Slice of Life: Making Music/Learning Songs

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(This is part of the Slice of Life Challenge with Two Writing Teachers. We write about small moments each and every day for March. You come, too. Write with us.)

Some of you know I play saxophone and write songs for a rock band, Duke Rushmore. We’re in a bit of a quiet spell right now because our lead guitar player has some medical issues that are not yet resolved and our other guitar player has sold his house where we practice (that’s another slice for another day). The other night, we were working on a song that I wrote a few months ago, and which I have shared as a Slice earlier in the year.

The quality of the recording is terrible (our singer used his phone and then had trouble sending the file to me, so he recorded it off the phone with a digital recorder … and that’s never a good thing when you add a second layer of recording — you can hear it in the wavy gravy element of the sound), but you can listening in on how a new song is developing here. We’re still figuring it out, together, making changes and trying out parts. Seeing what work and what doesn’t work. As the writer of this piece, it’s such a powerful experience to be in a room with musicians who are my friends, playing and learning a song that I wrote, and having it slowly come together, section by section.

I left this practice on air, really, and I thought back to where this particular song started months ago, with me on the floor of my bedroom, an empty piece of paper and an acoustic guitar in my lap and some vague notion of lyrics.

Take a listen to Set My Anchor on You


This is a shout-out to my bandmates in Duke Rushmore.

Peace (in the song),
Kevin

 

The Collaborative Song: Tweeting ’bout a #Nerdlution

Nerdlution song lyrics
The other day, I created a collaborative document on TitanPad (open source/free writing platform) and asked folks to contribute lyrics to a remix of Tracy Chapman’s Talking ’bout a Revolution by making it into Tweeting ’bout a Nerdlution. Over a few days, a few folks joined me and added lyrics and ideas, and then I worked (see above) to pull it together into a song. This week, during our “frozen roads day” off from school, I finally had some time to record a version of the song (no one took me up on the offer to sing it with me so I was on my own, and I apologize in advance, y’all. It’s out of my natural range.).

Take a listen:
Tweeting ’bout A #Nerdlution by Dogtrax

And here are the final lyrics:

Tweetin’ bout a #Nerdlution
Don’t you know we’re talking about a Nerdlution
Found on Twitter
Don’t you know we’re talking about a Nerdlution
Found on Twitter

Well, we’ve got these personal goals in line
opening up doorways of creative invention
Making time to nurture body and mind
Sharing out our daily resolutions

Don’t you know we’re talking about a Nerdlution
Found on Twitter
Don’t you know we’re talking about a Nerdlution
Found on Twitter

All people are gonna rise up
and fight back their fears
All people are gonna wise up,
and tweet what’s theirs!

Don’t you know you better, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet
Oh I said you better share, share, share, come on and let’s share

‘Cause finally the world is starting to turn
(talking about a nerdlution)
We’re  finding different ways to connect and to learn
(talking about a nerdlution)

And we’re moving through some awkward times
always on but we feel so disconnected
yet here we are, reaching for the stars
making friends and sharing out reflections

Don’t you know we’re talking about a Nerdlution
Found on Twitter
Don’t you know we’re talking about a Nerdlution
Found on Twitter

Peace (in the collaborations),
Kevin
PS — if you want to see the writing in real-time, check out this link.
PSS — I recorded this in Garageband, with a drum loop track. The guitar and keys are me, playing.

Letting a Song Go: Getting Remixed


As part of the Make/Hack/Play mini-course I have been participating in, I wrote a song and then created this reflective video of my writing process.

Well, a friend from the summer’s Making Learning Connected MOOC — Bart Miller, who is also a musician — took my song and remixed it with some composition software. I was so grateful to have been hacked by Bart, and the remix took the song (even with computer sounds) in a different direction.
Hacking a Song by Bart Miller

I could not resist yet another remix. So, I downloaded the MP3 of Bart’s version of Put My Anchor in You, and used Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker to create another remix. This time, I found a nature video (Bart’s version had me thinking quiet nature, for some reason) and layered in the remix as the soundtrack.

Meanwhile, another friend of mine (the guitarist in my band, Duke Rushmore) took the same demo and added lead guitar, bass and some other production values to it, given the remix yet a third iteration.

It’s interesting the trail of mixing and remixing that can take place, rather seamlessly, with technology. The song comes out at the other end very different when in the hands of others than when I sat down on the floor with my acoustic guitar and wrote it as a demo.

