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.
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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

 

 

My Songwriting is a Mess of Ideas

The Mess of Songwriting
My band, Duke Rushmore, is making an effort to write more of our own material. Back in the day, I used to write songs all the time for myself and for my bands, but I sort of drifted away a bit. Now, I back a bit on my guitar, tinkering around. Both our lead singer and drummer write lyrics, with no music, so I have asked them to send me their words, hoping maybe I can find a way to bring them to life.

This past week, I did work on a song with lyrics from our singer, but I don’t think the tune will work with the band. But he was thrilled to have his words put to music, so that was a nice gift that I could give to him.

Looking at the lyric sheet, I realized: what a mess I make of it when I work on a song. Literally. I scratch out words, rewrite phrases, put lines through whole lines and then remove the lines, draw arrows. The chicken-scratch-lyric sheet is like a roadmap of ideas that can be interesting to examine. Or maybe interesting for the singer, to figure out what I was doing with his words that he graciously and courageously sent my way.

You see, this kind of collaboration requires me to block out the world for a stretch and remake the writing of someone else, which can be both exciting and unsettling. It’s exciting because you are bouncing off the words of someone else. It’s unsettling because there is a lot of responsibility that comes with this kind of endeavor. Most of all, I did not want to lose the meaning of his song, even if the words were moved, deleted, changed, altered. The story had to remain true. I think I did that for him but it weighed heavily on me as I sat there with my guitar, wondering where to even begin as I looked over his words and thought about what he was trying to say.

Yeah, it was a mess but it came out OK in the end.

Here is a demo of the song. It’s rough and the recording didn’t come out so great because I was quickly working to get it down.

Peace (in the collaboration),
Kevin

 

Technology Boxed Me In

I’ve written about this a few times here and there, and to be honest, I am having trouble finding the right way to explain what I mean. So, bear with me here. I love using technology for creative projects. I think the digital tools that I find and play with have pushed my writing and creating in new directions. But, every now and then, I run into a wall and realize: as much as technology helps me to push boundaries, it is also limiting what I am doing. Even as I think technology is opening doors, it is also closing them. Partly this is due to the limitations of the technology I happen to be using. Partly it is my own inability to push around those limitations or abandon a project midstream when it isn’t working for me.

Let me give you an example.

I play saxophone in a rock and roll band — Duke Rushmore — and I am one of the songwriters. We’re just now moving more into original material, which I am happy about, and I have been sharing some songs with the band, and thinking of how to get back into songwriting with more energy than I have in the past few years. (I sort of took a step back). The other day, on the way home from the grocery story, a melody line and the first two lines of a song came into my head. I spent the entire car trip, working mentally on the song, “hearing” it as a soul/pop groove with a chorus all ready to go. I came home, passed the bags of food to my wife, and ran upstairs.

Unfortunately, my guitar was out of tune and a string had snapped, so I booted up a music loop program that I like to use, and began the task of “writing” the song on the computer. What happened was this: the song completely changed as a result of using the loops, and when I was done and could take a breath, I realized that not only was the song not right for the band, I had also completely lost the thread of the original groove as a result using the prefab loops. The technology had reshaped my song, and the original idea had not only been supplanted, but it disappeared completely. And oddly enough, I only realized this when I was almost done with the writing.

It was frustrating, to say the least, and I blame myself, not the technology. But the technology had a role, right? It brought to my mind the thinking of Kevin Kelly in his book, What Technology Wants, and how technology seems to be shaping our thinking more than we are shaping our technology. My songwriting experience here is a clear example for me. It’s not the first time I have come out of a project and thought, my vision was not realized — either because of the limitations of the technology or my inability to wrest control of the technology to meet my own creative needs.

I’m not sure if that makes sense or not, but it is something I struggle with. The songwriting process that I described above is just one example, although it is very concrete to me. The song that I ended up with was very different from the song I wanted to write (and heard in my head), and that is because I allowed the technology to shape the process instead of my ideas.

Peace (in the thinking),
Kevin

PS — I am still thinking about what to do with the song, but here it is: