Monday, September 4th, 2017...4:21 pmRachel Lockwood

A Nostalgic Lament

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In its most basic definition, a lament is a “passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” Initially, this term seems narrow and rigid- can one only lament about the death of someone? When thinking about it in this way, a lament is dark and somber. However, the DLT pushes the definition of “lament” slightly further to define it as an expression of “grief” or “mournful regret” about the loss of a person or “former state” of being. With this broader definition in mind, I was reminded of “To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra. In this song, Patrick Watson croons about the loss of a home built between two people. Interestingly, the song is focused less on the relationship, but on the actual home itself. The narrator states that the home “is a place where [he/she doesn’t] feel alone.” He/she is so strongly connected to the house that the house fills the narrator’s loneliness. The song continues to be place-focused as the narrator of the song gives a detailed description of the nuances of the house- trees lining the outside and cracks in the walls. The song takes a turn when a gust of wind blows the narrator and his/her house down. The narrator “held on tightly” but did not succeed, and eventually concluded it was “time to leave and turn to dust.” The narrator’s decision to let the house go is ultimately what causes this song to sound as though the narrator is lamenting about a past life. The even statements sung in the beginning of the song build a strong and stable connection between the narrator and his/her house. As the song continues and the house crumbles away, we, as the listeners, are left with this sense of sadness and nostalgia also felt by the narrator as he/she reflects on something that once was. When thinking of the term “lament” in this way, as someone “lamenting” about a lost place or a lost state of being, the term takes on less of a morbid, dark meaning, and more of a sense of nostalgia, or a means to appreciate something by.


  • Your description of the song was very visceral and vivid. I could easily imagine it in my mind’s eye and it’s made me want to listen to it now. You did an excellent job of explaining “lament”, it was clear and concise.

  •   Professor Seiler
    September 6th, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Hi, Rachel–I agree with Sayahn about the aptness–and also the creativity–of your choice of example here. If you were to expand this post (which you don’t need to), I wonder how you might draw in the mournful-yet-energetic quality of the music of this song, which to my ear is even more plaintive than the lyrics.

    Now: can you see a spot or two to put a paragraph break into this post, and thereby give it that last little bit of shaping? Well done.

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