Peace (in the song),
Kevin

 

Make/Hack/Play: Behind the Scenes of Making a Song


Yesterday, I shared out a video that I created for the Make/Hack/Play mini-course I am involved in at P2PU with facilitator Karen Fasimpaur. Today, I wanted to explain just how I did it — so consider this is a sort of process piece connected to the Make itself in which I sought to Make a Song, and Make the songwriting visible. Here, I try to make the process visible. I also created this diagram flowchart of my process.

Making of Making A Song

For the first week, Karen suggested we make something in physical space, but I had my head wrapped around music this past weekend, and I decided that I would write a new song, but with the idea of the Maker Space in mind. What I did was sat next to the computer with my guitar and instead of my usual method of scribbling out notes and crossing out words on paper, I used the collaborative freeware tool TitanPad to write. TitanPad works sort of like Google Docs as a collaborative space, but the element that I really love is that it creates a revision timeline video format (of sorts), so you can watch a piece of writing unfold over time.

After finishing the song, which is called Set My Anchor on You, I played back my words, watching from the distance as my words were written, removed, revised and restructured. It’s pretty fascinating, particularly for someone like me who types very fast but also makes a lot of mistakes. You can see a lot of backspacing going on.

Since my idea of this Make was to capture the songwriting in process, I took a video screenshot (using my Snagit program) of the words flowing on the screen, and then moved that raw video into iMovie, so I could layer in my narration. I also recorded a version of the song in Audacity, created an MP3 file and used that as the background track – so you watch my words, hear my thinking and listen to the song.

I then edited the video in iMovie and shared out at YouTube, and linked into our Make/Hack/Play space and beyond, thus going from brainstorm to writing to recording to publishing in a short amount of time.

Peace (in the song),
Kevin

A Song for Connected Educators: Bend in the Road

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I had this idea to try to write a song for Connected Educator Month. I’m not sure it came out the way I wanted it to, capturing the spirit of helping to convince folks to move out of their comfort zones a bit. But, here it is anyway as a demo.

Take a listen:

 

 

A Bend in the Side of the Road
(dedicated to all the Connected Educators out there)
By Kevin Hodgson

We can take these four walls
and use them as protection
Or we can plug ourselves right into the world
and forge some connections

‘Cause everywhere I look
There’s someone there to share an idea
to help you grow
Yes, my friend, this ain’t the end
It’s a bend in the side of the road

You can have your self-doubt
Or maybe it’s reflection
Sometimes you take yourself right out of your zone
and forge a new connection

And everywhere you turn
well, there’s something to be learned –
Something that you didn’t know –
Yes, my friend, this ain’t the end
It’s a bend in the side of the road

Peace (and get connected),
Kevin

The Shaping of a Song/ The Shaping of Connections

I write songs for my band, Duke Rushmore, every now and then. Some songs work for the band. Some don’t. Last Monday, I had about an hour to myself and pulled out the guitar, and wrote a new one. The next night, I was sharing it with the band, and last night, we worked on it for about 45 minutes (minus our lead singer.) It’s interesting how some songs come quick and work great, while others take forever to write and then fall apart. I’m not sure what leads a song to go one way or another (I suppose if I did, I’d be making my millions selling songs to Katy Perry).

Here’s where this particular song started out, with me doing a quick demo for the band before I forgot the melody. The words have been updated here and there over the last week as the song filters through my head.

And here is what we were doing last night (again, without a lead singer, so that’s me singing for now).

What is magical about this process is how an idea conceived alone, in a room with only a guitar (and sometimes a dog as an audience) becomes something else when you bring collaborators into the mix. Sure, the main ideas are still there. But the song is different now and one thing I have learned over the years is that you have to give up part of the song to make it work with a group. You have to be willing to let others take a piece of ownership. So, our discussions are very interesting, as someone suggests this different chord, or a stop/break here, or where to insert the solo sections, or what kind of melody line should run here.

I work hard to avoid saying, No, that’s now how I hear it. Instead, I try to hold true to the spirit of what I was writing and remain flexible with other parts.

