Discussion Forums - The Writers' Forum The Writers' Forum

Topic: Help needed with a phrase in a song

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
  Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Help needed with a phrase in a song
Date Posted: 2/13/2009 3:46 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
Posts: 12,757
Back To Top

Hey writerly types: I'm working on a new song and I need assistance with a short phrase. There are two ways to say what I want to say, but the  one I prefer is, I suspect, the one less likely to be widely understood correctly. So: seriously now, what's the FIRST thing you think of when you read this:

monkeys with keyboards

Paul H. (PaulH) - ,
Date Posted: 2/13/2009 4:00 PM ET
Member Since: 6/27/2008
Posts: 146
Back To Top

The first thing I think of is the old saying that 100 monkeys at typewriters over time would recreate Hamlet.

My second thought is, as a musician, do you mean a piano keyboard instead of a computer?  In which case maybe the monkeys are writing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata?

Date Posted: 2/13/2009 4:03 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
Back To Top

Me too. Hamlet.

Date Posted: 2/13/2009 6:34 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
Posts: 36,445
Back To Top

I think Shakespear rather then Hamlet but some thing.  I think the saying is if you have an infinte about of monkeys with typewriters one of them will churn out Shakespears works (but have heard Hamlet, Macbeth or Lord of the Rings)"

My second thought was gaming monkeys..monkeys playing doom..lol

Date Posted: 2/13/2009 8:37 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
Back To Top

Has anyone seen the short David Ives play Words Words Words?  Chimps.  Typewriters. Hamlet. 

It's hilarious.

Date Posted: 2/15/2009 10:01 AM ET
Member Since: 5/18/2008
Posts: 123
Back To Top

Monkeys on the computer.

Date Posted: 2/15/2009 4:08 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
Posts: 12,757
Back To Top

Interesting. Indeed the probability/Hamlet angle is the desired reference -- but I have a sneaking suspicion that these responses (yours) are colored by the fact that this post is in a writer's area, and anyone reading it must be either a writer or interested in writing, so there may be a predisposition. I'm hoping to avoid the picture of monkeys playing in a band -- not counting the Monkees, of course -- and I have to find a way to ask a more non-predisposed portion of the population what they'd think. So each of you should tell two friends, who'd tell two friends, who'd tell two friends...

Date Posted: 2/15/2009 4:21 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
Back To Top

IMO you shuld write what you want.  There's no way you can ensure that everyone will get exactly what you mean all of the time without over-simplifying or dumbing down.  If someone is confused, you can always send them this.

However, if it scans, you can try write "monkeys on typewriters" or "chimps on typewriters" or "monkeys typing".

Date Posted: 2/15/2009 7:08 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
Posts: 12,757
Back To Top

Caviglia, I agree wholeheartedly minus 1% -- recognizing that an audience will always read things an author did not intend into a given work, and/or bring their own additional meanings to it, it's still important for an author to TRY to get across the intended ideas.

A real-life example: are you familiar with Marsha Norman's play 'NIGHT, MOTHER?  If not, it's a 90-minute realtime two-character piece in which a daughter tells her mother that this is the night she intends to kill herself; the body of the play is detailed, realistic action as the daughter gets her own and her mother's affairs in order. It was a pretty big hit and certainly interesting. Many people took it/take it as an expression of deep personal freedom; one or two critics, with whom I wholeheartedly agree, took it completely differently: as an expression of pure maniacal rage, 90 minutes of deliberate torture of a parent by her child: if you decide to kill yourself as a personal act, you have no reason to do anything other than ignore or try to lessen the impact on others; if you tell someone that something awful is going to happen and there's nothing they can do about it, your purpose is to cause them distress.

Marsha Norman is on record as dismissing the "angry" interpretation of her play, at least as far as I can recall; nevertheless I think it's as clear as the nose on my face which, believe you me, is pretty clear.

The point is that it's possible that, had Ms. Norman viewed her work from the "angry" angle before releasing it, it MIGHT have been altered. Whether that would have made it better or not, or clearer or not, is impossible to know; still, as a writer, even of small inconsequential songs, I'd like to think that I'm at least being clear -- unless a lack of precision is part of the point, as is the case with some things I write.

Thanks ~



Last Edited on: 2/15/09 7:08 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/15/2009 8:02 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
Back To Top
Interesting. Weirdly enough, I met Marsha Norman a few months ago at a meeting of female playwrights. It would be useful, I think in knowing whether she was disagreeing with an interpretation of the text, or if she was objecting to a directorial choice. I think the ambiguity in that particular play adds to its force, as the human psyche and its motives are rarely easily parsed and are squirrely and odd. All I meant was that nearly everyone who responded to your query knew what you were getting at, so you shouldn't be hugely concerned. I'm a huge fan of accurate and inventive text, as a wonderful English teacher of mine used to say: specifics are worth a pound of generalities because generalities are bullsh*t. I thought you were being both specific and clear (as far as I could tell from a three word phrase).
Subject: just another thought
Date Posted: 2/17/2009 12:02 AM ET
Member Since: 5/12/2006
Posts: 26
Back To Top

In a song the reference might be pianos or electronic keyboards...but does that really change the meaning in your song?

The reference is remarkably similar with what it means in the end.

 

Date Posted: 2/17/2009 2:48 AM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
Posts: 12,757
Back To Top

Tammy -- not sure what you mean by similar -- as I see it, if a monkey with a keyboard = playing music, there's no familiar analog to the Hamlet/probability reference of him composing a Beethoven sonata... ??

FWIW the other way to construct the line with the intended meaning is

typewriting monkeys

which happens to scan the same but, as the next line will include the word "write" I hope to avoid the phonic repetition.

Date Posted: 2/17/2009 11:56 AM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
Posts: 5,696
Back To Top

If you have "write" in the following line, it should clear up any text/music misconceptions vis-à-vis "keyboard".

Date Posted: 2/17/2009 12:07 PM ET
Member Since: 1/17/2007
Posts: 12,757
Back To Top

True, but if I can avoid the majority of misconceptions, I'd prefer to do so. Besides, a monkey might be writing music, mais non?

Date Posted: 2/19/2009 4:01 PM ET
Member Since: 10/3/2006
Posts: 6,234
Back To Top

Honestly, the first thing that came to my mind is the VERY old Red Rose Tea commercials - there was an entire orchestra - all manned by Chimps!  I never did like monkeys or apes of any sort and chimps give me the creeps!

Date Posted: 3/12/2009 10:27 PM ET
Member Since: 7/25/2007
Posts: 78
Back To Top

primates on piano

or

Windows Vista meets opposable thumbs mammals

Bonnie (LoveNE) - ,
Subject: monkeys
Date Posted: 3/13/2009 11:10 PM ET
Member Since: 2/17/2007
Posts: 5,982
Back To Top

A.Mike Nesmith and co.

B. crazy-ass music