L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami April 6, 2014 - 4:06am

I've never refrained from a poem, but I've used many refrains. How does a refrain sound in the context of song writing? Or does song writing not have that device?

I'm an a, b, a, b rhyme scheme person. So I sometimes use it to break up the rhythm a litlle bit. No particular order.

I still don't use accents, just because I don't think of them as songs. (More like an epic of a hero like Beowolf, I just don't tend to do books.)

Well thats how you ramble in few words if I seen it.:/

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore April 6, 2014 - 7:05am

While that post utterly confused me, refrains are extremely common in songs. They help unify the different things written about in the verses, bringing them back to the theme, but aren't necessarily the chorus, which is usually in a completely new form. Setting aside Alanis's misuse of the word, take her song "Ironic." The chorus is the whole section that goes, "It's like rain on your wedding day," etc. that's beefed up with background vocals and additional instrumentation. But the refrain is "And isn't it ironic?" repeated at the end of each verse:

… It's a black fly in your Chardonnay
It's a death row pardon two minutes too late
And isn't it ironic, dontcha think?

… He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought,  "Well isn't this nice."
And isn't it ironic, dontcha think?

Here's another, sillier example, that's catchy while still not being the chorus of the song:

I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still
Da doo ron-ron-ron, da doo ron-ron
Somebody told me that his name was Bill
Da doo ron-ron-ron, da doo ron-ron

Note that in both of those examples, the refrain includes the title of the song, yet the choruses do not. While this is common, a refrain is often repurposed in the chorus in a different way as well.

Sometimes they're used in conjunction with homonymy or polysemy, where each line or verse explores the different meanings of a refrained word or phrase. Here, I'll make up a quick terrible one:

Everyone needs a companion
so it goes
But the dog's not been housetrained
so it goes
Landlord says it can't stay
so it goes

Jack Campbell Jr.'s picture
Jack Campbell Jr. from Lawrence, KS is reading American Rust by Phillipp Meyer April 6, 2014 - 8:09am

I use refrains a lot in short fiction. I think it can give short stuff a sense of rythym and continuity that I find really interesting. Some people can manage it with long work. "So it goes" is a great example from Slaughterhouse Five.

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami April 6, 2014 - 8:32am

Ah ok thanks, I think I understand. Yea I apologies about the post, lack of coffee. I'm wondering if I'm confusing refrains for indented lines. I have a long way to go.:/

Jordan Blum's picture
Jordan Blum from Philadelphia, PA is reading various novels (for review) and journal submissions April 14, 2014 - 4:10pm

I use refrains a lot. I'm a big fan of musical conceptual continuity (when a song or melody is repeated multiple times throughout the album). I also reference my work in other work. For example, I have a poem called "Skyline Fractured," but then I have another people that contains the same phrase. I think I got the idea from Devin Townsend; he'll feature the same vocal line on two or more albums.

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami April 14, 2014 - 4:57pm

I guess I just wondered if I was using it correctly.

As with the poem I'm adapting into a novella, I notice when I want to emphasize a line or two I tend to use refrains. Though I'm sure there are other methods.