This is just like collaborating with other teachers (see my point?) when we connect with others. We share the best of what we know and brainstorm with the best intent, and then we need to listen to what others are saying, think about how to find that balance between our own established opinions and those of others around us. Eventually, what I have found — in my band, in my writing, in my professional circles — is that the energy of the larger group often trumps the vision of the individual. Not always, but mostly. And we continue into this Connected Educator Month, that is something to hold on: we are in this together and I rely on you as much you may be learning from me.

Maybe we need to write a song about that …

Peace (in the connections),
Kevin

 

Gone Headless — The Rap

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Someone over in DS106 had created a rap for the Headless Course a few weeks ago, and I decided to give it a try, too. I’ve made the audio file of the Gone Headless song shareable and downloadable, so feel free to remix it and mess with it and do what you want with it. Can I just say that working in the phrase “tech ambidextrous” to rhyme with “go headless” was a triumphant moment for me?

🙂

Here are the lyrics:

If you wanna play the bass – you can always go fretless
If you wanna create — are you tech ambidextrous?
Something about the Make — that’s always infectious
Here on the web — Come on and go Headless

Write on the screen — the paths are endless
If you wanna get crazy — you can always feel reckless
Take a little chance — you’ll never be friendless
Here on the web — Come on and go Headless

Peace (in the muse),
Kevin

Working on a Song

I mentioned yesterday that my goal this weekend is to write a song — a power pop song. Yesterday, I had the lyrics down and the chords down and began to work on a demo for my band – Duke Rushmore — with Garageband (the drum track was created in the App, which I then moved onto my computer). I took a Vine as I was working:

I have most of the demo done, except the voice, and my voice is not so great, so it may end up being … a rough demo. I realize now that the key is a little high for me, but would not be for the singer in our band. I’ll keep ya posted!

Peace (in the songwriting),
Kevin

 

Women Who Rock and Write

women who rock lyric collage
I was able to get myself down to some great places in Seattle while on a retreat this past weekend, and one of those places was the EMP Museum, which I refer to as the Jimi Hendrix Museum because Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen put his money into this beautiful place to celebrate Hendrix and pop culture. I walked into the museum and on one of the largest video screens I have ever seen was footage of Jimi playing at Woodstock in full glory. Talk about larger than life …

Anyway, along with exhibits about Nirvana and Grunge, and display areas about Science Fiction Icons, Horror movies, and Fantasy, there was an exhibit about Women Who Rock. It was interesting but what I found most intriguing were the handwritten lyric sheets they had on display. I love when the layer of creativity gets pulled back and you can glimpse the mind at work. I spent a lot of time looking at the writing from Joni Mitchell, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Queen Latifah, Laura Nyro, Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett and others. Even Taylor Swift’s words were on display, which I appreciated because I hope her work in writing her own songs (as opposed to singing someone else’s songs) will inspire a generation of kids to pick up the pen and start writing.

While I suspect these sheets are not all the first draft of songs (not enough scribbled out words, in my experience), there was enough there to make sense of the ideas they were going for in their songs. And even just to examine the handwriting of the artists (some neat, some messy — like me) provides an insight into the creative mind. Looking at their lyric sheets reminded me of how I look at mine when I am done writing a song, all the messy words and lines and rhythms that come and go, and how difficult it can be to make sense of it all.

Check out this song sheet of mine:

The Mess of Songwriting

And then, when the finished lyrics are finally in place, you think: that’s where I was going. But the journey to that point is almost never linear and almost always messy, and I suppose one could invoke the metaphor for life here right about now. I appreciated that these artists shared out their draft lyric sheets and that no one in the museum decided it would be better to type them up for display.

I enjoy the messy, and of all the areas of the museum, that was the best part for me.

Peace (in the power chord),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: Woody Guthrie Lives Inside of Me

This is a post for Slice of Life.
6words woody
I’ve had a lot of ideas around songs lately, and this one came about as I was reading news articles about the gridlock in DC. I don’ t think this song is right for my rock band, Duke Rushmore, so it may just sit on the side for a bit until I figure out if it has legs for something else. (It might lead to a digital story.) The theme is inspired a bit by Steve Earle, who wrote Christmastime in Washington with references to Woody Guthrie. There was a time when all I wrote were political and protest songs. But that seems so long ago now. It felt as I were slipping on some old clothes with this one, remembering the anger at the establishment for having ideals so different from my own.

You know?

Thanks for listening and for reading ….


 

Peace (in the song),
Kevin