One of the most important songs on the album is Renmin Park: it is the title track as well as the song that opens and closes the album. The song sets up the metaphorical love story that is the album. Initially my idea was to actually write a song cycle that dealt with the two lovers who are the protagonists in this song. As I began to explore this idea, I soon realized that I wouldn’t be able to sustain such a narrative and that it wouldn’t allow me to explore the many different aspects of our visit to China. I also began to see that the song wasn’t as narrow-cast as I initially envisioned. When I started writing the song I imagined two characters, one Chinese the other a foreigner, and their relationship was an illicit one. The narrative of the song is a simple one about them trying to arrange their clandestine meetings at landmarks around their town (Jingjiang). These landmarks are actual places in Jingjiang; the town is located on the Yangtze and its primary industry is shipbuilding and the shipyards dominate the river front; Gu Xian Temple is an actual Buddhist temple set on top of the only hill in Jingjiang; the song of the propane seller is something that greeted us every morning as the man in charge of refilling the communities propane tanks would travel through the neighbourhood at 6am calling out to let people know that he was there (you can hear the “song” in quite a few of the sound collages throughout the album); and the stone bridge and the pond is something that is common to pretty much every Renmin Park throughout China. The song took on more and more layers as the album developed. I began to realise that it wasn’t just a fictional love story, but also, partly, my friend Mr Liu’s love story; it was also a metaphor for my families love affair with this quirky town and the people who had embraced us; it was also a comment on the very odd and sometimes clandestine love affair that the people of China have with their past and their present and their very uncertain future. The Chinese adore their country, they are exceptionally proud of it, not in a jingoistic way, but more in the way that a mother adores her extremely troubled son. It has brought them lots of pain, and they know that they are destined to experience that pain time and time again, but they have also seen it sparkle and soar. And, after all, it is their creation, and only they can truly understand it and truly, deeply appreciate it.
Here are some of photos taken in some of the places that inspired the images in the song. It’s now time to move on to Volume 2….Demons….and to welcome you all to the world of Vic Chesnutt…stay tuned…
If you’d like to catch up on some past blogs about the Renmin Park album, just click on a link:
This entry was posted on Friday, September 17th, 2010 at 8:50 am and is filed under news. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Can you imagine if Bob Dylan could have blogged his thoughts when he wrote “Blood on the Tracks” or Neil Young when he wrote “Harvest?” Or how about Pink Floyd with “Dark Side of the Moon?” That’d have been interesting! The blogs are very helpful to get a sense of where Mike was coming from when he wrote the songs and how the songs evolved over the course of time. In the case of Renmin Park, the blogs have helped me to embrace the album more completely. I don’t just cherry-pick only the songs that are easier to listen to at first. I have delved into the more obscure songs and I appreciate them and their sequence. Thank you Mike for providing this background information!