Lillian: A Folk Opera

by Ben Lear

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1.
00:55
2.
04:42
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03:41
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10.
03:16
11.
05:13
12.
13.
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credits

released 14 June 2011

Lillian: A Folk Opera

Music and lyrics by Ben Lear.

Produced by Ben Lear.
Engineered by Mark Gabor and Ben Lear at Axis Sound and The Village Recorder
Addl. Engineering by Carlos Salguero at NYU Steinhardt
Mixed by Greg Morgenstein at Astound Studios
Mastered by Gavin Lurssen and Reuben Cohen at Lurssen Mastering

Ben Lear: Vocals, Guitar, Keys.
Ian Sloane: Bass and Organ
Ian Chang: Drums and Percussion.
Ian Davis: Guitar and Vocals (lead on 8)
Kaitlyn Olson: Vocals (lead on 11)
Grayson Sanders: Piano, Rhodes, Organ and Glockenspiel.
Sean O’Brien: Guitar and Lap Steel (10, 11)
Dylan Nichols: addl. Vocals (3, 7, lead on 9)
Robert Francis: Vocals (13)
Alex Casnoff: addl. Vocals (14)

Marimba: Paul Frucht

Woodwinds: Rob Walker (clarinet on 1, 5, 6, 7, 12), Jas Walton and Adam Schatz (tenor saxophone on 13 & 14)

Brass: Bryan Walters (trumpet), Mark Broschinsky (trombone), Evan Geiger (French horn)

Strings: Amanda Lo (violin I), Chi-Young Hwang (violin II), Elise Frawley (viola), Sofia Nowik (cello), Patrick Swoboda (double bass)

Choir (arranged by Ben Lear and Fred Martin): Faith Gray, Nene Millsap, Dwanna Orange, Sherrye Player, Lashonda Knight Pruitt, Janae Rockwell, Denaja Stephens, D’ana Stewart (7, 8, 14)

Album art and layout: Becca Barnet (beccabar.net)

Thank you:

My family, my friends and my band!

Joe Church, Mark Gabor, Ian Sloane, Ian Chang, Ian Davis, Kaitlyn Olson, Dylan Nichols, Kris Nolte, Alice Bacon, Renata Zeiguer, Becca Barnet, Harris Mendheim and Possum Den, Greg Morgenstein, Fred Martin, Grayson Sanders, Amanda Lo, Robert Ingram, Rachelle Beckerman, Mark Allen Johnson, Rachel Lyons, Dan Sakamoto, Robert Francis, Steve Rossiter, Miles Rifkin, John Burke, Seth Presant, Mary Hogan, Mark Johnson, Beau Sia, Jeff Greenberg, Rainbo Records and Mark E.

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about

Ben Lear Brooklyn, New York

BEN LEAR is a Brooklyn based composer and songwriter. His debut album, Lillian, "an edgy, experimental folk opera blending acoustic guitar songs with percussive chamber and orchestral music" (Los Angeles Times), was released in June of last year.

His live show, which often contains orchestra and light sculptures, has been called "an epic blend of Arcade Fire, Feist and a Muppet show" (The Awl).
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Track Name: Lillian
Lillian, how do you fall asleep so easily?
I want to know how do you close your eyes and uncurl your toes?

Where do you go when I speak and its clear that you aren’t listening?
You’ve drifted off, far from me. All I’ve lost I’ve lost to the sea.

Lillian, are you aware there’s an island of plastic
At sea somewhere?
All we’ve forgot, all we’ve misplaced has gathered there
As the waves cover up their trace.

I lost my keys, I lost my phone, I lost a hold of all I used to own.
Lillian, while you dream, could you keep the sun from rising?

Let me begin. Just tell me when and I will dive right in and start swimming.
With fins and a mask, with air on my back and with the map that I drew when I lost you too.

To the great pacific trash
To the oceanic garbage patch.

All I care about’s there and the water’s dulling its shape.
There’s the wake that you made when the current took you away.

Lil, I hope you hear this. Even sleep can’t keep you fearless.

I need you to come through for me on the other side.
Tie with strings the lost things so they’re ready when I arrive to travel through the divide and come out alive.
Track Name: Imaginary Friends
When I was young my mother
Taught me caution,
She said listen to me, son,
You’re my only one.

That being said I didn’t
Have many friends.
So I spent all my time at home.
But I didn’t spend it on my own,
I had company alone.

Yes, I have imaginary friends.
Whenever I’m alone I know I’m one of them.

Hello my friends I haven’t
Seen you in years.

We were letting you grow up.
We didn’t want to interrupt.

