"Commissioning A Symphony In C" as written by and John Mccrea....
So you'll be an Austrian nobleman
Commissioning a symphony in C
Which defies all earthly descriptions
You'll be commissioning a symphony in C

With money you squeeze from the peasants
To your nephew you can give it as a present
This magnificent symphony in C
You'll be commissioning a symphony in C

Completely filling the palace concert hall
It's warm and golden like an oven that's wide open
It has a melody both happy and sad
Built on victorious known triads

You enter the room with great caution
Though no-one in the hall is even watching
They are transfixed, they are forgetting just to breathe
They are so taken by your symphony in C

You are sitting there thinking your thoughts
They are not about what is but what is not
You are sitting there breathing in your breath
You are seldom breathing life but mostly death

So you'll be an Austrian nobleman
Commissioning a symphony in C
Which defies all earthly descriptions
You'll be commissioning a symphony in C


Lyrics submitted by shut, edited by EvanDood, adameyer, Gideonator, brownale9000

"Commissioning a Symphony in C" as written by John M Mccrea

Lyrics © Cake - Stamen Music

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Commissioning A Symphony In C song meanings
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56 Comments

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  • +7
    General CommentHi guys,

    I think there is a lot of misinformation floating around in these comments.

    First, I don't think there is any association between the key of C and simplicity, and certainly no association between it and crappy music eaten up by the masses. In addition to Beethoven's Symphony no.1, Mozart's final, and arguably greatest, symphony is also in C. Stravinsky, Bizet, Wagner, and a ton of other composers also used the key. Haydn wrote about a dozen. It was taken as seriously any other key by classical composers.

    I'd argue that the choice of "C" has less to do with any deeper point that Cake is trying to make and more to do with lyricism. "Symphony in C" just sounds better, given the rest of the lyrics.

    Now that that's out of the way, I think some people are spot on that this is a song about record companies, and the extent to which they've transformed into the hated musical patrons of the 17th and 18th centuries.

    Back in the good old days, all great works of art were commissions, mostly from rich noblemen. Haydn, Mozart, and the like all relied upon wealthy, noble "patrons" to support themselves. Beethoven, all high on popular sovereignty, liberte, egality, fraternetie, rode a wave away from this system and towards more autonomous composers who published their own music through private music publishers (pre-cursors, in a way, of the modern day record company).

    The music biz, then, was once a seen as a liberator of artists and their creativity, rather than the oppressor that it has come to be viewed as today. This song is a satirical jab at the way the record industry has come to fancy itself the patron, or Austrian nobleman, of yesteryear.

    Or maybe it's literal. Fuck if I know...
    outofhiselementon August 17, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI'd like to point out that the commissioner of a symphony is not necessarily the composer (and most likely is not, back in the day of Austrian composers such as Mozart). This song may be relating the exploitation of artists by record companies to something like that that could possibly have happened back in the Victorian era...? Also, I'm not sure if, in the third verse, the lyrics are "Victoria's young triads." I would likely think it is victorious young triads, also I can't figure out why someone would call a triad "young." But I guess they could be referring to the early, simpler forms of harmonization....well, anyway
    ryanlon June 21, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Commenti agree with rnf and those that said similar things afterwards... it's very satirical saying how glorious this symphony in C will be (aside of the beethoven one, it doesnt really exist, and a commissioner would not be aware of this) I just read the wind in the willows and for some reason i want to make an analogy between the toad and the commissioner in this song. The toad and the commissioner thinks that whatever their sacks of money can buy is the BEST-using phrases like "victorious young triads" now that is just funny!! lol and "warm and golden like an oven that's wide open" Also when the commissioner enters the room he is looking for praise and attention. "they are so taken by your symphony in C" i dont know it just makes me picture a selfish person who didn't do anything but provide funds and wants to take all the credit. and it really makes me laugh lol.
    grazingpirateon January 07, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe nobleman is also a real pessimist.

    "You're sitting there thinking your thoughts
    They are not about what is but what is not"

    He listens to the symphony, but only hears what is wrong with it, not what is good.

    "You are sitting there breathing in your breath
    You are seldom breathing life but mostly death"

    A metaphor for pessimism, just like the "is the glass half full" question. Do we spend each moment on Earth living, or do we spend each moment just getting closer and closer to death?
    J.J.on June 17, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentNice work, mdg. I think there is a parallel between your research and today's music world where the nobleman (record company) commissions (advances) the composer (musician) to create a symphony (album). The nobleman enters with great caution (the exec sneaks into the performance) but no one pays attention. The nobleman (exec) doesn't appreciate the music -- he just wants to point out its faults. Seldom breathing life (smelling the roses -- appreciating the music) but mostly death (pessimism). I know that John is not a big fan of the record companies. That's my take, anyway.
    jpaul34on January 07, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree about the general sheepishness of the music industry's target audience here, but something else stood out to me as I listened to the song again a few times. Perhaps this song could be about guilt, or rather, the guilt that McCrea feels these people should be feeling at making money off of trash.

    The line "You've entered the room with great caution" is where I first started thinking about this, so I finished and went back to listen one more time, noting the progression of instrumentation througout the song, a gradual buildup to a more frantic and dissonant song in places, contrasted with the easygoing nature of the beginning. This in conjunction with the verse,
    "You're sitting there thinking your thoughts
    They are not about what is but what is not
    You are sitting there breathing in your breath
    You are seldom breathing life but mostly death," for me, symbolizes a fall into paranoia and self-loathing.
    Qazon March 20, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is probably my favorite Cake song.
    It's very haunting, and moody, and I like the lyrics.

    I'm not sure I totally understand the lyrics, but I think it's about how it's not the creatOR that is remembered, but rather the creatION. In this case, the Symphony is enjoyed by all, and will live on, even after the self-centered "nobleman" dies.
    J.J.on June 17, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI was pretty sure he was singing "victorious known triads"

    Sort of playing something already proven successful.
    ubermaxon July 02, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentbest cake song ever.
    giznoton September 04, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis is the second most beautiful in the world ever (no1. is "the most beautiful things" by Jimmy Eat world). The weird symphosizer in the background makes it
    trueMeaningon March 23, 2003   Link

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