Music, Lyrics & The Meridian Line

In Brazil, London is never four hours ahead of you, you’re always four hours behind London.

Did you know Greenland fits fourteen times into the African continent? What kind of representation is this!

For a Brazilian person coming to visit London, seeing and stepping on the meridian line can be quite a big deal. After all, it’s not every day we get to step over the Prime Meridian and place a foot on the eastern hemisphere of the planet and another in the western.

In the same way the people who drew the world map made their countries disproportionately large (maybe they were trying to compensate for something), they also propagated a story that their countries were the centre of the world.

Drawing that world map in the first place also came with the decision that north was up and south was down, because that too is just a human invention — in space there is no up or down.

So like so many other things we invented, Greenwich became known to the world as mark zero, the meantime by which we would henceforth measure all time around the globe.

That helped the narrative that London and it’s neighbouring geography was the centre of the world making everything from then on euro-centric, even if we try to pretend it’s not.

So for my great-grandfather Zé Carlos Medeiros it was indeed a big deal that my sister and I were living in Greenwich and that he was coming to visit from Brazil.

So as I told you guys in chapter one of the Story Behind Greenwich, Zé arrived in London in October of 2019 and he brought a composition with him as a gift for his family. He titled it Greenwich.

I wanted to surprise him with lyrics for his composition, but I wanted it to be extra special. So I busted out the big guns: my secret weapon in the form of the Irish poet, actress and (now) songwriter, Aisling Groves-McKeown.

I gave her the word “Greenwich” as a spring board and the connotations were clearly very inspiring because she wrote a beautiful poem in the space of ten minutes while standing at a bus stop in London.

Part I
Part II

You can hear Aisling tell you about her inspiration for the poem in person by watching our latest update on the Story Behind Greenwich on our YouTube channel.

I find it impressive that she could’ve been so inspired and that she’s such a brilliant creative that she wrote this gorgeous combination of words in ten minutes while standing in the freezing cold.

There was a lot that came to Aisling’s mind when I approached her with the idea. There was the obvious starting point with the meridian line, what it means to “straddle the zero”, but there was also the connotations of Greenwich’s maritime history.

In 1675 King Charles II commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to build the Royal Observatory in Greenwich so that the stars could be more accurately mapped to help with the navigation of the British navy.

On the right is Flamsteed House, named after the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed.

So Greenwich has always been a centre point for helping sailors find their way home long before there was a nation called Brazil filled with a population that craved to straddle the meridian line.

This made Aisling wonder about centre points of guidance.

Cosmic Plughole, Highly Commended in the People And Space category of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year awards 2019. This image is a stacked star trail, combined to show an hour and a quarter of the Earth’s rotation through space and time. James Stone (Australia).

The north star is another one of those. No matter what time of night, the polar star always points north, because it’s directly above the Earth’s axis. We talk about “north stars” in figurative ways when we say, “find your true north” and “I’ll be your guiding light”, but what does it mean to actually know where you’re going and most importantly, where you want to go?

Is it a physical direction, like where your family is or where your job is? Or is it something in your imagination, like what kind of relationship you want to cultivate with your parents or what promotion you want to receive at work?

How many of us actually know the answer to that simple question: where do I want to go?

All of this was going through Aisling’s mind when she wrote that poem.

One part of the poem that moved me in particular was the line, “I throw a message in a bottle out into the waters, the knowledge of having written, not the hope of being read, keeping me afloat.”

I love this idea that when you are feeling completely hopeless you can find the strength to carry on in the act of taking the next step, not in the belief that you’ll get where you want to go.

Here’s what Aisling’s poem looks like now that it’s been given a metric and a melody:

Greenwich Lyrics

Another fascinating thing to consider when you re-read the original poem is what bits were kept in once the melody moulded it into a song. That’s where my job came in.

I took Zé’s melody and I coupled it with Aisling’s poem, but my job was relatively easy and I was merely the tool. The main challenge I had was to avoid altering either of their creations when colliding them.

But, all great things that come together inevitably form something new.

Artwork by Victoria Di Gioia. Insta: victoriadigioia

So there were adaptations to the melody and I restructured the poem into lyrics. One change that stood out to me in particular was the line “the earth’s axis pointing at me”, which was adapted into “the Earth was pointing at me”.

Firstly, what does it mean if the earth’s axis is point at you? In literal terms, you’re facing the north star. This means you’re not entirely lost at sea, you might have a better idea of where you were before, which is half the victory to knowing where you’re going.

But, on a deeper level it can mean that your own north star, that cheesy metaphoric one I mentioned before, is pointing at you. So the answer to your questions is within you! Maybe it means you know where you want to go, which is far more important than knowing where you’re going.

Main artwork for Greenwich. Artwork by Victoria Di Gioia. Insta: victoriadigioia

The metric of the melody forced me to cut the word “axis” out of the sentence. Does this change the meaning of it for you? For me, it suddenly makes me think of the Earth as an entity.

The Earth itself is pointing at me in that imagery and I’m either out in space looking at the entire planet or she’s now a personified deity, just like in Moana, and she’s telling me where to go.

Suddenly I’m directly in touch with Paolo Coelho’s “Soul of World”, that inner voice you can tap into that somehow knows everything you need to know about every single problem you face, every time, no matter what the problem you’re facing.

Artwork by Victoria Di Gioia. Insta: victoriadigioia

Greenwich will be out on the 7th of August on all digital platforms and on The Vone’s Bandcamp page.

If you pre-order it on Bandcamp directly from us, you’ll get a nifty little PDF booklet with the Story Behind Greenwich and exclusive photos for you to keep. You’ll also get a bonus track that we won’t be releasing anywhere else!

Thank you for the support everyone.

Sending much love,

Marcelo Cervone

The Vone



Lead singer of The Vone. Here to tell you some stories!

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