Music Monday: Civil War

Baez is releasing a “visual version” of Whistle Down the Wind…short films (or, as we sometimes call then, music videos) for each song on the album. The one for “The President Sang Amazing Grace” was first and was brilliant. It was also well received and got a lot of attention (approaching 200k views!). They are releasing them via prominent websites. “President” appeared at The Atlantic. The latest, for “Civil War”, first appeared at the Smithsonian.

“Civil War” is a weird song. Supposedly, it’s not about the US Civil War, and I believe it:

I don’t know you to wear a hat
But I came home late, and there it sat
You rose to show what hats are for
When living through a civil war

Three dogs at a party on a boat at night
Play checkers in a lantern light
They sing a song out to the shore
Of women, gold, and civil war
Every truth carries blame

And every light reveals some shame
Progress rides with thieves and whores
The stowaways of civil war
The stowaways of civil war

The first two lines seem fine if a bit hat obsessed. It could work if this is, indeed, about a broken relationship. The telltale hat as a breaking point is intelligible. But then…what? What hats are for? During a civil war? Ooookay.

I believe Joan was quoted as saying that she didn’t understand what it was about but it was pretty. I endorse that view! Though I don’t find it super pretty. It’s fine.

The video seems to be a missed opportunity. There’s something off about the choreography (the shadows and light seem clashing). I can’t really see the dancers, which is a shame since what I can see looks good.

It reminds me of my fantasy of having dynamic video mapping onto dancers. It also reminds me that the technical challenges are one thing and the artistic ones another.

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