Slice of Life: You Make It All Right

Sometimes, I pick up the guitar, and the songwriting flows as if it were something else beside me. As if the song were just there, waiting patiently for the moment. This demo of You Make It All Right (Glitter and Gold) is one of those songs. I randomly sang the first line, and in that moment, I knew the entire song and story. The chords fell into place immediately. I wrote this whole song, which I really like, in about 15 minutes, tops. Maybe not even that.

Songwriting rarely goes that easy. Usually, it’s a struggle with parts of the song, moving words and editing phrases and adding bridges, and reworking the entire meaning. It’s not unusual for me to start writing a song about one thing and end up with something else entirely when I am done.

When the song just falls into place, it’s a strange, magical feeling. I’m proud of this one, for the story it tells of friendship in the face of hardship, for the mandolin-sound of the guitar (the capo is the neck) and for the possibility with my bandmates. We’ll see how it goes. Sometimes, a demo falls apart when it becomes part of the band sound.

Peace (flowing in song),
Kevin

Musical Collaboration and Celebration: Come On Through

COME ON THROUGH

(Verse)
This is what it means
to be on the side —
to watch it all unfold
to watch the world fly by

(bridge) This is where you are
You’re on the inside, not out,
and even in the quiet
you figure it out

(chorus)
We’ve got a place for you
and when you’re ready
Come on through

Lurkers learning lots
lessons followed
on their own plots
words un-hollowed
(Bridge/Chorus)

Self direct your learning
And unexpected turns
Squash any limits
Reach out in return.
(Bridge/Chorus)

A discussion that unfolded some days back via the Rhizomatic Learning ‘uncourse’ (which is not happening) centered around how best to celebrate those folks who watch online learning networks (like MOOCs) but don’t participate.  I don’t like the word “lurker” and prefer active observer. These folks (you may be one) are valued members of the community, too, even if they don’t actively participate. Sarah suggested a song in celebration of the observers of networks, which I took as a call to collaborate.

I quickly set up an online document on TitanPad and opened it to up anyone to add lyrics. I honestly don’t know who wrote what lines. Isn’t that interesting? I did a little tinkering with the words to make them fit within the rhythm of the song, but not much.

A few days later, as the words were being written on Titanpad, I was messing around with some open tuning on my guitar and came up with the underlying structure. I went into Soundtrap, a collaborative music recording site, and put the guitar track down and then invited folks to join me. Ron and Sarah, from other parts of the world, did, and over the last week or so, we’ve been slowly pulling the song into shape in Soundtrap.

Here it is. Ron added the many keyboard layers and some of the underlying vocal pieces. Sarah added some mandolin. I played the guitar and sax, and we stayed with my scratch vocals, although we had hoped others might sing instead of me.

Peace (looking in, looking out),
Kevin

Channeling Anger into Song: Build U Up Tear U Down

When I first started writing songs nearly 30 years ago (yikes!), it was all about politics and anger (it was the Reagan years). I wrote songs protesting the military actions in Central America, about the trickle down policies of the land, about corruption at its deepest political core. I would play at coffee hours and open mic nights. I recorded a lot of songs on my old four-track music recorder.

At some point, I sort of forced myself to make the shift into more personal songs for myself, or I wrote songs that could be played by a rock and roll party band. I never forgot my political protest roots, really, but I tempered my art with peace, love and some understanding. (Maybe that is a symptom of growing up or something).

But the current US presidential race has me pissed off all over again, channeling those early years of frustration in the political sphere. While I don’t name Trump in this song I wrote the other day and recorded yesterday as a demo (just me and my guitar), it’s all about him, particularly his use of language and rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Words matter. We tell this to students all the time, and we teach it to them as the heart of writing. Words matter. What you say and what you write has meaning and depth. Then someone like Trump takes the stage and spews off venomous words and divisive ideas intended to splinter us, not unite us. I can live with political differences (many of my friends lean way right … we have interesting conversations) but I can’t live with vitriol. And Trump is now backed by a major political party.

Yeah, I’m angry and it’s only May.

I am hoping we knock Trump and his supporters down a few pegs with our votes and reactions. (I am not advocating physical confrontation here, of course.)

The chorus to the song goes:

You may think you’re on top but we don’t care
We’ve got our eyes on the prize so best beware
You can say what you want but we’re not amused
Every word that you say comes back on you

Peace (brings us together),
Kevin

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