METADATA

by Wes Braver

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about

About Metadata:

In June of 2013, the world was introduced to a man trapped in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Edward Snowden was an NSA contractor who had provided journalists with the biggest leak of classified information in US history, mostly pertaining to vast domestic surveillance programs. While Snowden’s asylum was being secured he spent a month living in the airport, and his Russian lawyer ironically gave him a copy of Crime and Punishment to help pass the time. It is a novel about a man who believes that he is allowed to break the law in order to do the right thing, and the existential crisis he faces as he questions his actions. Metadata explores this month-long purgatory in a series of songs, poems, and images that trace Braver's imagination of Snowden’s internal thoughts: from his initial act, to his terrified reading of Crime and Punishment, to his conversations with the girlfriend he left back home, and ultimate reckoning with the decisions he made.

credits

released August 15, 2015

Songs written, produced, and performed by Wes Braver (except where noted)

Featured vocalist ("Yr Secret," "Phases," "Marbles," "Paintings"): Hillie Teller

Guitar ("Nobody Feels This Way," "Phases," "That's the Move"): Phoenix McLaughlin

"Metadata (Another Hundred People)": a re-arrangement of "Another Hundred People" by Stephen Sondheim
"That's the Move": co-written by Nick Stephens, originally performed by YouJazz

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about

Wes Braver Brooklyn, New York

Wes Braver is a musical theatre writer and performer, electronic music producer, and film composer from Washington, D.C., now based in Brooklyn, NY. He has written three original musicals, "Time's Square 2090," "Hear No Evil in the Year 2090," and "Galapago." "METADATA" is his debut album. ... more

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Track Name: Agility Hour
I'm flying high above
The orgy of
My better-halves
A career and a state and a girl
Disappear in the jet paths

The darker the night
The brighter the stars
The deeper the grief
The closer is God
Track Name: Nobody Feels This Way
Called us the maggots with an ‘F’
So now we’re opening their shit
What little irony was left
We couldn’t make the culture fit

Nobody feels this way
So I have to be the one

We spent the decade on the wire
We saw the phases and the girls
There was a life inside the mire
We took our love out on the world

Nobody feels this way
So I have to be the one

Everyone
Knows everything

But nobody feels this way

My only friend was reason
My style was not in season yet
Can’t see the forest for the treason
Only the braver kind of demons let

Anyone feel this way
The way that I feel today
Yeah nobody feels this way
So I have to be the one
To say goodbye
Track Name: Metadata (Another Hundred People)
-Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim from the musical “Company”-
lyrics
Another hundred people just got off of the train
And came up through the ground
While another hundred people just got off of the bus
And are looking around
At another hundred people who got off of the plane
And are looking at us
Who got off of the train
And the plane and the bus
Maybe yesterday

It's a city of strangers
Some come to work, some to play
A city of strangers
Some come to stare, some to stay
And every day
We stare away
At the desperation in the crowded streets and the guarded parks
By the rusty fountains and the dusty trees with the battered barks
See them walk together past the postered walls with the crude remarks
Hear them meet at parties through the friends of friends who they never
know
"Do I pick you up or do I meet you there or shall we let it go?"
"Did you get my message? 'Cause I looked in vain."
"Can we see each other Tuesday if it doesn't rain?"
"Look, I'll call you in the morning or my service will explain.”

And another hundred people just got off of the plane

It's a city of strangers
Some come to work, some to play
A city of strangers
Some come to stare, some to stay
And every day
Some go away
Or they find each other in the crowded streets and the guarded parks
By the rusty fountains and the dusty trees with the battered barks
And they walk together past upholstered walls with the crude remarks
And they meet at parties through the friends of friends who they never
know
"Do I pick you up or do I meet you there or shall we let it go?"
"Did you get my message? 'Cause I looked in vain."
"Can we see each other Tuesday if it doesn't rain?"
"Look, I'll call you in the morning or my service will explain.”

