Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Cult of Originality

Dear Terra,

as promised, another day, another missive.

the song i sent you yesterday was one of two i wrote within a couple of days in early March, right after the last meeting of our writers` bloc. very unusual circumstance - most months i may write one song, and usually directly before the meeting.

i had been confused about the date of the next one - seems i had a year-old calendar on my wall. thinking that the session would fall on April 1, i invited folks to write a Fool`s song. the confusion was soon relieved, but wheels were already in motion in my brain.

i had also just heard a new duo called Spring Breakup, who formed for the express purpose of putting together a themed album around the idea that the breakup of river ice in the Yukon, where they were writing, often coincides with the breakup of relationships.

so i was starting with someone else`s idea. i have no problem doing that - i do it all the time, and try my best to reveal my sources. but it seems the idea is anathema to some songwriters.

and i didn`t stop at just borrowing the idea. the basic premise of the song i was thinking of was that couples are fooled into thinking that their love is forever, much the way that one might think a season will never end.

so the last line of the first verse turned out to be:
''We were fooled by a season, but never again, never again''
which led naturally to a rockin`chorus of:
''We won`t get fooled again, by endless dark or weather...''

The Who. i know.

and yes, i would have preferred to come up with something just as catchy but totally original. but i didn`t. and ''totally original'' is an impossibility in any case. it`s a trap. a cult.

i always warn my songwriting students of this. think about it - if you came up with any piece of music that didn`t fit some pattern that had already been done, it would be unlistenable, crap.

folks have this idea that ''creative'' people ''create'' like God - out of nothingness, zero history. it ain`t so. we are inspired by something out there, and try to make something else out of it, by using what`s in here.

The Cruellest Month

March came in like a lion, the wind roared

there were maples to tap, and rivers to ford, rivers to ford

soon out goes the lamb, in soft rain

we were fooled by a season, but never again, never again

we won`t get fooled again, by endless dark or weather

frozen skin a burning pain, winter looks like forever

but we won`t get fooled again

time for the breakup, the ice groans

i can only agree, here on my own, here on my own

what were we dreaming, in our little den

we were fooled by the fire, but never again, never again

we won`t get fooled again, by this endless river

that flows while standing still, love looks like forever

but we won`t get fooled again

April is the cruellest month, chaos is the rule

try to divine its wrath, you`ll be the first of fools

may the sun rise to meet you, full in the face

with the wind at your back, all of your days, all of your days

spring`s a beginning, spring is an end

we fooled ourselves, but never again, never again

we won`t get fooled again, lying together

the lion and the lamb, nothing is forever...

so i had a few weeks to play the song, get used to the idea that it wasn`t all mine. it seemed to work, and i thought it would be a good one for the band. took it to BADASS (the writers`bloc), and most liked it. except for a fellow who thought it was good except for the Who reference, and could not understand why i would even try to get away with it.

i may need to start hanging out with a younger crowd, folks who are used to sampling, mashups etc.

you can`t call it ''stealing'' when it`s such a well-known phrase. i like to think of it as an ''hommage''. i bet Pete and Roger and John and Keith would dig it.

will write again soon



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