Wednesday, August 27, 2008

if a song is sung in the forest...

does anybody hear?

my friend Bob told our writers' bloc one time that he writes songs for nobody but himself. doesn't consider the audience at all.

this was extremely interesting to me, as foreign notions usually are. we were discussing the dangers of editing too early in the songwriting process, especially when influenced by the consideration of what an audience might think.

i agree with this in principle. editing should come very late in the process. i think of a song as a growing thing, which should be allowed to become itself, suggest its own structure, dart out in unanticipated directions, like a plant towards water, towards light. editing is necessary, and necessarily merciless, but it needs to wait until the thing has finished growing.

but i always have an audience in mind. most of my songs are gifts, things i want to share with specific friends, loved ones, or with groups of strangers i'm looking forward to meeting. i imagine them listening as the song is building in my heart, my head, my hands, my voice. i smile at the thought of their reactions, laughing at an inside joke or nodding at some universal truth i've managed to snag in a brilliant fleeting moment.

Friday, August 22, 2008

where does one begin?

the blank page can be an awesome enemy. but so easily conquered, when you think about it. write something, anything. instantaneous victory, the enemy annihilated.

people don't write because they think they don't know how: a writer is someone who holds a secret, some magical knowledge.

but you know what a writer is? someone who writes.

i've named this blog "followthatsong" because it's catchy and attaches a visual image that anyone can identify with. but it also sums up the way i write, when i write well. when i write badly, it's because i'm forcing it for one reason or another, trying to make it happen. when i write well, it flows out of me and it's all i can do to keep up with the tide of images and melody.

Bob Dylan says that creativity is experience, observation and inspiration. i would add "emotion" to the list, but otherwise it's a pretty sound summation.

experience: you don't have to have experienced first hand the thing that you are writing about,

but the richer your life, the more likely you are to have a feel for complexity and multiformity. so, instead of staring at a blank page, wishing you could write, why not go out and do something?

observation: and when you go out, don't look at the sidewalk thinking your deep inner thoughts and wish you could write something. watch people, animals, things, landscapes, colours. listen to speech, the wind, the waves, birds, leaves. feel rain on your forehead, the boardwalk under your feet. taste the salt on your lips. smell the air in the woods.

inspiration: and when you observe, be inspired. by folks with passion, beautiful things, humorous happenings. trigger memories, feelings, write down snippets of thought. walk to the rhythm of a phrase. give it a melody.

that is how i write a song. when i get home, i pick up the guitar, put chords to the nub of melody, and it grows from there. i don't plan the structure, but i know it will come. the structure fits the song, not the other way 'round.

and at magical times, the images and music come so fast i feel like hailing a cab and yelling "followthatsong!"