This song was inspired by my Jewish Travels class from the soulful story of “My Father Was A Hero” by Shlomo Katz. It explores the bridges between cultural norms, generational differences of immigrants and parent- child relationships . Check out my page of original music and cover songs. https://soundcloud.com/essiepeach .
Copyright 2016 for “Oh, Father,” by Esther Lu.
Prof. Murray Baumgarten
LTMO144 Jewish Travels
Mapping through Song : “My Father Was A Hero” by Shlomo Katz. Page 60 in the story section in Streets of Gold, in The Jewish Streets.
This song is maps the reconciliation process of a broken relationship between a father and son. The song is focusing on, the first part of the story (60) where the son feels guilty for running off to different places, leaving behind his aging father. Then every time the father sees his son going away, he asks “And where are you going?” In this scene (60), it is implied that the father and son do not belong to anywhere physically, but they do belong to each other. The reason why they do not belong to no where physically is because the son explains how whenever he would see his father and then depart, he would be heading off in a new direction “Each time I left I went off in another direction”.
As for the father, the entire story talks about the various journeys that his father takes and the various places that his father has lived in. Near the end of the scene (60), every time the son departs he now heads back to New York, but his father always forgets where his son is heading back to, “He nods assent, but doesn’t seem to care. New York is only a name to him”. This implication of forgetfulness is symbolic because it shows how even to the father, the son does not belong anywhere.
Yet even though the son and father belong no where in the world, the scene shows that wherever the son runs off to, he always goes back to his father and finds a sense of belonging there as seen in “Now that I have ceased running off at a different tangent each journey, he no longer remembers where I came to rest”. This repeated coming back to the father shows how the son feels guilty about departing and so he seeks the forgiveness that his father gives to him as a way to reconcile with his father and this reconciliation shows how the son finds a place of belonging with his father, every time he comes back from a new place.
The verses of the song over all imply how both father and son belong no where physically but do belong to each other as family. There’s no grand finale like in many contemporary songs, this song represents a map of reflecting, a time of processing for a son who is reconciling his relationship with his father. The layers of ooohs in the background represent elements of the different stories that he tells about his father. The ooohs are mostly consistent and do not have huge changes in dynamics, this is done in order to represent a thread of memory that is continuous in his running memories of his father all throughout the story. In the parts where the ooohs are broken up, this gives space and represents some of the tension between narratives of his father and the narrative of the son reconciling with his father.
The soloist in the song represents the scene on page 60, it is this main voice that has the most prominent dynamic variation. This prominence in dynamic variation represents the jagged process that happens during a time of reflection and reconciliation with his father. In verse 1, the son is reflecting on how communication with his father is dwindling and how they seem to speak only through silence, this silence is forged by his father’s slipping memory, and slipping trains of thought when they are in each other’s presence as seen where the son attempts to help his father remember, “I try to draw him on, to reestablish the thread of his thought”. In the silence of where his father’s memories are wandering, the son is searching for a way to connect with his father.
Even though verse 1 is focused on page 60, one of the lines “This my prayer to you, I know not” is a reference to (65) of the story where the son talks about how his father knows that God hears the mumbling and silence of a prayerful spirit, even when the words spoken by the person praying is not clear to the human mind. This reference is included in verse 1 because I imagined the son praying a prayer to his father and although his father may not be able to fully grasp the words that his son is speaking due to his memory loss, the spirit of his son attempting to communicate with his father is still there.
In verse 2, is a nod to the stories (throughout “My Father Was a Hero) that his father tells the son or in another sense how the son remembers the stories of his father. In the stories of his father, his father is often known to be the hero, but is not acknowledged fully as a hero by society. This verse was important to include because these stories connect the son to the father in how even though in old age the father can no longer really speak to his son, the son remembers and spiritually communicates with his father through the semblance of story telling.
The chorus represents the father’s point of view of trying to communicate with his son as shown on page 60, where his father is always asking “And where are you going”? Towards the end of the scene the father never quite remembers where his son is going to, but in his attempt to ask his son this question “And where are you going” it shows the desire of the father to want to communicate and speak with love and concern to his son. The line in the chorus, “No place I belong not found” shows how the father does not feel any sense of belonging in the world, this sense of not belonging comes from the line (60) “The gentleness in his eyes changes into a faraway look that reaches across distances over which I cannot follow.” This line shows how the father has been to many places and has traveled far and wide and yet there is no sign that the father has found a place a physical place to stay and belong. This implication coincides with how his son is always trying to go to a new place and find a sense of belonging in the world.
The pre-chorus is shows the desire for the son to reconcile with his father. This line goes back to the quote “Now that I have ceased running off at a different tangent each journey” (60), the son stops going off to different places and instead now is walking towards his father.
The bridge explains how the son tells his father that he feels guilty for leaving him whenever he goes to a new place or even goes back to a familiar place, New York. This guilt from the son comes to the surface as he realizes that his place of belonging has never been in the physical places of travel but through familial connection with his father and the son who perhaps had realized this earlier on still continues to run off in another direction up until the point where his father is losing his memory. In the bridge the son comes to realize that he finds his place of belonging and rest with his father and not with anything else. This realization from the son is seen through a reflection, “Now that I (the son) have ceased running off at a different tangent each journey, he (the father) no longer remembers where I came to rest” (60). In this process of reflection, it is shown that the place of rest for the son is with his father, this rest always comes after the vast travels of the son.
What should be included in map:
What should be included in this mapping son, is perhaps a time frame of when the son realizes his lost connection with his father. Also, where in his travels does the son realize that he belongs to his father? Where and when does his father realize that he does not belong to any physical place in the world?
Oh father where, where are you now?
I see your face in the clouds
This my prayer to you, I know not
My silent sounds, the breathing,
silent words are speaking
Silent saint, silent hero
Worthy to be found
Never seen, never risen
Disappearing into the sound
I am walking
Towards my father
Where are you going?
Where are you now?
My memories fading
No place I belong, not found
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