Palimpsest

Song Type: , , ,

Associated Artists: Andrea Burns, Elena Shaddow

 

from Playbill’s Track-By-Track Breakdown (3/27/20):

“PALIMPSEST”
My friend Joel Fram (music director of Company) used the word “palimpsest” in a sentence, and I needed him to define it for me. He told me a palimpsest is the marking that is left behind after something has been erased or removed, like the imprint of your pen on the second piece of a notepad once you’ve ripped off the top sheet of paper. I said, “Wow—that’s what New York City feels like. It changes so quickly that sometimes you see what it used to be before you can see what it is.” And he said, “Please write that song.” So I did, and I made sure to define the title in the lyric for all those people, like me, who didn’t know what it means. For a wistful piece about memory and the passage of time, I’m extra glad that Andréa Burns was able to sing it. Andréa is one of my oldest and dearest friends in New York. (She and Joel Fram were bridesmaid and groomsman in my wedding!) On the day of the recording Andréa had just suffered an injury that left her with a fractured ankle, and I wasn’t sure she was going to be able to make it to the studio. “Luckily, I don’t need my ankles to sing,” she said.
LYRICS:

WHEN I MOVED TO NEW YORK CITY,
YOU WERE THE MOST EXCITING PERSON I KNEW.
YOU MADE ME FALL IN LOVE WITH MANHATTAN
WHILE I WAS FALLING INTO YOU.

BEHIND EACH STOREFRONT WINDOW,
UNDERNEATH EACH COAT OF PAINT
IS THE STORY OF THE WAY THIS CITY USED TO BE.
I LOVED THE THINGS YOU LOVED IN NEW YORK CITY
BECAUSE YOU GAVE THEM TO ME.

“IT’S CALLED A PALIMPSEST,” YOU SAID
“WHEN THE THING THAT CAME BEFORE HAS DISAPPEARED
BUT STILL THE ESSENCE OF IT SHOWS,
LIKE THE WORDS THAT GET ERASED WHEN A SURFACE IS EFFACED.
THERE’S AN IMPRINT LEFT THAT NEVER GOES.”

WE HAD OUR TIME IN NEW YORK CITY.
THEN, LIKE YOU DO, WE STARTED DRIFTING APART.
YOU HEADED EAST AND FOLLOWED YOUR FORTUNE.
I TRAVELED WEST AND FOUND MY HEART.

YET THERE’S THIS PALIMPSEST, YOU SEE,
WHERE THE THING THAT CAME BEFORE HAS DISAPPEARED,
BUT STILL THE ESSENCE OF IT SHOWS.
YOU STILL SNEAK UP ON MY DAYS IN SUCH UNEXPECTED WAYS.
THERE’S A PART OF YOU THAT NEVER GOES.

SEASONS PASS. TIME SURE FLIES.
BUILDINGS FALL AND RIVERS RISE.
I MANAGE TO FORGET YOU EVERY NOW AND AGAIN,
AND THEN…

I FIND I’M BACK IN NEW YORK CITY.
IT’S OVERWHELMING HOW I’M HOME NOW, AT LAST.
I WALK BENEATH OUR FAVORITE LANDMARKS
AND SEE THEM ONLY IN THE PAST.

THAT WAS TOWER RECORDS WHERE WE’D BROWSE ‘TIL WE COLLAPSED,
AND OUR BAGEL SHOP IS LOST TO A VERIZON STORE.
I SEE THE WORLD WE SHARED IN NEW YORK CITY,
BUT IT’S NOT THERE ANYMORE.

SO I’M THE PALIMPSEST. IT’S ME!
ON THE OUTSIDE THIS NEW YORKER MOVED AWAY,
BUT STILL A GHOST IS LEFT BEHIND,
AND IT HOVERS HERE WITH YOU
WHERE I’M ALWAYS TWENTY TWO…
WITH MANHATTAN ON MY MIND.