I really hope that you will
Join my journey.

He needs what only we can find,
Hidden deep where he is blind,
In the waters of his mind.

Yes, we are imaginary friends.
Whenever he’s alone we will be there for him.

We’ll tag along because we need to show that
You are wrong in what you say.
That there never was a wave.
But rather you pushed her away.

Yes, these are imaginary friends.
Even though right now I don’t believe them.
Track Name: Scuba Lessons
Remember when your whole family went to Hawaii.
You asked nicely if I could come as your friend.
The sky was dark and the rocks were jagged as knives.
You said we should give scuba diving a try.

On our first dive I was
Bored until we saw a
School of turtles swimming
Right by us.

I touched one’s shell to tell him hello,
He said tell me something that I don’t know.

You shared a room with your sister and her best friend.
I shared one with your seven-year-old brother, Glen.
We snuck out to meet up under the moonlight.
By the mango tree I learned you could cry.

You said maybe if we
Went under the water
Life would stop above
To let us swim.

I touched your face just to say time won’t slow.
You said tell me something that I don’t know.

Where was I when you learned you could breathe underwater?

Where do I find you to take you back up to the surface?
Track Name: Underwater Sounds - The Medley
Sister, brothers,
Water colors.

Father, above
We sing with love.

Underwater sounds.

Lonely diver,
You will find her.

Open your ears
And you will hear

Underwater sounds.

I come here following a current that carries all I ever lost.
I won’t stop swimming till I find it. It doesn’t matter what’s the cost.

Which one of you wants to show me the way.
Which one of you will guide me?

The guy you want, the one and only Carl Young.
The chosen son, runs the old congregation.

You need some direction? Carl Young. He’s got ‘em.
You need a confession? Carl Young. He’ll listen.

Here he comes, chosen one, our prophet Carl Young.

Ladies come here. Who is your friend?

He’s just a diver on a mission. We told him we’d help him if you gave your permission.

Diver, come here. Let me see those eyes.
You look for her with God on your side. If you don’t accept him a storm end will your life. Follow me, young diver, I’m your only chance of survival.
Track Name: Manehivi
One long ago day, our ancestors laid their eyes on a gift from above.
We imagine the sight when it captured the sunlight and lit up a path To the Lord.
Since that day, we constantly pray for more gifts to light up the rest of The way.
Here, in the hull of the SS Ohio, we worship the gifts we’ve received.

We have been blessed by an island just west.
Heaven for those not yet dead.

We praise Her by name, “Manehivi, you came!”
To lead us to heaven from bed.

Just to be clear did I just hear a woman passed by here in bed?
Just to be sure, this island of yours, could you please show me the way To its shores?

Sorry, but no, we can’t let you go, unless we can baptize you first.
Over there is a pocket of air. Just dip in your head and then follow my Prayer.

Manehivi, I’m coming. Manehivi, I’m there.

We praise Her by name, “Manehivi, you’ve came!”
To lead us to heaven from bed.

Thanks to you I’ve found my way to the island that holds all the things That I’ve lost.

Just beware, there’s something out there. The current’s grown colder And fierce as the night.
Track Name: The Telling Memory
I was just in the back
Looking for a telling memory
And I think I found one he won’t like
Because it
Brings back
The darkest time
He knows and shows
Why Lillian goes.
Track Name: It's A War
When I was a kid
I loved a girl in my class
She was lovely but she
Didn’t love me back.

Every night I called her
Hoping we would talk for hours
But she always had to go and
Do her math.

Still my heart flew out to her
Like a bird through a glass door.

It was war in my body.
When she told me we were done.

All my butterflies, one by one they died.
The only thing that made it out alive was my mind

The rest of that semester
I barely remember.
I was bottled up inside my head.

I gave up on feeling because
Every time I tried I would
Remember how my heart felt
When it died.

And to think all these years later
My body’s not restored.

It’s a war deep within.
When I’d meet someone new.

My mind would be ready to trust again
But my heart would always tell it to shut down again

And go cold.

It’s a war here at sea.
And Lillian’s out there.

Could it be that she was never pulled by a wave
But instead my heart’s still frozen and I pushed her away?
To an island of waste?
Track Name: Show Me Love
When we were ten we made plans to hold hands at Hebrew school.
When you found within you the nerve to touch, though I hoped for such, I withdrew.

But it wasn’t because I wasn’t into you.

When I read the poem that you hid above the shelf, I smiled to myself and hoped for more.
Then it became clear that the poem was the first of a hefty book of verse about my hair.

But it wasn’t because I wasn’t into you.

