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

Social Networking and Student Activity

Look at this graph:

I love that the highest category is related to writing, although I wish it were even larger. But this chart — from a report entitled Creating and Connecting, etc and shared by my friend, Gail, and generated by the National School Board — shows the growing impact of social networking on young people.

Gail cites the report with this quote:

In light of the study findings, school districts may want to consider reexamining their policies and practices and explore ways in which they could use social networking for educational purposes.

Peace (with connections),
Kevin

Need ideas? Hit the Generator

This is another interesting site that gives you some ideas when your brain is fried and dried and it sure comes up some strange ones. It’s called the Director’s Bureau Special Projects Idea Generator (like a spy movie or something). Just click and spin the wheel.

levitating animal

In three turns of the wheel, I got:

  • Do-it-yourself levitating animal
  • Exclusive foam garden
  • Nutritious holograph club
  • Comedic Inflatable Event

There’s got to be something I can do with these.

Peace (in abundance),
Kevin

PS — I was taking my cat for a virtual walk when the strangest thing happened. She doesn’t like to stroll too far in the holographic room but every once in a while, a robotic mouse jumps out of the low corner of the walls and she is off like a shot. The mouse always gets away by scaling the walls and disappearing into the upper corner of the holographic room. On this day, my thoughts were clouded by the upcoming meeting of the Inflatable Foam Garden club and our concern that every time it rains, our gardens wash away. I had suggested tying bowling balls to the flowers but the others just pooh-poohed that idea. Still, no one had come up with a better suggestion and I could just see our gardens graced by colorful balls, anchored nicely during storms. It was while I was in these deep pockets of thoughts that my cat brought back some kind of paper bag, and it in were wires and nodes and other items. I was curious — as my cat was — and so I followed the set of instructions and began connecting the pieces together. When it was done, it resembled something like closed box, with a large wire coming out of the top and big blue button on the side. I clicked the button and something jumped from the box to my cat. My cat looked at me, and I just shrugged. This kind of thing happens all the time to us. Then, to my surprise, my cat started to lift up off the ground. She was flying! No, not quite flying. More like levitating. I grabbed the paper bag and tried to find some kind of label. On the bottom, worn out, were the words: Do-it-yourself Animal Levitation Kit. I waved to my cat and she kind of waved back. Waving isn’t easy for cats. Suddenly, a robotic mouse scurried out of the wall and my cat was zooming after it. No more escape through the top of the room for this prey but when my cat swiped at the mouse, there was a loud “pop” and the mouse disappeared in a cloud of smoke, and the room was gone. We were standing — well, I was standing and my cat was floating — back in our house and my cat had the funniest expression on its face. Like something had gotten her tongue this time. I reached down to see what happened and found a rip in our Comedic Inflatable Event. I folded it up, put it back in the bag and silently told myself that I needed to bring the room back for repairs before the next meeting of the Nutritious Holographic Club. The room would not be too tasty as it was.

Yet another shift from Manila to Edublogs

I think my transformation from the old Manila blog platform to Edublogs (wordpress) is complete now that I have set up a classroom blog for my incoming sixth graders. I even added a cute little fishbowl widget to the site. In my annual letter of welcome, I have encouraged my students to post a quick hello message to our writing community (and asked parents to visit, too), and this morning, I moderated the first three student posts.

It’s nice to have everything on one platform and I continue to love Edublogs for all of its options and security and simplicity. I have written before about my move away from Manila for all of our sites at the Western Mass Writing Project, but I still had my classroom site out there. This makes the transformation complete.

Peace (with new platforms),
Kevin

Edublogs in a Minute (or so)

James Farmer created this nice little intro/promo to Edublogs, so I pass it along:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=8985425670908371287" width="400" height="326" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in Australia),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: What is the What, August 2007

I recently finished reading Dave Egger’s What is the What — a harrowing and yet ultimately uplifting fictionalized true story of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. It really is a fine novel and you should run out and get it right this second. The What in the title refers to an ancient tale of the main character’s village in which the original people were asked to choose between a world of food and shelter, and the unknown, the What. They chose the world of food and shelter, and spent the rest of their days wondering what is the What that they missed out on, considering the violence and sadness of this world.

