Excerpts from “A Fictional Investigation Into the Origins of Lyrics” by Wendy Farina, 2012. Master’s thesis for Mills College, Music Composition program.


Dream words are made from a different substance than awake words; they are composed not of atoms but of images. I want to figure out their exact chemical properties but it’s slow going. Of course I have to do all of my research at night. I’ve set up a number of nets and traps around my bed using crystals and feathers as bait, hoping to snare some stray words wandering out of my sleep. Nothing has worked yet. In dreams words are hard to examine. Condensed feelings make them slippery; they are constantly in motion. When I try to fix them to a dream page they grab onto my dream pen and run away. Last night I almost got lucky: I found the words brazen and mirror in a dream, draped over the arm of my living room chair. I tried to pick them up but they wriggled out of my hands, sliding through my fingers like eels.


Why we like rhyme: there’s a special section of our brains dedicated to rhyme. It’s a drawer near the occipital lobe that enjoys things that are similar and can be organized, like socks. When we hear a good rhyme, the drawer lights up with a golden hue and a bell sounds; a nice match has been made. Conversely, when we hear a bad rhyme, the drawer squirts a sour inky chemical of displeasure; we’ve heard it far too many times before.

How to hold words together?

Duct tape works well, as does glue. Safety pins and gum can be used in a pinch. You can sew words together with any colored thread, straight or zigzag stitching, adding snaps and fringe. Scotch tape looks good but is weak. Tacks, nails, and screws are lasting yet obvious. Guilt can bind them together, so can handshakes, verbal agreements, and a sense of duty. Gravity can be defied more than you’d think.