Writing a Song for the Holidays

Our church does a holiday children’s pageant every year, but this year, there is a twist. A musician who works with schools and kids all overt the area is helping to develop an original pageant with original music from the Congregation, which I think is pretty neat. He received a whole bunch of lyrics and song ideas, and I sent forward mine, too.

My song is called All Join Hands and I was trying to capture the spirit of the church as a welcoming and open place that does quite a bit of social justice work. I then recorded it twice: first, by myself, as a demo, and then with my band — The Sofa Kings — one night, quickly showing them the chords, the words and then punching the “record” button and seeing what happened.

The song will be in the pageant in a few weeks, I think, and I will try to record it with the kids singing it. I showed it to them last week and it was neat to hear the young voices singing out the lyrics.

Here are the lyrics:

All Join Hands

All join hands
and light the candle
(’cause) We are one tonight
Peace and love
and faith inside us
(yes) We are one tonight

Everybody, everywhere
We’re reaching out for you — don’t despair
A kindness offered — and one received
A treasure in your heart
is a tender place to start
There’s room enough for you and me

Chorus

Though you may travel many roadways
In search of safety — and blessed byways
Beneath this banner — we receive you
With hope in our hearts
It’s a tender way to start
There’s room enough for you and me

Chorus

And here are the recordings:

Peace (be with you),
Kevin

Don’t Go Disappointing Me

The elections are fast upon us, and like many, I am keeping an eagle-eye on the developments of the economy, the wars in the Middle East, and the leadership qualities of the two presidential candidates seeking to get my vote. I guess I haven’t made too many bones that I am mostly independent, leaning left on most issues, and I have been impressed by Sen. Obama. (But I also once voted in a Republican primary for Sen. McCain when he was facing off against Bush.)

I was thinking of Obama and McCain the other night, and how they seek our allegiance and then, all to often, abuse it with the whispers in their ears from lobbyists and advisors and others. I always worry they will just disappoint me again.

And so, with some taste of bitterness, I suppose, I offer up this song:

Disappointing Me
(Listen to the song)

I’ve lived a long life
Oh, the stories I could tell
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

The path is paved
with empty words that they will sell
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Four years ahead of us — The future’s in our eyes
My baby’s getting old — and the world is compromised

They’d tell you anything
to fill your heart with fear
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

I’d like to take you
for a walk around my town
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Just stop and listen
to the people all around
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Four years ahead of us — The future’s in our eyes
My baby’s getting old — I hear it in his cries

You’ve got the power
to change the world that we know
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

(You can hear my youngest son in the background, talking and singing his own song and then at the end, asking me to play it again. Very funny).

Peace (in presidential promises),
Kevin

My Tech Song

A number of weeks ago, Scott McLeod (over at Dangerously Irrelevant) put out a call for a contest for poems and songs about technology. I rehashed an old song and updated the lyrics, recorded it quickly and then sent it along to Scott. It turns out he chose my song as runner up. Neat. (Here is his post, with the winners).

Here it is — composed as I was thinking of the overload I was feeling at the time.

Digging Out of the Digital World
(listen to the song as MP3)

Take your Macs and mainframes and toss them into the sea
There’s no PC compatible with the likes of me
I’m living up in the clouds — I surf a data storm
When the world goes wireless — nobody’s at home

I’m a cell phone connection and a blackberry man
I’m on call 24/7 — I’m always on demand
I need voice recognition to lighten up my days
so you can take all my power cords and toss ‘em all away

Microsoft, Apple, chip, bit, byte, ram
I’m digging in the information highway, I hope it ain’t a scam
You can find me on Twitter, My Tumbler is alive and well,
I’m moving out of MySpace into the Second Life hotel

Somewhere out on the horizon – something new comes along
Something strange that will change the way we think we belong
Information to the left of me – Innovation to the right
I’m so connected now — I can’t tell day from night

Microsoft, Apple, chip, bit, byte, ram
I’m digging in the information highway, I hope it ain’t just a scam
You can find me on Twitter, My Tumbler is alive and well,
I’m moving out of MySpace into the Second Life hotel

Peace (in song),
Kevin

The Revised Darfur Video

My students were singing today, helping with a revised version of my Darfur protest song entitled “I’m Still Waiting (for the world to get it right)” and they (and I) had a blast with it all day long. I have four different writing classes and all listened to the song, and then practiced it, and then we recorded it.

