Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven represented the pinnacle of the author’s success. Though most of his fame was brought on by his macabre tales and stories, Poe’s The Raven took off and brought him national, as well as world-wide acclaim.
Unfortunately it didn’t bring him much in the way of income, when he desperately needed as he tried to make a life in New York City, accompanied by his wife ill wife and her mother. A year and a day after the publication of Poe’s The Raven, his wife Virginia died, and Poe slipped into madness.
In that the poem could be considered prophetic, or perhaps the author simply knew what the future had in store for him.
In Poe’s The Raven, the poem begins with the narrator searching through ancient books of magic for a way to bring back his lost love. It’s never clearly spelled out if she is merely gone from his life, or gone from this Earth, but one can assume the latter thanks to the imagery that Poe includes.
Distracted by a tapping which doesn’t go away, we are greeted with the appearance of Poe’s raven who perches on a bust of the goddess Athena, over the door. There it stays, repeating only the one word the narrator dreads most, nevermore.
In Poe’s The Raven, the narrator tries talking to the bird, asking questions, quizzing it on its knowledge, reaching for any thread of hope that he might find. In the end, Poe’s The Raven is devoid of hope and finally, devoid of sanity as not only does the raven refuse to offer solace, the narrator realizes it will never leave, instead blocking the door with its presence and its reminder of nevermore.
Recording Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven
This was a tricky song to record. From the beginning I saw it as the equivalent of a high school musical presentation, a direct descendent of the age of burlesque or cabaret. Breaking it into three or four discreet sections I hoped would alleviate the monotony. It’s hard to follow along with lyrics for nine minutes without a change or break. Luckily Poe’s The Raven already contains the breaks we needed.
The narrator’s voice in Poe’s The Raven I quickly realized could be broken into three voices. One is simply that of a narrator, watching the action as though it wasn’t even a part of it for the first half or more. I thought of that as a Greek Chorus. The second is the actor, expressing more emotion, the lead if you will. And finally came a disembodied voice, almost the voice of Poe’s The Raven itself.
Then came actually singing the bastard, It went through countless iterations before I felt I had nailed it to the best of my abilities. Unfortunately I realized a day or so later that the microphone was on the verge of going out, and some of the settings during recording has been configured wrong. I tried to sing it again, but never could pull it off. So in the end, I was stuck with voices that sounded far from natural, and dictated the sound of the overall song.
All in all, recording Poe’s The Raven took place over a period of eighteen months, with far too much of that time actually going into that song alone. Was it worth it? I believe so. But I can’t help but wish I could start it over from scratch.
That will happen … never more.