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“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” But it might not sound as catchy…
In the publishing class I’m taking, I read recently that hit songs sound like hits from the minute you hear their titles. I see what they mean, though not sure I have that knack yet myself.
Yesterday, under the hood of my laptop with my new computer guy, I was struck when he asked my computer’s name – kind of like a doctor walking in and being introduced to the patient. Or last week, I was photographing some old ink cartridges to put on Freecycle, I noticed each was labeled with its printer’s name, “Buffy’s Ink,” “Ripley’s Tri-Color.”
And one of my favorite scenes from Mark Twain is in the Diary of Adam and Eve, when Eve’s job is to name the animals and explains each name to Adam by saying it just “looks” like what it’s called.
The process of coming up with a name for an album or a show is usually a collaborative one for me. And I often realize after the fact, that a name that’s deeply meaningful to me isn’t so for other people – or that it needs a lot of explanation. I’m no Eve in that regard.
Take my project “Invention & Alchemy” – by a long process that title emerged because my own experience, composing for and then performing with orchestras, is that there’s a long period of isolated invention, a time when I’m completely in my own head and studio, inventing and writing out the blueprints we’ll play from.
Then come the rehearsals and performance – the moment when all this invention comes to life. For some composers, performance provides a pale version of the work they hear in their head. For me, it’s the opposite. There’s a bubbling, unexpected magic when I experience the actual physicalization of the notes on paper, when the idea turns from idea to reality, a reality that’s so much more than what I originally invented, That experience I call “alchemy.”
So, seeing the process as two phases, I named the CD/DVD project as close as I could to my experience: “Invention & Alchemy,” not really thinking what viewer’s or listener’s experience was.
Fast forward to when the piece aired on PBS. I told all my friends to watch for it when it came to their area, and I started hearing complaints: “I didn’t see you in the program! I don’t know when it’s airing!” And when I told them the name, they said, “Oh, but that sounds like a SCIENCE program.” Gulp. Probably wrong name, at least for the television version.
So about 6 weeks ago when I found out I was playing a pre-Valentine’s show at the Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, I took a poll on Facebook asking for suggestions. I immediately got a huge response, suggestions that were funny, inventive, sometimes wacky and esoteric – and it was huge fun just reading them. Here are just some of the huge selection:
• Composer Alexander Miller: “Lyre! Lyre!”
• Harper Tasche: “Cupid in a Blindfold”
• Jessica Betz: “Love and Other Disasters?”
• Beatriz Harley: “Love: The Good, the Bad and the Watermelons”
• Glen Gurner: “Love’s Lyre?”
• Sean Williams: “Fondness makes the Harp Grow Stronger”
• Betty Widerski: “if this love is wrong I don’t want to be right” (a tribute, I think to the 1972 R&B hit)
• Julie Methot: ?”Don’t Break My Harp”
• Charles Legg Jr: “Harping on Love”?
• Kate Engelke Baxter: “Love, You Harp-breaker You!”
• Sandra Knudsvig: “Electric Love”
• Laura Williams: “Love: with Strings Attached.” (Then Laura added: “Great choice of date by the way…. of course, I am a bit biased, since it is my wedding anniversary”)
• Ginger Webb suggested combining Lincoln’s Birthday (Feb. 12) together with a Valentine’s theme and came up with: “War Between the States of Love” and “Abe-Babe’s Honest Love Songs”
• Alexander Miller closed the field to a collective groan with “Achey Breaky Harp” – but someone had to suggest it! (Thanks Alexander, you brave soul!)
My own suggestions included “Valentunes,” “Love Bites,” “The Romancerator,” “Harp-Break Hotel” and “Love, And Other Pitches too High to Hear (But Dogs Can)”
And, as usual, my former UPS Guy turned comic, Brian Kelly, who can always be counted on for something sparklingly tasteless, suggested “Pre-Minstrel Slings and Arrows.”
I read them all to my husband. He laughed and went back to his computer. I puttered around for awhile, then walked in and he looked up and calmly said, “Wired for Love.” And I knew that was it. I could see how all the other suggestions, even ones that seemed out of left field, led to his suggestion. I could see how “Electric Love” with “Love’s Lyre” and “Slings and Arrows” could become distilled into “Wired for Love” – but I don’t think we would have gotten there without all the other crazy, not-quite-right, silly and even tasteless ideas.
It’s amazing and wonderful to me how all the input distills into something simple, that feels right. I loved how fearless everyone seemed, to just throw suggestions into the ring, to take part, to be involved — and all of them in some way contributed to the final title, which seemed to happen effortlessly … but only because of all the effort that came before.
So, right now, I just want to say, “Thank you,” for these and the many others names people suggested via Facebook, my thanks – not only for chiming in with great and silly ideas (often the same, by the way), and for some really great laughs (much needed) — but for the sense of camaraderie. May your enthusiasm reap the rewards of love.
Shakespeare probably didn’t go polling his friends for titles … but I’m really glad that I can.
Update 2012: So, the title for this show ended up becoming the title for a download collection of romantic songs … which became the ongoing title of my romantic blog stories. What’s in a name? No idea, but a lot can sure come out of it!