I used Audacity and then mixed all 80 student voices together as backing vocals. Tomorrow, I show them the video and get to work on writing their persuasive writing projects as part of the Many Voices for Darfur project.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=7768949726610095025" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

But you can also download the MP3 version of the song by using THIS HYPERLINK or you can just listen in.

Peace (in the world),
Kevin

Darfur Protest Song/Video

I wrote this song about the Darfur situation and I hope to bring the song into my classroom and have my students sing some back-up. Will it work? I have no idea but it could be pretty cool. I’m interested in having them think about how songwriting and music can be used as a platform for political protest and outrage. It’s just another way to demonstrate how writing has the potential to make a difference in the world.

If Iget some good recordings of my students singing, I will remix this video and see if we can add it to the Many Voices for Darfur project in some way.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-4323540144778393547" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in all points of the globe),
Kevin

Rock and Roll in the (Jam)Studio

Years ago, when I used to write music, I would dig out my old Tascam Four-track machine, dust it off, set up a room full of my low-quality recording equipment, and immerse myself for hours (literally) in running the tape. I do miss those days but these past few weeks, I have been tinkering with an online music site called JamStudio.

I wasn’t prepared to like it. I love music and I love live music, and I love the possibilities of making a mistake and discovering something new. A computer application is not the same, although I am no Luddite (obviously). With three kids and a busy schedule, it is difficult to have my guitar sitting around the house, as in the older days, and the burst of creativity can be a bit more difficult to channel. Still, it is strange not actually PLAYING the instruments. My hands feel empty.

JamStudio has given me another channel for songwriting. As a result, I have written and recorded five new songs in the past three weeks. A few of these are going to my rock band, The Sofa Kings, and a few are just for me. I always keep a few songs just for me.

Here is how I have used the site:

  • I paid for the All Access Pass (this is crucial for receiving high quality MP3 mixes of your songs from the site). This may not be a viable long-term effort but for now, I am OK with it.
  • The site is incredibly easy to use, although it has limitations. Everything is in four-four and there are limited sounds, but those possibilities get a lot longer with the All Access account.
  • For the most part, I have started with the music forming in my head and then worked the lyrics around the music. I flip back and forth on this (lyrics-music, or music-lyrics) when I write, so this is no big deal.
  • After working on a variety of sections of a song, I then have JamStudio mix it and email me a link to the MP3 file.
  • I move the music into Audacity (free!) and use my Blue Snowball microphone to record. I usually tweek with some compression and a bit of reverb. I can’t do background vocals to save a life, but I wish I could.
  • I then share the songs with my band or friends via Box.net.
  • Or I use FlickrCC to search for Creative Common photographs and use MS PhotoStory3 to craft a little music video. And then it is upload time into Google Video.
  • And now? I don’t know. I may try my hand at setting up an online site at one of the music sellers and see what happens. This will be helpful because The Sofa Kings now has finished our CD and we are looking for a way to sell tracks online. Or I might just create my own website for my own songs.

Here is my latest song, called Tomorrow’s Never Gone, as a political video. It actually started out as a spurned lover song but that didn’t feel right (I am very happy, thank you very much) and then it was about one of the candidates, and then I realized that it needed to be more general in nature:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=671916620548989912" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Or you can listen to the MP3 track.

Here is a video tutorial about JamStudio, if you are interested.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/yjriFnE-NYU" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Give it a whirl — write a song — get creative.

Peace (in music),
Kevin

Writing a Song (without touching an instrument)

I like to consider myself a songwriter, although the creative spurts come and go through the years (during one three-year stretch, I was writing three to four songs every month). Many of my songs go forward to my band, The Sofa Kings. However, many songs don’t go much farther than the sun room of my house where I often compose.

This week, I started to tinker with a site called JamStudio and composed two songs: one for the band and one for my young son, who was playing in the room as I was writing the song and he asked me (in his three year old voice) if I would write the song for him. So I did. Yet, it felt very strange to be writing a song without having my guitar in my hands (I wrote this in one of my first Tweets, too) and I am am wondering how authentic an experience this really is as a musician and a composer.

