Narrative Song-Cycle

Several of my records are self-described as a “narrative song-cycle”. This is not a widely used idea. It may vary per person, my definition would be:

“Narrative Song Cycle”
a set of songs that, grouped together, tell a story, or imply an underlying story. They do not have to be in chronological order, and they do not have to spell out each event

So each song is a snapshot of time within the story, and a sketch of the feeling at the time, rather than being a strictly “this happened, then this happened…” means of telling the story. It’s more up to the listener to piece it together

The idea though is that each song can stand on it’s own, seperate, or as part of the series. Each song is both independent, and also serving the larger story. Just like memorable moments in your own life are relatable to everyone regardless of how it fits into your life story


This is maybe hard to imagine, so I’ll explain a possible story behind the three albums I’ve done like that. They are not supposed to be limited to any specific story. Rather, imagine a story that pieces together the facts and the feelings, and you’ll have another story. There are many different ways to interpret, and weave together, this is just one of those possiblities. I could list others - but there could be commonalities in the number of characters and the mood

Artificial Clock-maker

There are 3 characters

  1. “April” (Mary Magdalene) - the heroine of the story, deaf
  2. The protagonist (“hero” - Christ, loner, mute) - the clever “clock-maker”
  3. The antagonist (“villian” - Satan, leader, false prophet) - the fake “clock-maker”

The story outline

  1. Troubled Days

    The antagonist starts things off, warns of evils of world coming (he’s correct)

  2. Underground

    He encourages followers, leads a movement of sorts - many follow “underground”

  3. It would be Lovely

    Including the younger hero and heroine, who meet at a dance - she cannot hear, he cannot speak

  4. April, in Good Time

    The heroine must leave for school

  5. Small-time Criminial

    The antagonist is seen and portrayed in true light (as a criminal)

  6. Motion Picture

    The antagonist assaults April - and publishes it publicly (this can be thought of as trafficking). It may be a psychological sexual assault, more than necessarily physical

  7. Have to Be Alone

    She tells the hero to go away to desert, instead of taking some steps for revenge. She has to be alone as well. It is time for a spiritual heal, to purge. He is destined for great things

  8. You Make Things Interesting

    He contemplates things in desert - realizes he loves the heroine (could also be god, or the natural world as well)

  9. For Seven Years

    He has spent seven years in the desert. From much time in desert, hero notices that world is fucked up. This can be thought of as analagous to Jesus

  10. You Can Disappear

    Our hero comes back to the populated world to change things. It is a dangerous place for him because the world is is a state of much surveillance (mirroring the warning in the first song). The heroine offers him a place to hide. She is more capable then he is, and possibly more mentally stable

  11. Like Stained Glass

    This is meant to be ambiguous. Does he realize she (his love) is miserable, sad and in a state of post traumatic stress? Or is he the one that is broken? After all he is the one that wants to change an unchanging world. But she would rather he not destroy himself

  12. Assassins or Thieves

    He begins to see that not many people are any good in this world anyway. It is a choice of befriending or taking sides with two non-good choices

  13. The Impossible Task

    So he must “kill” the antagonist, challenge him publically, destroy him. He plots it out, he will speak for the first time. It is not easy

  14. I’m Finished?

    He does accomplish the task, but is sentenced to death because of it - and in that sense, is defeated. But still lives on after death. Although it is feasible he did something violent, I would not think of the character as a violent person to be condemned. It is the fates. She is all that is left to remember him

Life of a Tobacco Fiend

3 main characters

  1. Eloise (heroine-ish?)
  2. The protagonist (Seefus Wharrie)
  3. The wayward son (antagonist)

The story outline

  1. It’s Freezing

    He is stationed in Alaska, World War II - thinks of Eloise - cold life - low station in the world. It is within the realm of possiblities that all that follows is a vision as he dies in the cold

  2. Being a Proposal of Marriage

    He comes back to the country, and the town - she gets pregnant - they marry. He’s taken with her but is young, a bit foolish

  3. Threnody for the First Born

    First child dies - she is a little messed up by that psychologically from then on

  4. It Took a Thousand Men

    He works odd jobs - to make a living (using the earth) - joins society (in a way). As part of the collective work force - loses a bit of his identity

  5. Work My Bargain

    He continues - works job at quarry - the have a life, things are good-ish

  6. Valentine’s Day Blizzard

    He has an affair on this day (in the cold of Februrary) - a distance was already forming. He’s not necessarily a good person

  7. Wolf is Back in Town

    He feels liberated by the affair, is a new man - a “bad ass” again. (But this also foreshadows the character of son. He can also be “Wolf”)

