We began recording this song at the end of a Gorkys’ session while the studio was still set up. I remember leaning against the door jamb listening as Euros Rowlands felt his way into the drum part and Euros Childs sang his sensitively high harmonies. Megan jammed out the perfect fluttery violin part which was later recorded by Cass Meurig and Idris Morris Jones, with double bass added by Owen Lloyd-Evans as a finishing touch.
It was some time after I had written the lyrics that I discovered that bird cage imagery has featured as a potent symbol in quite a bit of women’s writing of the past. In 2002, I began teaching a wonderful course with the Open University called A210 Approaching Literature, and one of the approaches was ‘Literature and Gender’ which introduced students to such writers as Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Virginia Woolf, Susan Glaspell and others in texts that used symbols of birds and cages. I wasn’t consciously writing out of this tradition, yet the symbol arrived when writing this song – from the collective unconscious, I guess a Jungian would say – and that interested me, and still does. However, I would never wish to narrow this – or, indeed, any – song’s meaning. I hope that the lyrics touch into that part in all of us that wishes ‘to fly’, however you interpret it. I love it when I can look back on my own writing and wonder where it came from, feeling the resonance of the imagery, and that is very much how I feel about these lyrics.
You can hear ‘Birdcage’ here.
Lyrics Birdcage is some place to live. There’s sandpaper floor a swing and a door and always a mirror. Door opens once in a while but look over there to where something vast is ... Play xylophone tunes on the bars and spend every night counting the stars through the window. Sing pretty bird sing Swing little bird swing ... Bird cage is someplace to live. Eat seed off the floor, ignore the closed door and the bars on the windows. Dream wings that are buttermilk white, that spread into air, lifting in flight to where something vast is ... Sing little songbird Sing little songbird and sing yourself into flight ...
Images from Unsplash with thanks.