Inspired by the book, I wrote this poem for my One Poem Every Month for a Year project and thought I might try it as a spoken word/music piece with my Looper software. It is a slightly strange production, I’ll admit right upfront.

 

What is the What
August 2007
Listen to the Poem

What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What?
What is the What?
What is the What
is what the question is

What is the What
is what the question is
that takes us back in time
to the choices faced by our ancestors
whose voices climb up through the past
and whose ideas are marred by the
two diverging paths
and we live in this aftermath
of not attaining the What, which is the unknown,
the unspeakable,
since what was clearly decided at the start of the world
was to take this place as we see it today —
with animals for food
with walls for shelter
with family for survival
and to steer clear of the other — the What —

and what is the What is the question
that haunts us even to this day because
we came away with all of the above — yes, even love —
but also pain and hurt,
and death, destruction, violence,
such hatred inside of us that there are those of us
who spend the days, asking ourselves,
pleading with our Gods,
murmuring to the well of the world,
wondering,
what is the What
and where has it gone
and why didn’t those poor souls choose the unknown

although
if truth be told
who can blame them
when all they wanted was to behold a land that held
food for empty bellies
and a room to escape the rains and the bone-chilling cold
and they weren’t thinking that the other road — the What —
might hold something truer, deeper,
more spiritual than this, this …
space of dead dreams.
So what is the What is what sinks below the surface
and drives us forward, even today,
toward something we can’t hold in our hands
can’t take it for granted
can’t understand how we got planted here
without the What
and yet, you can approach it —
move towards it —
when you consort with others of a similar mind
to try to find some kind of balance
between the world we were given
and the world, denied.

What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What
is what the question is
What is the What?
What is the What?
What is the What
is what the question is

Peace (in the unknown),
Kevin

 

Alice interviews James

A blogging friend — Alice Mercer — interviewed another friend — James Farmer, creator of Edublogs — for her Webcast Academy show. Nice job, Alice! And James seemed like a wonderful guest to have on her show (called Alice’s Restaurant).

It’s great to see people making connections everywhere. Their discussion centers on the future of teaching and conversations that have been sparked over at Will Richardson‘s blog.

Take a listen to Alice and James.

Peace (in podcasts),
Kevin

Four Slides and the End

So I didn’t win anything with the Four Slides contest, but that wasn’t the point (right?). It was an interesting experience just to narrow down who you are into four little pieces, and I will use my slideshow with my students.

Still, some of the entries were pretty creative and interesting (and people spent way more time than I did, that’s for sure). I like the entire montage effect and the different approaches that people took. Very cool. (Mine looks kinda blah compared to the rest)

Check it out at the Dy/Dan site when you get a moment.

Peace (in four pieces),
Kevin

OnPoEvMo: What to do with Words, August 2007

My tank is a bit on empty right now — it might be the slew of things I know I need to get done and get together before the start of school or it might just be that I have written myself out and need to rejuvevate the brain.

Still, the poems come.

Here is one I wrote as I thought about how to write a poem when you don’t have anything to write about (meta-poetry?).

What to do with Words
August 2007
Listen to the Poem

They say this “writing a poem” thing is just too difficult to do
so I just wait for the words,
kick back and hope for the best
and sometimes this slacker tendency actually works —
the words come fluttering by, on an arc before the eyes,
and patience here is the key —
don’t grab too soon
or you will be stuck with a net that has holes in it
with nothing gained, and everything lost,
while the best words will have gotten away.
The most obvious ones are often the least creative creatures
since they situate themselves so easily in front of your eyes —
no, the ones you want are crafty and sly,
and nuanced and covered in something like quicksilver —
the timing is everything if you want to find truth
so it helps to just stop thinking
just stop yourself cold right where you are before your brain
gets you in trouble,
and then, there before you, if the time is right
if the forces are converging
if the words are feeling frisky
the poem’s pieces will hover and take shape,
although what it all means as you take these gifts in the palm of your hand
and feel the warmth of words, well, that, my friend, that
is a complete mystery even to me.

Peace (in words),
Kevin