weird, wild, and fascinating…. i like it alot, i think the scattered music and the words work together, and using lincoln’s many words themselves is a great choice… is this a guitar in some open tuning btw? i hear alot of open ringing harmonics in there….
- Christian Kiefer | 2006-02-15 @ 02:45am (EST)
Nope standard tuning. Glad you like the piece. It’s my favorite thus far.
- j matthew gerken | 2006-02-21 @ 12:37pm (EST)
Union is coming!! This song references what I love about Joan of Arc. I don���t hear the influences you describe in the liner notes, but nobody hears anything I hear in my own music. Love the hand clapping. Very unusual song but great in this context. The huge church harmonies are great.
- AXL | 2006-02-26 @ 04:44pm (EST)
Great harmonies and an inspiring bold approach. Thanks.