You’re the first boy, who ever really showed me love. But what you really showed me was too much.

Are you crazy? You think you’ll never love again? Just get a hold of how you felt back then.

Gracey, tell me is it really you? And tell me is it really true you liked that poem?

Gracey, if I really loved you so, there’s something that I need to know right now.

Did you ever for a moment love me back?

Remember, if you loved me, that it’s perfect on its own. And never let it go because you’re scared.

And, yes, I loved you; I just wasn’t ready yet.
Track Name: Silver Water (It Must Be The Great Plastiki)
Belly full of silver water when all I need is air.
And I ask why did I bother if everything ends here?

The storm and the squall, the weight of it all.
If only I had heard the warning call.

I see the morning sun come softly pressing through the fog.
And with it burns away the hope of you beyond my thoughts.

The storm and the squall, the weight of it all.
If only I had heard the warning call.

Last night, before you went to sleep we had a fight.
It made me think, “What would I do if I lost you?”

Is there a boat out there made entirely of plastic bottles?
I think I see a boat.

Is there a man aboard? Must be captain of the great plastiki.
What a welcome sight.
Track Name: David's Song (There Is Not Such A Place Exists)
My name’s David and I am a Rothschild.
I’ve been traveling the sea for so long
My adventure is really quite simple.
I sail to Sydney alone in this boat

Made of plastic bottles
Tied with white rubber bands.

Silence distracts from the chaos that
Billows below where I stand.

Here’s the place where the tiniest particles
Swirl around like electric balloons.
They destroy all the life that the sea provides.
They destroy the primordial womb.

All the debris of humanity
Gather for miles around.

Nothing could pain me to think about
More than the mess that I’ve found.

Now listen David I need your help.
There is an island I don’t know where.
There you can find all you’ve ever lost.
And I have lost more than I can bear.

Can you take me there?

There is no place like what you described.
There’s just the garbage you swim beside.

Believe me there is much more to find
Like all the moments that slip your mind.

All your forgotten moments are gone.
Forever.
But maybe that’s better.
Just thank the moments you have.

And as the sons of a mother who’s dying
I’m trying to locate her wounds.

I’ll find the drawings I used to make.
You’ll only find paper gone to waste.
I’ll find the film from Hawaii too.
You’ll find the chemicals spilling through.

There is not such a place exists.

I call the memories out from the sea
You little jellyfish come to me.
You turn the key to a perfect place
Where I can find what we’ve put to waste.

I’ll find the woman I want to love.
I’ll find the love that I want to share.
Now tell me Lillian, are you there?
Now tell me Lillian, are you there?
Track Name: Just Plain Dead (Closing)
As I look out on this place,
The sun dries tears from the ocean.
There’s nothing floating on the surface.
It’s all swirling underneath.

My hands are cupped in the water.
A speck of plastic swims within them,
Though it’s no bigger than a grape skin.
It will never disappear.

I could keep searching but its just becoming clear,
All that I need was never here.

The waves were telling me by crashing overhead,
Things here aren’t lost, they’re just plain dead.

I look to David in the distance.
His throws his anchor to the seafloor.
The plastic falls right through my fingers
To join again the endless tide.

I could keep searching but its just becoming clear,
All I wanted to discover was never here.

The waves were telling me by crashing overhead,
Things here aren’t lost, they’re just plain dead.

You didn’t need to search the ocean to find your bed.
Track Name: The Journal (VINYL ONLY)
My mother kept a journal
Within arm’s reach of her bed.
Every night she’d write down
Things that I said.

They’re the things a child whispers
When he can’t quite find his sound.
They’re the things that no one
Else could have found.

They’re the words that keep us safe on the ground.

Last spring I saw my mother
For the first time in a year.
And her eyes were glazed with something to fear.

By the palisades we gathered
And tossed her ashes to the sea.
I threw up behind the sycamore tree.
By my door her journal waited for me.

By mistake I somehow threw it away.

I wanna scream, mom, you know I didn’t mean what I said.
I'm sorry that I pushed you away.

What I would do to have one more day with you but I threw
Your journal to the garbage patch.

I’m afraid I’m losing memories
Down a current in my spine
They deposit somewhere no one can find.

The machine is out of order,
It’s awaiting full repair.
I inspect my brain in search of a tear.
But I touch its walls and find nothing there.

Could it be you’re somewhere still inside me.

I wanna scream, mom, you know I didn’t mean what I said.

I'm sorry that I pushed you away.

What I would do have one more day with you but I Threw your journal to the garbage patch.

Lillian, stay right where you are and I will meet you there.
I think I know how.