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To hear a remastered version of this recording, which is also available for download, please check out the new 2014 compilation, Love or Freedom, featured on this site. The un-mastered and longer version is provided here for archival purposes!

The basis of this song comes from the 9 bar cyclical progression established by Jake's bass line and the asymmetry of which gives the song its unusual shape. Always a fan of 6/8 time, this is an early example of my songs in that meter.

The amazing dissonant guitar solo in the middle was the result of Anthony snapping a crucial string just when he launched into it. In analogue days, when tape was rolling, you really made an effort not to stop! As he was both a brilliant technical player and a true sonic artist, Anthony just continued, working with the limitation and bending what notes were left to create what I consider to be a total masterpiece. There was some talk of redoing the solo with all six guitar strings intact but I said NO WAY. I still think it is totally perfect and never get tired of listening to it, though I must have heard it a thousand times by now.

In a case of art imitating art imitating art, I was inspired to write this song after reading Philip K. Dick's book "The Divine Invasion" featuring a pop star in the distant future who reworked songs by 15th Century composer John Dowland. This made me look into Dowland's music, the melancholic nature of which really matched me as a moody 20-something. I particularly loved the suicidally depressing, yet beautiful, lyrics to "Flow my Tears", one of Dowland's best known compositions. Down Vain Light is essentially a new setting and adaptation of those words, with some changes.

The reference to Dahlia, which I added, is not meant to be about the flower but rather an invocation of my Jamaican grandmother, who I never had the chance to meet, and whose name that was. I am told she had a beautiful singing voice.

lyrics

Sweeter to die
Oh than have this waiting
This waiting for the night
To take me from the light
And leave me sleeping

Ah sweeter to be
Away nowhere
Down, vain light!
Shine you no no more
No more

Ah
Sweeter than Dahlias to have no name
No time
No world to go on living in
Light to keep me seeing
The shame of living in a world
Without Love

Down
Shine you no more
Vain light
Shine you no more

No night is dark enough
For we whose souls despair of living
Joyless

Oh if I must live
Show me the place where the dark shadows
And night's blackbird
Hide from vain rays

Hah
Sweeter to die
Than wait wait wait wait
Wait for the night
Far from the light

Blackbird
Sing your sad song
Gladly I'd be blackbird

No night's dark enough for we whose souls despair
Of light

Down light
Shine you no no more no more
Vain light
Shine no more

Sweeter to die
Than wait wait wait wait
Wait for the night
Far from the light

credits

from Polymorphia San Francisco, Oakland 1989​-​1992, released December 31, 1992
Jake Rivera Bass guitar
Anthony Fisher Lead guitar
Todd Hermann Percussion
Joshua Heller Production at The Office, San Francisco

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Diana Rosalind New Orleans, Louisiana

After being discovered by Bobby McFerrin as a young vocal improviser in San Francisco, I spent some years writing and performing with ensembles that remain important in the history of Bay Area arts, then did time tangling with the music biz in LA & NYC, followed by a decade in Europe, recording all the while, before coming "home" to NOLA. This is a partial musical record of that journey. ... more

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