  8. Where Will the Sparrows Go?

    The family falls apart - Eloise cannot handle the task, as this is a different then a modern setting - she possibly loses her mind, but more likely fails - there is no one to raise children “sparrows” (there are three) - the oldest a son

  9. Troubled Mind

    Time has passed. Many years. He talks as if preacher - or to preacher - life lessons - realizations. He is coming to see that all people are a bit messed up

  10. The Toil of my Work

    The oldest son tracks down the protagonist. He explains to his son why he has done what he’s done, but that he has not been a particularly good person

  11. Hit the Paydirt

    The protagonist finds gold - after many years of searching - and thinks he’ll be rich, all problems solved

  12. Misbegotten Thief

    The son steals all the money - because he’s evil? or maybe just wayward as the father

  13. You’re My Redemption

    The son tries to bury the hero alive (kill, make disappear) so he has free claim to the money. The heroine makes an appearance to save day? or is it just a dream - it’s unclear. Our hero soul is saved - at the last second. He has prepared but not been ready. She had redeemed herself in a way too (as a side character). And forgiveness is a thing

  14. Eventually, it Goes

    The protagonist dies - either in old age - or right then at the moment? - Again, it is unclear, as it’s supposed to be. One possibility is the hero and heroine live out a life together, and die of old age, slowly - returning to the earth

Mélodie and Dædalus

Only 2 characters in this one (except an implied child) - Sid and Nancy-ish tale of love. These songs differ in that each song is sung by one or the other characters (indicated by [male] or [female])

  1. Daedalus - He is a writer, a thinker, an abstract scholar, a constellation - famous
  2. Melodie - She is a wayward melody - drifts, chaotic, crazy (melody, malady) - famous too

During this story both characters have the ability to see into the future a bit. There is a timeless quality at times. Although the story is also in chronological order, starting when they meet

The story outline

  1. The Most Beautfiful One of All

    They meet - he is love at first site [male]

  2. The Summertime

    It’s summer - nothing to worry about, they laze about and talk [female]

  3. Your Great War

    There is a war going on - maybe he’ll have to go - doesn’t want to [male]

  4. The Novelty of You and Me

    The War is done (implied) so they can now go to big city. She is a country girl, but it is clear they are destined for great things - if even tragic [female]

  5. You’re a Star

    He’s famous (and she as a companion) but signs of trouble already [female]

  6. Begins an Addiction

    He’s addicted to drugs - liquid methadone. It’s possible the doctor who prescribed it is actually at fault to some extent [male]

  7. Drifting in Smoke

    They are living together but not communicating [female]

  8. Misfit, the Mechanical Bird

    She has affair with airplane pilot. She relates to him, or the airplane - and feels like a crazy misfit [female]

  9. Crazy Is

    He thinks she is crazy - and perhaps she is. The affair was possibly imaginary, there may not be an airplane pilot at all [male]

  10. Rot. In. Hell.

    She thinks he is an asshole - and perhaps he is. He locks her in her room to “cool off” [female]

  11. Dream of Tempest

    He dreams they are drowning - things not going well - they are drowning in different ways, and increasingly alone in the world (for different reasons) [male]

  12. I’m Your Shadow

    Since she is (in theory) crazy - and this story takes place in another time historically - she is shipped off to asylum. As was done at times in the past. But she reminds him she will always be there in his mind [female]

  13. My Little Bloom

    To the suprise of the audience, they have had a child somewhere in there - kind of an afterthought, they have both greatly neglected the child in their self-ish pursuits - but now she regrets things [female]

  14. This Malady

    As the asylum turns the screws, so to speak, she is even more crazy - but maybe the world is the one that is crazy (remember this is a time in the past, so that would have been more likely) [female]

  15. Unfinished Novel

    He makes one more appearance - as he is dying. He has not finished or resolved anything, is kind of in ruin - still loves her, realizes he’s done her wrong in many ways [male]

  16. Small Room

    She is still in asylum - misses him - trying to piece together what happened. She knows he has died. Perhaps he really killed himself. She has charitable thoughts of him. She will eventually die there in a fire. And she knows that. But is a nice place, where she can paint - it’s simple, uncluttered. It turns out she may be the one more coherent mentally, in the end [female]

Final Thoughts

Even though each of the three albums listed above started as three wholly separate stories, they end up almost being a re-telling of the same story. And it’s a universal story told many other times by many other people.
Is it the hero’s journey? I’m not sure. It still feels like different thoughts and different people to me

Also, Even though they each have aspects of a love-story - I think of it more in a medieval sense of a love-story that is describing allegorical forces - represented by corporeal beings. The same way a marriage can be a physical manifestation of spiritual concepts. Both can be true or real at the same time. Maybe that’s a crazy idea though


Lately I’ve gone back to a more thematic approach to albums. After all, a song can be a story in itself