Flock of Words

Originally Performed ByTrey Anastasio
Appears On
HistorianTim Wade (TheEmu)
Last Update2015-06-02


One of the most frequent topics addressed by Tom Marshall is the frustration often inherent in communication. Words can encounter interference (“Waves,” “Water In the Sky”) or they can simply be missed (“Sample In a Jar,” “Anything But Me”). Sometimes you want to speak but you can’t (“Talk,” “Sleep”), and sometimes you want someone to speak, but they won’t (“Curlew’s Call”). But communication is a double-edged sword. Childhood sayings about sticks and stones aside, words can hurt. In fact, sometimes what is left unsaid can be just as painful, such as in the exquisitely pensive composition “Flock of Words.”

”Flock of Words” Trey Anastasio Band – 10/27/12, Boston, MA

The brain strives for control, but is often betrayed by the heart. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of trying to say something you don’t mean and finding it difficult to force the words out. Such a scene is described in “Flock of Words,” where a “moment of silence” leads to an unwelcome revelation. A simple “pause in a word” is a dagger wound that punctures the soul of the speaker. That slight hesitation exposes a painful truth that cannot be forgotten or assuaged, and in his sadness, the speaker can only plead for solitude.

“Flock of Words” was first performed at Higher Ground on 7/4/01, one of nine debuts that night, including TAB mainstays “Cayman Review,” “Mr. Completely,” and “Simple Twist Up Dave.” In the early years it appeared with some frequency as a mid-to-late set breather, a role in which such melancholy tunes (e.g. “Lifeboy”) sometimes struggle. But the addition of strings transforms the song into a majestic, poignant piece of art which is simultaneously proud and sorrowful. Several versions have been so graced, including audiences very large – 6/13/04 at Bonnaroo with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Ray Paczkowski on piano and Jen Hartswick on backing vocals, and very small – a flawless rendition on Trey and Tom’s home turf at Princeton's Richardson Auditorium on 11/18/10 with Scorchio Quintet and Leah Coloff on accompanying vocals. As it has only been played a handful of times since 2006, “Flock of Words” is a rarity that all TAB fans should treasure.

”Flock of Words” Trey Anastasio and the Scorchio Quintet – 11/18/10, Princeton, NJ

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