Remember Me

This is part 2 of 11 in the series 26 Songs.

Okay, so this is not actually the first song we wrote. The first song we wrote is still in too terrible a shape to be released for public viewing. Here is the second song we’ve written instead.

Jonathan was struck by inspiration and composed this beautiful piece of instrumental music a few weeks ago for me to write some lyrics to…and I am very, very late (I’ve got a myriad of wonderful excuses, revolving around work, being busy going out, being busy going to uni open days, etc etc etc). I wish when I get inspired, I write stuff like this.

Anyway. The first image I got in my mind when I listened to this piece of music was “Final Fantasy” (and I promptly was very jealous of Jon being able to channel Nobuo Uematsu), as one of those poignant, wistful character themes…but the more I thought about it, the more the music sounded full of regret/melancholy.

When I initially wrote these lyrics, I was thinking along the lines of when Kim sings “I’d Give My Life For You” in Miss Saigon. I first saw a fellow student perform that in our Broadway music production and it took my breath away. Thinking back about my grandparents and my parents growing up and growing old, thinking about how I grew up and will grow old and how – when I have kids – my kids will grow up and grow old and what kind of world it would be…it reminds me life has become so much “easier” on the surface but so much more complex, competitive and difficult. Then I started thinking about what it would be like to grow old and simultaneously look back at my past and into my children’s or grandchildren’s futures. And a few weeks ago, when I saw “Gwen in Purgatory“, the picture that was painted of growing old in today’s society was truly bleak.

The scene in my mind as I wrote this was an old woman cradling a sleeping child and singing a lullaby. Her husband and the friends from her youth are long gone, her children are grown and have grown distant, busy with their own lives. But while she sits here, this small scrap of humanity in her arms makes her feel as if she is not alone. The past is a hazy golden age lost to the passage of time, which has stolen along more swiftly than she thought possible. And already she can see the babe in her arms grown into adulthood and herself fading away.

Woman and Baby
Image from Wisconsin Historical Images on Flickr.

I thought for a long time about whether I should post this and I almost didn’t:

  1. It would have been easier to just…forget all about this project. To be honest, I haven’t seriously worked on project 26 Songs for the last few weeks.
  2. I have never been a really good singer, nor have I done any serious singing since high school. I am so embarrassed by my shocking vocals that words fail to describe my mortification (poorly pitched, poor breathing, poor diction, poor/strange accents, very bad “switching” in registers…the list goes on and I won’t bore you by going into detail, I’ll let you fill in the blanks).
  3. Criticism always feels personal (even when it isn’t) when you put a lot of your soul into something, so I hate sharing things I’ve created when I feel like they aren’t good enough.
  4. I am really bad at expressing myself eloquently through words and hence one of my goals for doing this challenge was to improve my lyric writing. There aren’t a lot of “real” songs that I have written. In fact, this one would be something like number…6. I look at the lyrics I’ve written and I just want to cringe, but I don’t know how to do any better yet. Please bear with me.

In the end, I decided I would go ahead and blog this because:

  1. I really need some sort of kick in the pants to keep myself accountable. This is just one way of getting it.
  2. This isn’t about my singing. This is about me trying to become a better songwriter, and I need feedback.
  3. One day when I write a real Broadway musical, some people will like it and some people will hate it. And they will write mean, awful, hurtful things about my songs, my music and about me and I will probably cry about it. I figure I could use some practice in getting used to it, getting over it and working on drawing out the valid criticisms and points for improvement.

And to be honest, I don’t really know how many people actually read what I write here in any great detail, so without further ado, here it is.

With (my terrible) vocals: Remember Me (Music: Jonathan Ong | Lyrics: Deborah Lau) by Leng

With only Jonathan’s beautiful music:
improvisation 1 by Jong85

Remember Me

I remember me, a girl begun to dream
Long before you came to be
I remember me, when life used to seem
Full of roads I’ve yet to see

I remember songs, the melodies we made
Stories from before your time
I remember sunlight, I remember shade
Summer rain and star shine
Before today
Before decay

You could spend your life in vain
In grasping for the sky
Or you could spend your life in pain
As every chance bids you goodbye

So many paths, unsure and shadowed
Many choices and mistakes
Some sacrilegious, some hallowed
All yours for you to make

I could tell you which ones to choose
Which ones where you would lose
But I know for sure that you’ll refuse
Want to walk in your own shoes
In your own shoes

Remember me, when I’m too old to dream
And the songs we used to sing
Remember me…
When my memory takes wing
Remember me
My memory

—Music by Jonathan Ong. Lyrics by Deborah Lau.

Not the standard Broadway AABA structure (more of an AABACA rondo form with a long extended instrumental bit in the middle), but worked alright. I think some of the phrases are odd:

  • I’m still cringing at the false time/shine rhyme.
  • I like idea of shadowed/hallowed but honestly…who says that?! And quite frankly “sacrilegious” is a stretch.
  • When I was playing it over and over in my mind, the words sounded okay, but when I got around to singing them, some of them didn’t feel natural to sing.

So plenty of room for improvement! But I’m happy with where it stands as a first attempt.

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I'm just a girl with a piano. I'm on a quest to go from audit files to Broadway. Currently, I'm working on an as-yet untitled musical exploring identity, family, and love for second generation immigrants. In my spare time, I serve as the Secretary/Communications Director for the NYC-based Composers Collective.

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2 Responses to “Remember Me”

  1. stofut says:

    half rhyme is more original than full rhyme since it is less predictable. didn’t even notice it anyways. the most important thing in a song is metre, not the rhyme so don’t stress too much 😉

    practice metre and songwriting will be a breeze, in theory anyways haha.

  2. Deborah says:

    Thanks for the encouragement! Metre and scansion is a good starting point, but to master light verse, you need to be a rhyming genius. Hammerstein never did think he was all that good, but whenever I listen to “Surrey with a Fringe on the Top” I just have to shake my head at his brilliance.

    Anyway, one baby step at a time, I’ve a long way to go before I even start thinking of aiming for Hammerstein-esque songs…



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