What Should I Write a Song About?

what-should-i-write-a-song-about-thumbRemember back when I promised you that, if I was elected the “King” of Burlington Social Media Day, I’d write a song about whatever you want? Yeah, me and my big, fat, tweeting fingers…

OK, so, here’s the drill: It’s time for you to come up with a song title, e.g., “I Came to Take You Out to Lunch, But You Already Were” (sorry, already taken by Vermont’s own The Oleo Romeos) or a theme, e.g., “Conspiring with a woman to kill her husband” (sorry, also already taken by Vermont’s own The Oleo Romeos).

I’ll keep collecting data through Friday, August 1 (not to be confused with Burlington’s premier café/bakery). Over the weekend, I’ll figure out the topmost titles or themes, and then on Monday, August 4, I’ll have the run-off vote where you pick from the top 3-5.

Nu, what are you waiting for? Tell me what to write! (The form may take a few seconds to appear, so please be patient…)

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“Thank You All” – Acceptance Song for #BTVSMD14

So yesterday I won the fifth annual Burlington Social Media Day “2014 Social Media Royalty > King” award. It was a great and not-entirely-unexpected* honor, so, as you might by now expect, I was prepared with a song for the occasion just in case, knowing that would make my acceptance speech** a little unusual.

What was more than a little unusual was that, in a room full of social media mavens, NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM SEEMS TO HAVE RECORDED MY PERFORMANCE. These are people for whom, presumably, entertaining or unusual content is as fundamental to their online presence as a windsor knot is to a Wall Street banker***. In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have told them all they had to clap along. Who knew social media mavens love to clap along?

So once I got home, I dusted off my shiny new crown**** and tried, tried again.

Burlington Social Media Day is the brainchild and labor of love (ain’t no money in it) of Lara Dickson, a graphic designer with serious online communications chops, who moved to Vermont around the start of the tens. Having been inspired by Mashable, she and Anna Palmer organized the first one on June 30, 2010, and at this point it’s becoming a real Queen City tradition.

…So it’s late, and I’ll finish this blog post this weekend (including details about the process whereby you all are going to tell me what song to write next…) So here’s how you can tell me what song to write next, but for now, I’ll leave you with the lyrics, which pretty much say what I’d want to say if I could write lyrics.

Thank You All

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart
I can’t believe this is real, and I don’t know where to start
(I just spent) two whole days just a-beggin’ and a-pleadin’
Said goodbye to the last shred of dignity I’m needin’

   But it’s been a ride that I’ll never regret
   The love from you guys is the best thing yet
   When I look around and I see the smiles
   I wanna keep on tweetin’ and re-tweetin’ and repeatin’ it

Thanks so much to the great Shay Totten
I will never know a tenth as much as that guy has forgotten, Baby
Thanks so much to the mighty Aki Soga
When it’s time to throw a party, just invite that homeboy ovah

   And hey, Lara Dickson, this one’s for you
   We’re all construction paper and you’re the glue
   Shining your light on the social scene
   I think we all know who’s the real Queen

Thank you all, and I can’t say enough
About the things that you teach me when times are tough
(And I’m so) proud to be part of the Burlington scene
Tweeting in Vermont, and we postin’ what we want

   Most of all, thank my love so true:
   She’s at-sign-mrs-winooski to you
   She puts up with this, so I hope it shows
   You never know where a little tweetin’ will go
   Never know where a little tweetin’ will go
   Never know where a little tweetin’ will go

© Copyright 2014 Nate Orshan

* I did sorta campaign hard for it. And promise everyone I’d write whatever song they, in the aggregate, decided. More on that above.

** Once the awards ceremony kicked off, I saw that people don’t usually get to say anything after they’ve received their award. But did that stop me?

*** I’m assuming.

**** Yes, I did get a crown, but it’s made out of flimsy paper, just like my social media skills.

“Vermont, My Own True Friend”

It didn’t win and didn’t even place, but, 16 years later, here’s the song I submitted for Vermont’s State Song Competition. It’s called “Vermont, My Own True Friend”.

My goals for the song (aside from, y’know, winning the contest) were:

  • It had to refer to our natural beauty
  • It had to refer to our values
  • It had to refer to our history
  • It had to refer to what makes us actually different
  • It had to be anthemic

The last criterion was the “music-y” part, and I imagined that any state song would end up being sung by crowds of people in classrooms, ballgames, and the Statehouse. Never mind the song’s language or symbolic content; above all, the song had to be designed to be performed by multiple people, with average ears and voices, yet still sound stirring and anthemic. That meant it needed a more structured meter and some larger-interval (but not TOO large!) leaps at the right point to catch attenton.

A big inspiration was Maine’s state song, which my fiancé (now my wife) used to launch into spontaneously. That was another hope for my song’s musicality: It should inspire the singer to swing their bent arms back and forth in front of them, as if they were so inspired that they wanted to march in a parade.

In case you’re wondering, here’s the song that was selected as Vermont’s official State Song, “These Green Mountains”, words and music by Diane Martin and arranged by Rita Buglass Gluck; this rendition is from Victoria Tomkinson with Bob Ray on guitar.

Here’s a more gussied-up version performed by the Vermont Youth Orchestra Choir at the Statehouse.

As far as the words go, I’d like to think they met my criteria. I’m grateful to be able to say I live in this wonderful state, and I hope I can continue to do so for a long time to come.

Vermont, My Own True Friend

From the sleeping chin of Mansfield,
Where the granite touches sky,
To the shores of Lake Champlain,
Where the sails and salmon fly

Through the blazing autumn treetops
And the snowy slopes so wide,
The thought of so much majesty
Fills my heart with pride

   Vermont,
   Across your mountains green
   Vermont,
   Where independence sings
   Vermont,
   Where rivers, glittering
   Over valleys, bend
   Vermont,
   This land will always be
   My own true friend

The state where dreadful slavery
First met its legal end,
Where the farmer and the artist
On fertility depend

Where unity and freedom
Reach out with welcome hands,
And precious common sense,
Like the mighty maple, stands

   Vermont,
   Across your mountains green
   Vermont,
   Where independence sings
   Vermont,
   Where rivers, glittering
   Over valleys, bend
   Vermont,
   This land will always be
   My own true friend

© Copyright 2014 Nate Orshan

“granite” – I may be going out on a geological limb here.

“salmon” – Yup, we got ‘em!

“unity and freedom” – OK, so our state motto is actually “Freedom and Unity“, but sometimes ya gotta mix things up a bit to get a line to fit.

“precious common sense” – AKA “Yankee horse sense”, a virtue of longstanding repute, e.g., “[US President and Vermonter Calvin] Coolidge was New England – or, as his Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover put it, ‘the incarnation of Yankee horse sense.’