I took the instrumentation from JamStudio and brought it into Audacity, where I then recorded my voice. Then, I used Creative Common photos from Flickr to create this little photo (with Photostory3). I converted the video to Shockwave, uploaded it to a video account I have and then moved it into my blog. One of the reasons is to keep getting practice with this process.

Anyway, here is the song and video, called In You:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://dc15.4shared.com/download/37411478/420c01f2/In_you__rowans_song_.swf" width="400" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in love and children),
Kevin

Writing a Song: Making the Process Visible

I’ve been very interested in considering ways that we can use technology to make the process of creating art visible to others. I believe that for young writers and creators, it is helpful to catch a glance of a work in progress, as it unfolds. So, here goes: in the last 18 hours, I have written a brand new song and I began it all by turning on my little video camera and taping the start of the process from the first chord, and then today, I recorded a final version of the song (although, it may still change) as an MP3 mix.

First – the video (a bit dark and scratchy sound and a bit of half-head going on):

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=485471541101761095" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Second, here are some versions of the lyrics:

I started with this:

(first version) A Man of Contemplation (August 2007)

I’m in the middle of a situation

nothing here seems real to me

I’m stuck inside this infatuation

why is that so hard to believe?

When you’ve got love inside your heart

It’s a perfect place to start

And everything can shine so beautifully

Then, I revised the words to this:

(second version) A Man of Contemplation (August 2007)

I’m in the midst of a situation

nothing seems real to me

I’m a man of contemplation

why is that so hard to believe?

When you’ve got love inside your heart

It’s a perfect place to start

And everything can shine so beautifully

I’ve got friends up there in high places

looking down on history

All I want are friendly faces

A smile that lights up inside of me

When you’ve got love inside your heart

It’s a perfect place to start

And everything can shine so beautifully

I’ve been traveling around this land

Singing songs out for free

There’s a twist that I don’t understand

why is there no place for me?

When you’ve got love inside your heart

It’s a perfect place to start

And everything can shine so beautifully

Which led to a final revision:

A Man of Contemplation (August 2007)

I’m in the midst of a conversation

nothing here seems real to me

I’m a man of contemplation

I live my life with my belief

When you’ve got love inside your heart

It’s a perfect place to start

And everything can shine so beautifully

I’ve got friends in wide, open spaces

Finding ways to be free

All I need are friendly faces

A smile that lights up inside of me

When you’ve got love inside your heart

It’s a perfect place to start

And everything can shine so beautifully

I’ve been traveling around this nation

Writing songs with melody

I’m driven hard by motivation

All I need is serenity

When you’ve got love inside your heart

It’s a perfect place to start

And everything can shine so beautifully

Finally, I booted up Audacity and used my Blue Snowball to record the song with my acoustic guitar and keyboard (and drums from Super Looper) and here is it:

Listen to Man of Contemplation

The layers of changes came as I tried to understand what the song might be about, since I often don’t have a clue until the final molding of the lyrics, and even then, I sometimes have a hard time explaining what I am trying to get at. This process of tearing back the curtain has been valuable to me, though, as it has allowed me to view what I am doing from a bit of a distance. I don’t know if I will do anything with this song or just let it sit where it is, which often happens. But even songs that have been filed away sometimes come back up for air at a later date.

Peace (with music),
Kevin

Get Up — video

I used my loop remix of my song, Get Up, with some pics from a Creative Commons search engine (plus PhotoStory as an editing tool) and put together this music video:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-4430625363031699385" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (with truth),
Kevin

Get Up — remixed with Loops

I continue to toy around with this music loop program and decided to do a remix of a song from my band, The Sofa Kings, called Get Up. It’s an uptempo reggae song about a nation rising up against its leaders through music that I have recast here as a sort of R&B Hip-Hop song, with loops. I like the results … I think. The song itself was co-written with my friend John, who did the music progression, and I wrote the lyrics during the ignorant reign of Don Rumsfeld in the early days of the Iraq War and the implementation of the Patriot Act, so it has political overtones to it.

Give it a listen and let me know what you think.

Listen to Get Up

Peace (with music),

Kevin

PS — Happy Second Birthday to Edublogs!!!