And another hundred people just got off of the plane
Track Name: in light / in silence / in exile
No matter the context
It is never a good thing when your lawyer
Lends you his copy of Crime and Punishment
You sought limbo
Not heaven.
Not hell.
An indefinite layover.
You bought limbo
So the Big Mac doesn’t taste
American. Or even Russian
It tastes like an airport
You look up at food court TVs as they
Debate: Snowden: HERO or TRAITOR?
They discuss your metadata; who you talked to when
But the metadata is all they have
They would need the content of your character to see you are neither

Because a smarter martyr would not have led Five Eyes where you fled
Lies have proven themselves wieldy to those who hate Communists.
Claustrophobic in their icy echo chambers
Where the Cold War never thawed
They mistake digital literacy with spyhood.
But you said, when you fled, that you were of no opinion
You said, consider me dead
Make up your own minds about eating this bread I killed myself to feed you
That is some ambitious ambivalence, son.
You traded public support for self-preservation
But the smarter martyr does not barter
You see your ideals as congealed
But perhaps this act is just your debut, that you will look back on as juvenilia
You still have that precocious mentality
You define yourself against the “mediocracy”

The media and the mediocre
But in light of the fourth estate
The fourth amendment silently boarded a flight home when
You broke the fourth wall government has with its people.
So, welcome to the exile of the audience.

The book your lawyer gave you is
Huge, a chasm
Generational.
You explore its metadata
Glossaried tidbits begin to inform
Your misinterpretation:
Raskolnikov, from the Rooskie, Raskol, means “schism.”
Generational

Put the book down. Keep running the terminal.
If nothing else, to stay fit.
Keep running, detain yourself against the wrong tide of the moving walkways
Keep running from Langley
Keep running Siberian lengths, encrypt your lungs against betrayal.
Get a wire up on God, who, like the surveillance state, has a wire up on you.
Request asylum with the pawnbrokers of the world.
Even purgatory can have progress.
Your consumptive lover, cries on cable
You call her your connect, but you still haven’t called her
In light, you broke a window, you composed a violent transparency
In silence, you watch the world watch you
In exile, you will read the book your lawyer gave you, and find out who really gets the axe
Track Name: Raskol I
I see the tragic
In old computers
In ramen noodles
And in the neighbors
Their morbid voices
And my muteness
In darkened stairways
The stubborn hatchet
Let’s make it sharper

My blood has held the secrets of a nation
I let it spill and knew the implication
I have to watch my back
But my shadow feels lighter

I always lived my life on the wire
And thirty one’s too young to retire
I’ll crawl the same web
As a new spider

In exile in the name of finding an answer
Answers are all that’s left
When you can’t survive

Uninvited in your own home
And better yet you’re alone
And better yet you’re unknown
To yourself

A grain of rice in a clump
In a bowl in my hand
Which I eat
In a bed in a room
In a house on a street

Somewhere in a city that’s not my own
And it’s cold to the bone
But I can set the tone

So I’m throwing your letters into the embers
What’s one more person to remember
I’m a reckless recluse waiting to rendered

So I’ll treat myself to reading on the Nyevski
In the parallel escape of Dostoevsky

The weight of knowing
In judging glances
Amerikanski
Refuse the smile
Embrace the guilty
In Sonia’s family
In Lizaveta
The wretched sister
Eight-legged widow
Arachnophilic
I see what I am
I brought the axe down

(Rodya! Rodya!)
Track Name: Yr Secret
You didn’t lose your marbles
You hid them
You hid them from us
Afraid of the fuss
We’d make at the sadness
Confuse it with madness
Oh how we hate sadness
It’s insane

Existence alone
Was never enough
For you

Great men you believe
Can do what they do
And should

You think you’re one of them

Your secret is safe with me

Your ego is safe with me

I’m cleaning the house
I’m finding your shoes
I’m finding old trophies
Finding no clues
I’m eyeing the knife
I wasn’t your wife
I’m finding your life
I’m finding it empty

I’m cleaning the house

I’m finding your absence okay
I’m learning some secrets today
And unlike with you who give them away
Perhaps you will see
Yours are safe with me
Track Name: in light / in silence / in writing
Sonia is the singer
She is the subject of Raskolnikov’s love, and Dostoevsky’s
She is the proverbial blast from the proverbial past
She is your widow, and in that way you suppose you gave her an identity
Endowed by her creator with certain alien perfection
Her flaws and flavor airbrushed away by fiction
She is, in a person, a sort of allegorical morality
But she is also a person. A person you left in paradise.

