Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mariposa's Young Songwriters

Dear Terra,

i mentioned yesterday that i would have to start hanging out with a younger crowd, i.e. one who wouldn't mind the way i "borrow" material from other writing, notably songs.

thing is, i've already done so. my good friend Aaron, pictured here, who not long ago was being mentored himself, has become a mentor to some brilliant young songwriters in Orillia. and he is speeding up the generational thing even more, by having these young folks teach songwriting at an upcoming event at the Leacock house.

so he asked me to design a workshop, using the four writers and myself to teach the basics and to lead writing exercises. when i sat down to do so, i was somewhat at a loss. i had team-taught in the past, but only with good friends whose writing styles and strengths were well known to me.

i prepared as well as i could, going over my material and possible exercises to use, but with very little idea how it would look in the end. as it turned out, i needn't have worried. the training session proceeded in much the same fashion as our writing - organically. as different as our approaches to writing may seem, this was a common thread: none of us write with a plan. we start with something we find interesting, and we grow it from there.

Aaron (different Aaron) realized it might be worthwhile for him to start with a lyrical idea, rather than picking up the guitar every time. so i suggested he lead "The Spider Game", where you start with an evocative word or phrase, circle it, draw "legs" from it, each with another word or phrase related to the first, and the same outward from each of those.

Tyler's advice to beginning writers related to the middle of the process: "if it's not working, try something else!" so we decided to exaggerate the idea. he will bring a well-know song to play, and the group will be asked to suggest new lyrics which would give the song an entirely different meaning. i hope this will open folks' minds to new possibilities- eg. a happy song can be written in a minor key; a sad song can have some rhythm to it.

Hayley starts with a musical idea, and when she starts writing lyrics, typically gets bogged down when a well-known phrase ("ships passing in the night") suggests itself and takes over. so i suggested she lead an exercise in "cliche-busting", ie. finding your own creative way to say the same thing without using trite, overused phrases. Aaron (the first) even gave an example where he alluded to a cliche through rhyme: "between the clock and your face" ("a rock and a hard place"). brilliant.

Chris is an amazing guitarist who writes tunes, not songs. how best to use him seemed like it would be the hardest part of all, but not so. it's very hard in these group sessions to do much work on music, strange as that may seem. but this was our opportunity - Chris would help each participant come up with a melodic idea for an essential phrase they had gleaned from Aaron's or Hayley's exercises.

i think it's going to be great.



No comments: