Recommended Reading

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Genius of Water / Fountain Square

Meet me in the morning
At the bus stop
We'll ride into the town
Down to the square
To see the angel
See the angel in the fountain
Meet me in the morning
Meet me after daybreak
Tie your hair back
We'll drift into the crowd
Get lost among the loud
And they'll be singing
They'll be singing in our daydream
When we're tired we'll leave them all behind
And walk away
I love you
I love you
I love you a lot
Meet me in the courtyard
Where the saints pray
Musing in our stare
Still painfully aware
That there are others
Shoulds and woulds with names and faces
Close your eyes
And open up your mind
And hear me say
I love you
I love you
I love you a lot
See the angel
She's dancing in the water
Hear the angel
She's laughing in the water
Something in the way that you
Said you really felt that we could be
Good friends forever
Together for a long time

-"The Genius Of Water," Over The Rhine 

Over the Rhine is a rock band named after a historic Cincinnati neighborhood, which itself was named after Cincinnati's sister-city Munich, paying tribute to the German immigrants who built Ohio's greatest city. What a lineage.

"The Genius of Water" is not only one of the most arresting statements of love in song, but it is also another namesake--calling to mind the beautiful bronze-laden fountain, statue, and centerpiece in the city square.

The female statue in the middle of the fountain is not your ordinary angel. According to Wikipedia, "the artistic fountain's motif is water, in homage the river city's continuing debt to the Ohio River. The central figure, the Genius of Water—a female in heroic size—pours down the symbolic longed-for rain from hundreds of jets pierced in her outstretched fingers."

Since the fountain's dedication in 1871, this glorious figure of abundance has moved across the city in different locations, has undergone repairs, and has been seen and danced in by thousands. Still she stands tall,  and when I listen to this song, I imagine you can still hear her laugh. After all, she's looking after her friends, and these friends are forever, which is a very long time indeed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Key Change: Cincinnati, OH-IO

"And I can see them shining
Through the Willows and the Pines,
The lights of Cincinnati
Oh, so many miles behind,
I could build myself a new life
And make it on my own,
But the lights of Cincinnati
Will keep calling me back home."
-"Lights of Cincinnati," Scott Walker

I invite you to join me on a detour to my hometown and the place where I have spent the better half of my summer: Cincinnati, Ohio. While the name may not set off any bells and whistles, I'm feeling inspired enough to break this three month hiatus and share a lesser known, but very distinctive musical history. 

While rummaging around at Half Price Books, crown jewel of second hand bookstores, I came across a mix CD labeled Deary Me Records, the name of a Cincinnati punk-rock label from 1995. Mezmerized, I bought the CD and tended to it before any of my other purchases. What turned out to be a nifty, if slightly scratched little time capsule broadened the contours of my mental map where I chart the city's music history, beginning with the legends of King Records and culminating in the great indie rock scene that exists today. After some family and friends affirmed the coolness of my clearance purchase as well as the ceaseless creative output of this city, I decided to dedicate a few blog posts to the lyrical landmarks of Cincinnati.

A city so much smaller than New York City--1/26 of the population size to be exact--doesn't lend itself to the same endless supply of song references, but I was surprised by the number of name drops that do exist. And yes, they extend beyond a "what's up" from Sir Mix-A-Lot and the T-H-U-G roll call from Cleveland neighbors Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony. Oh, and that annoying but aptly-titled tune, "Cincinnati, Ohio," which provides the low point of every visit to Great American Ballpark. 

The man who wrote the lyrics above was an overseas sensation in the UK, though he hailed from the midwestern city of which we speak. Scott Walker--and no, not GOP presidential candidate #387 --was known for limit-pushing lyrics in the late 1960s at the same time he bore his soul and penned "Lights of Cincinnati." On this rare occasion he traded in bawdy for the ballad, reminiscent of the songs which propelled him to fame as a teen idol in the 1950s. With one of the most stirring baritones in pop music, Walker delivered a sincere expression of the heart--teetering between longing for a loved one and yearning for a particular place.

This post serves as the introduction to a miniseries on my hometown, and in the spirit of summer's melancholy as the season draws to a close, is a nod to Walker that his sentiment is alive and well in me.