In your absence she does not burn you in effigy
Or in eulogy
She understands that illusions belong not to the illusionist but to the eluded
And movement not to the movers but to the moved
She is cleaning the house
She is trying to check her phone less often
The National Security Agency is trying to check it more
With her metadata they glean she is an artist
Or “prostitute,” in the Russian
She continues cleaning the house
She tries to make some art
Like God, she knows creation is its own company
But who gets the axiom?
Alone, she is without an audience
No blame, no victim
No claim of “I don’t get it,” you never did, she knew how to pick ‘em, her victims
And she knows the bite belongs not to the spider but to the bitten hand that feeds her
And writing not to the writer but to the written and the reader

She misses writing with you
Not literally, not literarily
To you both, “writing” has gained a pre-intelligent meaning: it is:
To play
To jam
To spar
To rhyme
A new dead language of memory and prophecy
It is muddled in the profound but it
Sounds like harmony
It is blowing your own whistle
A lifeguard telling solipsism to walk, not run
A conversation done in light and in silence
It is a consonance of bodies flaunted before dissonant futures
You both miss it.
So in light and in silence, she joins you in Moscow.
In writing, you share a warm rain, falling from open, cloudless skies.
Track Name: Phases
It's always clear that you are you
A quiet pulse, a rhyming heart
I'm just a phase I'm going through
Just as a subject for my art

Reading into the intent
Writing out of the abyss
Lonely nouns begin to verb
And find another word to kiss

In the tension of a knot
In the whistle of a breeze
In the come down from a high
In the come on of a tease

In the anger of the truth
In the creaking of a door
In light of recent things
I know you want more

Like a dog bored by the latter years
Of a chase with its tail
We decide to forget
And to embrace the failure of the paper and the pen

Expensive dreams before the knife
And not much better after cuts
When we write I hate my life
When we write I hate your guts

So tuck me in before you go
I know you're sad I lack the touch
I see you cry through every show
And it'll play, but not that much

So take that critical ennui
Light it up in silent bars
Have a nightmare it's on me
Trendy habits come with scars

And when the trend is at an end
The auditorium in flames
Can you be the fire's friend
And can you please forget our names

Like a dog bored by the latter years
Of a chase with its tail
Can you try to forget
And to embrace the failure of the paper and the pen

The white parade the black and grey disintegration serenade
A ticking clock a glacial tomb in mother earth an icy womb
A baby face with brittle bones a chilly place a cold unknown
What dark and shiny orbs appear to glisten in the morning fear

I'm tickling the orchestra by sitting them in feathered pews
A pizzicato plethora a stringy supple ingenue
Who never had a lot to do but smile and kiss and cry on cue
It's hard to tell just who is who when violins are crying too

The memories of brighter days will fade and then cascade away
In phantom glassy icicles reversing back into themselves
The circle stroke the frozen smoke the winter time the bitter joke
The melting and the sentencing the structure now is caving in

A picture worth a thousand words a cloudy verse on forest birds
We're tipping into fantasy tip-toeing out of secrecy
Too intimate and real you said to try and write about the dead
Creative nights and boring days to break us out of phase

I'm just a phase I'm going through

I’m cutting in I’m cutting through
I’m just a phase I’m going through
And I’m not coming back for you
I’m just a phase I’m going through

It's always clear that you are you
A quiet pulse, a rhyming heart
I'm just a phase I'm going through
Just as a subject for my art

In the house where you grew up
In the house across the street
In despair you indecide
I see the freezing of your feet

Looking out across the lake
A pair of eagles builds a nest
And a thought begins to grow
While another's put to rest

We are the puzzle and the clue
We refuse to have a style
When we write we are as one
When we write we are a child

When we write we are in love
Track Name: Marbles
I walk one direction in the city
Til the prospekt vanishes
The night time is flickering around
More than my candle is
The staring faces stoke my temper
I forget my languages
I lay to rest down in an alley
My dreams just multiply my damages

The marbles are in your head
Under the bed in your head

So you could say the marbles
Are in your dread

My body one disoriented spasm
My mind in isolated proxy
A lawman follows as he watches
To enforce the orthodoxy
Perhaps he knows the guilt inside me
But I did not wrong I am just walking
A microcosmic intermission
I see how it feels when they stalk me

The marbles are miles ahead
In your head they inherit the dead
So the dead are there in your head
Under the bed in your head

They crept down there you pictured how they bled
They crept down there I pictured how they bled out

I didn't lose my marbles
I hid them
I hid them from you
Afraid if you knew
That I wasn't crazy
You'd think I was crazy
For not being crazy
And you'd be right

I swung the axe when I was near her
But Murphy's law applied
So I missed and hit the mirror
And she died when she had to die

I didn’t lose my marbles
I hid them
I hid them from you
Afraid if you knew
I swung the axe when I was near her
But Murphy's law applied
So I missed and hit the mirror
And I’ll die when I have to die

