'Multiple' lyrics -- How can you be sure?

Essay by Ekristheh Akanora, Astraea

"It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptreeís writing. I donít think the novels of Jane Austen could have been written by a man nor the stories of Ernest Hemingway by a woman, and in the same way I believe the author of the James Tiptree stories is male." -- Robert Silverberg, explaining why he thought Dr. Alice Sheldon, who wrote using the name James Tiptree, was a man.

Personally and as a cultural historian, I get a little uncomfortable when I see a particular song or set of songs being used to identify the artist as "definitely multiple," when there's nothing obvious in the lyrics saying so. Pegging the authors of song lyrics as multiple based on lyrics is one of the most useless things I can think of, along with interpreting lyrics as having to do with being multiple.

It's traditional for poets and musicians to write lyrics about oppression -- political, social and moral. They write verses about discrimination due to nationality, race, gender and class. About feeling different, isolated, even crazy. About being able to get away from trouble by traveling in "the world inside your head", a phrase which became a rock cliche in the psychedelic-drenched 60s. Plenty of musicians feel what's called the alienation of the artist, a strong sense that they don't belong in this world where money and looks count more than heart and feeling. In other words, this is a pretty broad spectrum we're talking about, and it is not confined to Afro-American, working-class, female or multiple artists.

Love songs are another type of lyric we've seen some people fasten on. "You're in my mind/heart/soul," "I can't get you out of my head," "two become one" are much more likely to be sentiments describing love or infatuation than they are to be about multiplicity.

The same goes for artist behavior. Many performers take on roles or perform as different characters. Some develop these personae in great detail. This is a common practice in show business. It makes the performer more interesting and garners attention and sales.

Unless they state specifically what they are, say in an interview, I don't think of an artist as multiple or singlet. It doesn't matter how much we identify with the musician's life and lyrics, nor how many overdubs of her own voice she lays down (an old technique used by many rockers for dramatic effect or simply for amplification), how many names he gives himself or or whether he sings in a language of his own invention. None of this is proof of actual separate persons and minds sharing a body.

Rock lyrics simply are not good enough evidence. Even if the words clearly described someone who is multiple, they could have been written about a friend or someone they happened to see on TV. Good rockers write hundreds or even thousands of songs and become adept at making a lyric out of practically anything. Bear in mind, too, that many of today's performers, such as Madonna, do not write any of their own material. There may be a multiple in the mix, but it's not the cute chick you see in the videos. She's just the presenter.

That's what disturbs me -- to see any artists (musical or otherwise) labeled multiple based solely on their intelligence, creativity, music, references to dreams or to other worlds, and/or unfortunate elements in their personal background. The whole world doesn't revolve around multiplicity, much as we'd like to believe it does.

That doesn't mean these artists don't produce excellent stuff, even which really could be used to describe multiplicity* -- I just think we could be a little more careful with the hyperbole.

After all, you wouldn't like it if you were labeled singlet based on your creative output, would you?

For Radio Halath, I'm
Ekristheh Akanora

*I direct my loyal listeners to David Crosby's "In My Dreams", for example:

Turn around and hold me
I'd like to see your face alone
I'm hoping there's someone home...
I'd like to meet you. Who do you see?
Introduce yourself to whichever of me is nearby...
Two or three people fading in and out
Like a radio station
I'm thinking about what I can't hear
Who gets breakfast? Who gets the lunch?
Who gets to be the boss of this bunch? Who will steer?

Chris Akanora is a member of House Astraea. You can contact him using our webmail form.

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