The Basic Scoop:
This project is a concept album and comic book about the
life of Rosalind Franklin, the English scientist whose pioneering work helped
lead to the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA, but who was
denied due credit during her tragically short lifetime. The music is eclectic: some
bossa nova here, a polka there, wind quintet, 70s AM rock... all with a
sprinkling of pretty counterpoint. The comic book is roughly 25 full colour pages. I
expect the entire project to be finished by late autumn. Your pledges will
help pay for mixing and mastering the album, audio CD duplication, printing the comic book, and promotion. Thanks!
The Background Story:
Hi, I’m Bennett Lin, singer and currently sole member of the
band Bobtail Yearlings; I wrote all the songs and I’m drawing all the comics
for this project. I’m fascinated by the endless ways
in which melody, harmony, lyrics, and visuals may be woven together to create an
engaging story. Our first album, Yearling’s Bobtail, played with
inventive narrative forms inspired by Modernist writer James Joyce. However, its lyrical and conceptual density didn't translate well live. As such, despite garnering initial attention
from Secretly Canadian and Nonesuch, it failed to make an impact and was subsequently
rejected by both record labels.
Dejected in the knowledge that we’d done our best and it still
wasn’t good enough, I took comfort in reading about Rosalind Franklin’s struggles
as a female scientist in the 1950s. Like Franklin, I had strong faith in the value of understated hard work; also like Franklin, I could easily
provoke and alienate those whose cooperation I needed most. Her early death
from ovarian cancer especially hit a nerve after our own bassist and dear
friend, David Kannenstine, passed away from pancreatic cancer two years ago.
As I recovered from the label rejections and from losing
Dave, I felt a strong desire to tell Rosalind Franklin’s story; after all, if it
could resonate so strongly with my experiences, it might do the same for
countless others. Thus, this album isn’t just a straightforward biography. On a
deeper level, it explores the oftentimes capricious nature of success versus failure, recognition versus obscurity, and ponders the relative roles played by
merit, chance, social bonds, unconscious biases, and our own
personal virtues and flaws in determining such vastly different outcomes for
each one of us.
I think this album can help bring
attention to the difficulties still faced by women in the sciences today. I also
hope it will be a fitting tribute to Dave, in any small way it can. And finally, I believe its success will be a boon to experimental songwriters and others
who share my aesthetics and priorities. Unconventional narrative forms are difficult
to pull off in a live setting, putting us at a huge disadvantage in today’s music
scene, so I’m always happy to see one of us beat the odds every now and again.
And if it should happen to be my band for once, then hey... I certainly won’t
Bobtail Yearlings website: Feel free to download mp3s, lyrics, and scores from our first album, Yearling's Bobtail, as well as the complete manuscript of my songwriting book, Bobtail Method. It's a simple yet effective lesson plan
based on my personal approach to songwriting, in which melody and chords are
written together as an integrated whole rather than as discrete layers.
Some notable songs from Yearling's Bobtail:
Willy the Cocoa (audio, lyrics): A song juxtaposing my childhood growing up with an autistic
brother and the murder of an autistic homeless man. Lyrically, my attempt to
create a sinister version of Jabberwocky.
Good Night, Sita (audio, lyrics): A song about an unsuccessful first date. Lyrically, my
attempt to create an uninterrupted, stream-of-consciousness monologue similar
to the “Penelope” chapter of Ulysses.
Constellations (audio, lyrics): My attempt to recreate the multicontextual puns of Finnegans
Wake. (Full disclosure: I actually never got past the first fifty or so pages!)
Odin (audio, lyrics), On a Golden Cord (audio, lyrics), Cremated (audio, lyrics): These songs use a literary device of my own invention called
doublespeaker rhyme, whereby two different sets of lyrics that rhyme syllable
for syllable are sung simultaneously and in harmony, each panned hard to a