The marbles are in the street
Stomped by the feet of the KG-Beat
Marching loud concrete

The marbles are in the snow
Where else would they go, everything's covered in snow
Global nightmare

The marbles are on the edge
On the bridge on the ledge just a smidge to the edge
With an urge to sing a dirge

The marbles are falling in
To the river drowning in a Russian liver
Give her your sin

Out of the river
Sonia sips
And Sonia shivers
Sonia's lips
Track Name: Paintings
Let’s talk about little things
Let’s not give it away
I made a painting of you
It’s a landscape

The gallery of your failures
Is gathering dust
I’m the only one who has seen it
You say you dream of the corner of the room
Hanging on the wall like a still life
I’m the one who knows that you mean it

Let’s turn on a light
I would not like to stub my toe
I made a painting of you
In a window
A very big window

I’d like to just have this visit
We can be soul mates
Again
Just for the weekend
We’ve got the shards of memories
We can sword fight with them
Please go for blood
Not for pretend
Cause you know

I’m fun to watch
But I’m not that fun to be around
I made a painting of us
But it couldn’t capture the sound
The very big sound

Ask me where I’m going
Ask me where I’m going
But let me ask you first
So I can know my answer

When we talk about little things
We still give it away
I sold a painting of you
It’s a landscape
A very big landscape
Track Name: in light / in silence / infinite
You surveil the party from above
With unblinking malice
It was thrown in your honor, but not for your benefit
And lo, what tortured wires expel themselves forth from your analog flesh!
Orthodoxy-moronic Soviet decadence, marble, hammers, sickles
Infinitely recursive mirrors, east to west
And a comically large crystal chandelier
(That would be a Chekhov’s prop if we weren’t so late in the second act)
Rotting into the deep red walls are a hundred little landscapes
Which tell us nothing but the big picture
They remind you of the epilogue of Crime and Punishment, which was optimistic
(Though you read it as merely the least effective dream sequence in the novel).

Vladimir Putin’s bag man, a comrade named Lucifer, sent you the message
Your request for asylum has been granted
Sonia became a pawn broker for ex-pats in Moscow
They trade in slightly out-of-date gadgets for petty rubles
You warn her of pawn breaking, “it is a deadly profession”
But you have no ground to stand on
You who took espionage as yours
And took pride in the risk

You hold with Raskolnikov, in his antagonistic belief
That great men are obligated to break the law in order to progress justice
Of course you and Raskol and everyone else who believes this also believes themselves to be counted among those upper echelons
And you’ve seen the metadata, which suggests that nearly everyone feels this way, and among artists, it is ubiquitous.
However, it is sheer, shiny arrogance to say it out loud.
So you descend to the party, and live it.
In light, and in silence, forever.
Track Name: Raskol II
Everyone
Knows everything
Everyone
Knows everything

But you don’t know me
You don’t know me

In every house there’s a room that doesn’t get used
I always find myself in this room
I am the paintings and mirrors and posters and furniture too
Apart from the windows
I am this room

They call me boring complacent or decent at best
But I know there’s something about me that’s better than the rest

I’m brighter than they are
Which makes me darker than they are
But I’m still smarter than they are
Which makes me harder to be around

Asleep at the wheel
I dreamt I was sorry
I dreamt I could feel
Alone
With friends at a party at home

Stuck in a room
Stuck in between
Greatness
And whatever else there is
Patiently watching the snow begin
To fade me out
Track Name: That's The Move
Sometimes you gotta dress up
Put on something weird
Sometimes you don't know the address
So mostly you follow the crowd
Sometimes you gotta trim the beard
And go around back
Will you find homies, or ex-lovers?
Who knows...do 'em proud

I’m in the corner
Cause you’re in the corner
You’re in the corner
Cause I’m in the corner
I’m on the dance floor
Cause you’re on the dance floor
You’re on the dance floor
Cause I’m on the dance floor

That's the move

Sometimes you'll push your way through
See somebody you hate
Sometimes the years will go by
As you jump up and down
Sometimes the smell is coming from you
But mostly it's coming from us
We're really sorry, go have a warm beer
And we'll all catch a cold

Sex in the bathroom
I'm in the bathroom
You're in the bathroom
And I'm in the bathroom

That's the move

Sometimes the scene dries up
When the keg’s all gone
Just you and that filthy drunk floor
That’s stuck to your shoes

Sometimes you're giving it up
You'll say you're a fan
Sometimes you're walking home alone
Cause it's America, you got to, man

That's the move