What, besides the words, makes a noir song a noir song?
But what about how it says what it says — its vocal inflections, its instrumental breaks, its production, its orchestration if you've chosen a piece of classical music? (Yes, classical, perhaps opera especially, can be noir. Think of Carmen.)
What does Shane MacGowan add when he drops his voice on the line "There ain't much else for kids to do" on "Rain Street"? What about the ghostly refrain of "Maria Lando," at first a chorus, separate from Susana Baca's lead voice, joining with her on the words solo trabaja ... Maria only works and never has time to raise her eyes toward the sky?
Think of those noir and crime songs that make you shiver, and tell me what, besides the words, makes you feel the way you do: the arrangement? A chilling flatness or an emotional catch in the singer's voice? Just to make things difficult, what are the literary equivalents of those tools? How does an author produce the effect in a reader that Billie Holiday's voice does in a listener?
© Peter Rozovsky 2012