Exploring the Muse: SongMap

SongMap

At the DS106 Daily Create the other day, we were given the task of creating a “hand drawn” map. In other words, get away from the computer and make something on paper. I’m glad I did that because this map got me thinking metaphorically about how I go about writing songs. Plus, I got to poke fun at myself and my own wanderings in this imaginary world where I hope melodies and rhythm will come together.

Peace (on the map),
Kevin

App Review: Music Memos

Music Memo App

Well, now … this is some sort of magic. I had a songwriting friend who urged me to check out this new free app by Apple called Music Memos, and I finally got around to it yesterday. Yes, it is pretty nifty. You can record ideas, and not only will the app record (not all that special, really), it will lay out the chord structure (see image), and allow you to add in automated bass and drums.

So, the musical idea takes shape in the app. Sort of. It’s not perfect (the drums start off and end rather awkward and the bass doesn’t always want to be in tune with the song) but it is a great way to “jot down” musical ideas and at least hear them begin to come into formation. I jangled in a few chords and was pretty impressed with the results.

Did I mention this one is for free?

Here is a song I did in the app, moved to Garageband for a slight mix, then into Soundcloud, and then into Zeega …

Peace (in making music),
Kevin

EduJoy: Scenes from a Pop-Up Concert

I am the advisor to our Student Council, and the group just hosted the first Pop-Up Concert — a sort of unofficial concert of sixth grade musicians (including teachers) for an audience of sixth graders and anyone else who wandered into the cafeteria after lunch. We didn’t really announce it or anything.

I wrote a song for the event, and I was joined on the stage by my school technology friend and guitar player, Steve. The song is called One True Friend.

There was a sixth grade A Capella group who did a fantastic job (but not sure of permissions to share photos and videos) and then a few individual student performers, including these two gifted students who work with Steve on music on a regular basis.

Sara (on the ukulele, singing Riptide)

Gabby (singing a song she wrote)

It was a cool way to end the week before April vacation, and to showcase student talent in a concert that wasn’t all that stressful (although the students were still nervous).

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

Woody Guthrie Lives Inside of Me

memecat stays positive

From time to time, I pull out my guitar and record a “corner concert” in my house. Nothing fancy. Just me and a song. Given all the noise about politics, to which I am very much attuned, I pulled out this song that I wrote, Woody Guthrie Lives Inside of Me.

While the politicians sleep
We’ll occupy the streets
Woody Guthrie lives inside of me

Thanks for watching and listening and being engaged in this crazy political season.

That man

Peace (in the songs),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Open Air Easter Song

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16After our Easter Sunday Church Service, in which I was asked to play a Greek hand drum on the anthem (even though I was upfront with the fact that I do not play the drums nor can I read drum music … we have a very inclusive and forgiving church .. I just kept to the beat, with a few extra rhythmic whacks now and then), I was home, playing around on my guitar with some open tuning.

Easter drum

As I played my guitar, I had this lingering sense of the flowers and a quiet thoughtfulness on my mind, and while the song here is not really an Easter song, not one of forgivingness or of unexpected possibilities or of belief, it is inspired by Easter morning. Funny how the Muse comes to us at odd angles.

Peace (in the music of life),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Demo Song for Someone I Don’t Know

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16

My bandmates and I are in a strange situation. We lost our singer and bass player, and then lost our practice space (see: lost bass player). So the four of us now huddle in the drummer’s basement, jamming quietly and seeking a way forward.

And I keep writing songs for a band that I don’t know will come to be (but have faith that it will). I write for a singer I don’t even know exists (but have faith they will find us as we find them). I keep on writing and playing because I can’t imagine any other way. I’ve written near a dozen new songs since the fall (and tossed away at least another handful that didn’t make the cut).

This is the latest demo song, written after I read a piece in a magazine about memory, and then I read a short story of a man who remembers a kiss from the past, and accepts that tender memory for what it was and is. I like the haunting feel of the tune. Whether it has legs for the eventual band, I can’t say.

