Sunday, November 15, 2009

Song of the Day: Andrew Bird - Sovay. Or, my road toward a dissertation, apparently.

I honestly thought I blogged about this song earlier!.. but I can't find it here.. weird. I came here to look it up as I was listening to the song... Anyway, here's Andrew Bird's Sovay.

And a lot more. I really don't expect anyone to actually go through this; it's kinda too specific unless you love this song.


i was getting ready to be a threat
i was getting set for my accidental suicide
the kind where no one dies, no one looks too surprised
and then you, then you realize that you're riding on the para-success
of a heavy-handed metaphor
and a feeling like you've been here before

cause you've been here before, and you've been here before
then a word washed to shore
then a word washed to shore
then a word washed to shore

sovay, sovay, sovay
all along in the day

i was getting ready to consider my next plan of attack
i think i'm gonna sack the whole board of trustees
all those don quixotes in their b-17's
and i swear this time, yeah this time
they'll blow us back to the seventies
and this time
they're playin Ride of the Valkyries
with no semblance of grace or ease
and they're acting on vagaries, with their violent proclivities
and they're playing ride, playing ride
playing ride, ride, Ride of the Valkyries

sovay, sovay, sovay
all along the day

i was getting ready to threaten to be a threat
instead of thinking about my plan of attack, think about a sack
the whole board of trustees, all those don quixotes in their b-17's
and i swear this time it blows back to the 70's
and this time, they're playin Ride of the Valkyries
with no semblance of grace or ease
now they're acting on vagaries
with their violent proclivities

and they're playin ride
and they're playin ride
playin ride, playin ride, playin ride, playin ride
Ride of the Valkyries

sovay, sovay, so

This is a really difficult song to fully understand lyrically (I'll get to the music in part two). There is so much going on here, maybe because it is so vague. Although, there are strong clues. I'm gonna try to not only stick to the clues, but also not to ignore other "clues" that may or may not match to the general idea (I think) is the basis for this song... basically, take a look at the song as empirically as I can, without the initial emotions attached.


Sovay? What the hell (who the hell?) is Sovay? From Wiki:

Sovay is a traditional English folk song (Roud # 7) about a young woman who dresses and arms herself as a highwayman in order to test her suitor. In disguise she robs her suitor of nearly all his possessions, but even under threat of death he refuses to give up the gold ring given by Sovay, thus proving his devotion. Sovay subsequently confesses the ruse to her lover and returns his various possessions, admonishing him only that had he indeed given up the ring, she would have killed him.

From the notes to Martin Carthy's first album (A Guitar in Folk Music. Petersham: New Punchbowl Music):
Sovay was a great favourite among country singers and was printed by Such, among others, under its alternative title of The Female Highwayman. Her name varies from place to place - Sovay, Silvy, Shilo, Sally, etc. - but the story remains the same being a rather involved and slightly chancy way of establishing her lover's good faith.

Here are the first few lyrics from the traditional folk "Sovay":

Sovay, Sovay, all on a day
She dressed herself in man's array.
With a sword and pistol all by her side,
To meet her true love,
To meet her true love away did ride.


Ok, stepping back in, the other large theme here is a bit of war, riding, truth finding, complimented by Ride of the Valkyries..


As an aside, here's Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries if you don't recognize the name:


The word valkyrie derives from Old Norse valkyrja (plural valkyrjur), which is composed of two words; the noun valr (referring to the slain on the battlefield) and the verb kjósa (meaning "to choose"). Together, the compound means "chooser of the slain". The Old Norse valkyrja is cognate to Old English wælcyrge.[2] Other terms for valkyries include óskmey (Old Norse "wish girl"), appearing in the poem Oddrúnargrátr, and Óðins meyjar (Old Norse "Odin's girls"), appearing in the Nafnaþulur. Óskmey may be related to the Odinic name Óski (Old Norse, roughly meaning "wish fulfiller"), referring to the fact that Odin receives slain warriors in Valhalla.

Chooser of the slain? Sovay, as originally portrayed? Wish fulfiller? Wishful thinking?

In the opera-house, the Ride .. begins in the prelude to the Act, building up successive layers of accompaniment until the curtain rises to reveal a mountain peak where four of the eight Valkyrie sisters of Brünnhilde have gathered in preparation for the transportation of fallen heroes to Valhalla. As they are joined by the other four, the familiar tune is carried by the orchestra, while, above it, the Valkyries greet each other and sing their battle-cry.

A snippet of lyrics:

Valkyries, ride over the battlefield
I'm dying and glad to bleed
Because I know today I will take my place with the heroes
in Valhalla of old

For none but the brave, be he king or a slave
With a pounding heart in his chest
Will be worthy to rise and with the Valkyries fly
And ride to Valhalla of old

There are obvious connections here with Sovay's desire, death-worthy need for the truth, and the Valkyries mission in/for Valhalla.


Additional references in the song:

Don Quixote: From the Globe: Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's book contains, in germ or full-blown or by implication, practically every imaginative technique and device used by subsequent fiction writers to engage their readers and construct their works. It crystallized forever the making of literature out of life and other literature, and explored in typically ironic fashion, and for the first time, the murky, illusory frontiers between fact and fiction, imagination and history, perception and physical reality.... By the time we reach the end of the book, it is eminently clear that these protagonists are not precisely the men they were when they started out on their quest for chivalric adventures... For example, what is called the "false Quixote,"... The fictional characters themselves deny the validity and veracity of the imitation... what we call "realism" and what Cervantes called "verisimilitude," or the appearance of truth. It also allows for a constant and discomfiting blurring of the lines between actuality and fiction.

Don Quixote, Picasso.


Para (from the lyric "para-success") means "pair/couple" in Polish. Para also means "steam/vapor" in Polish (funny people, eh? ;). Para also alludes to parachutes, and is the B-17 was not only used for bombing, but also drop (parachute) missions by UK during WWII (the UK Parachute Regiments were called "1 PARA, 2 PARA, 3 PARA, etc.. ). Para in Sanskrit is an adjective meaning "transcendental" (Don Quixote???). Finally, para in english means close, beside, or next to.


At this time, I'd like to over-analyze that last phrase in the context of everything written so far, "Accidental suicide The kind where no one dies". Hmm.. an accidental suicide>/. Could it be a reference to soldiers in a war? As in, signing up for war, you understand the risks, but it really is psychologically suicide? Or maybe the idea of knowing something to be true, and then it turning out not to be true? .. the kind where no one dies... is it Love he's referring to? I don't know.. more needs to be done here... it's a nice phrase for sure.


Ok, that's enough for now. So with all this background, here's what I'm getting (ie. the take home message). There's large allusions to travel, to riding: (Sovay on her horse, Don Quixote and his horse, the B-17 flying fortress "The War Horse", Ride of the Valkyries, been here before, etc.. ). There is also a strong allusion to change and truth; to what is real and moreover, to when it is real (Don Quixote, Sovay's story, directly from the lyrics: "I was getting ready to consider my next plan of attack", "Accidental suicide The kind where no one dies".


Anyway, this could be the greatest song ever written, or I'm over-analyzing the shit out of it. I haven't even started analyzing the musical genius here. "That you're riding on the para-success Of a heavy-handed metaphor And a feeling like you've been here before"...

No comments:

Post a Comment