Here is the demo. Eventually, if the song goes further, I will play saxophone on it, but I recorded this all myself, with live guitar and voice, and the rest as instrumental tracks on the computer:

Peace (in the song),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Remembering a Song about Remembering

(This is for Slice of Life, a weekly writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Come write.)

I am in the midst of reading the autobiography of Elvis Costello. The book is called Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink (a title I like very much) and it packs a literary punch and becomes a musical journey through Elvis Costello’s songwriting and life, with plenty of meandering along the way. Yesterday, during part of a Snow Day from school, I read with interest the section about Costello’s collaborations with Paul McCartney.

There was a time when I was deeply into Costello, and the album, Spike, was a favorite cassette in my car. The album had the radio hit — Veronica — on it, and in the book, Costello connects the song that he and McCartney wrote to his grandmother, suffering from Alzheimer’s in old age.

I had one of those strange moments, realizing that it was that song by Costello — Veronica — that led me to write a song myself long ago with my old band, The Roadbowlers, called Inside Mary’s Pocket, which is about my own great-grandmother in old age. Or rather, the song is sort of built off memories of her. It’s interesting that I only realize that now how influenced I was, as I am reading Costello talking about songwriting, and that I did not realize then what I was doing. (or conveniently forgot.) It’s also interesting how Costello talks openly of reworking Motown chords and lines and grooves for his early albums. I guess we all gather what we can find.

Slainte

Of course, my song is nothing like his (I could only wish). I recorded this track more than 20 years ago now (dang!) on an old four-track. But I still have the Mp3 of our recording, and so I spent part of yesterday tracking it down in my computer files. Here goes …

Peace (in the songs of our memories),
Kevin

 

The Scratches and Scribbles that become a Song

Moving out West lyric sheet

The other day, I shared out the song that I wrote and recorded as part of inquiry with #Western106 open storytelling adventure. I thought it might be interesting to share out my notebook page, showing the scribbles as the song took shape. I can read it. Can you? (I did a little filtering in Flickr, to spice up the image).

This is pretty typical for me, crossing out words and using arrows to show where things might go. I’m working out structure with my pencil as I play the guitar and sing.

Peace (in the writing),
Kevin

A #Western106 Song: Heading Out West

ImheadingoutWest

With all the inquiry of the symbolic meaning of “The West” in our #Western106 open course, I started to wonder if I could write a song that might capture the essence of moving West. I struggled with the writing of a song, though. I am no Western singer, so I began to rethink the narrative. Maybe the narrator is giving up on the East and heading West, and maybe the time period is rather elusive. It could be set today, or yesterday, or years ago.

The phrase “Everything is West of Here” began to settle into my mind, and as I heard the drum track — the loping, clip-clopping rhythm — I found the heart of the song, particularly when the chorus of “I’m moving out West, into the break of day” arrived on my paper in my handwritten scrabble (I guess I wrote it, right?) A variation is “I’m heading out West” in the second verse.

Moving Out West

So, this song is about leaving a life behind and moving West to start anew, with all the struggles and hardship both the leaving and renewal will bring. And hope, too. There’s hope on that pony as our rider head up over the mountains.

This is one of the slowest songs I have written. My bandmates often chide me for bringing in songs that I write that fall under the 3 minute mark. “Give it another chorus” or “Where’s the break” or “Write another verse” — this is what they tell me. I don’t often listen to them (they know this). I’m from the Elvis Costello School of Songwriting: Say it under three minutes, or risk boredom or repetition. But I kept myself patient here, letting the horse amble its way forward towards the last verse in this one.

I recorded the song first a scratch demo on the day I wrote it, but it sounded awful. (I’m no singer, so that doesn’t help). I then found time to use Soundtrap (my fav recording platform right now) to re-record, adding the drums, and then using some synth sounds to capture the twangy guitar chords and the slide-guitar-ish lead. I was trying to use some of the tropes of Western songs to give mine the same feel, even if it isn’t really a Western song.

Peace (in the muse),
Kevin