I’ve been listening to LCD Soundsystem and paying attention to how James Murphy builds songs off hooks and synths. The other week, I jumped into one of my favorite music programs (Soundtrap) and began building a song, imagining people walking down a city street with all the hustle and bustle, and destinations in mind. The pauses are moments of waiting for the street lights to change for crossing.
I was following a number of threaded discussions over the weekend on Twitter, about Twitter. Concerns about its negative elements (trolls, privacy, etc.) versus its positive elements (connections, discussions, etc.) continue to play out in all sorts of ways.
My friend, Sherri S., wrote a blog post response to George S.’s observations that criticized Twitter as a narrowing space of echo bubbles we create for ourselves (I’m summarizing my reading of his points), and I found her deep dive interesting. So I took her words for a walk in a remix version (which sparked its own discussion on Saturday about the value and rationale of remix).
And that conversations lingered in my mind, as I sat down to do some songwriting yesterday. I can hear it in the lyrics of this new song — Worlds Fall Apart — about the idea of starting over, and building something new.
Maybe I had Mastodon, and its federated ideas of freedom from corporate control of social media spaces, on my mind as I was writing. Or maybe it was the watching of the first Mad Max with my son the other night.
This is the second Making Music post this week. I have at least one more coming. I’m suddenly finding myself back to some songwriting and thinking about music making, at least for a bit.
I challenged myself yesterday. I had about one hour alone with an empty house. Could I write and record a new song in that time?
I grabbed my guitar and sheet of paper, sat on the floor, and started writing. What came out was this song: My Compass Pointed North. It may nor may not be inspired by the images of the mass evacuation going on down south right now. I quickly set up my microphone and recorded a demo. It came out OK, I think.
It’s been some time since I created new songs with Garageband, but I had a stretch of time yesterday with no car and no family in the house, and I had recently re-loaded GB into my iPad (I had removed it for space reasons at one point). I was immersed myself for about an hour, using loops and other techniques to try to create a groove.
I only used a small bit of filtered voice — saying the title of the song: What they Want Is Not What They Need — and kept tinkering with the lead guitar, the world instruments and that driving drumbox beat until I had something I liked.
(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)
I took my 12-year-old son to Guardians of the Galaxy 2 for the second time (we first went on opening weekend) because his friend had not gone yet. That seemed a shame. We had a blast in the cold theater on a hot day and my son’s friend loved the movie.
Once again, the scene where Cheap Trick’s Surrender plays hit me the heart of memory, reminding me of playing that song in my college-days rock band, Rough Draft.
So, I dug our cover of Surrender out. It was part of an audio track to a cable television recording we did, and then the studio lost the video tape so we don’t have that, only the audio. Maybe that’s a good thing …
That’s me singing and playing rhythm guitar. We used to have so much fun with that song. It was not a band of finesse. It was a band of loud energy. Rough Draft, indeed. Three of us from that band are still very close, and we get together once a year. In fact, that reunion is coming in two weeks.
We’re all all right! We’re all all right! We just seem a little weird …
Peace (no cheap tricks),
PS — bonus song? Only if your ears can take it. This was early song of mine for Rough Draft. I was just starting to do some writing.
A few weeks ago, my friend Laura put out a call for a project that she was doing that would feature the Bob Dylan song The Times Are a-Changing. When I first taught myself guitar, that was one of the songs I wanted to learn, and did. Laura was hoping to build a musical quilt of songs and voices and words, as part of a public performance.
I grabbed my guitar, re-learned the song a bit, and then choose the verse that I think has the most resonance for the times that we are in right now – the one where Dylan calls out politicians and writers to embrace change for a better world and be ready to defend the choices you make in the moments before you. I recorded the verse and sent it forth to Laura, to use as she saw fit.
A few weeks later, Laura shared out a video of the live performance of her Affirmation Quilt. As I watched and listened via YouTube, I was pleased to hear her cello layered in on top of my guitar and voice. She is a talented musician, and I was honored to hear her strings on top of my ragged singing voice. It was wonderful, particularly as she wove the music in with spoken words contributors by others, and other music pieces, too. She also performed the song, live. That was the quilt affect she was going after.
But this story doesn’t stop there.
Ron, another musician friend from another part of the world, watched Laura’s video, too, and he asked if she could share it on Soundcloud. He wanted a copy of the song. I figured he was up to something, and of course, he was. Ron, a talented keyboardist, took the duet of Laura and I, and made it into a trio (or more) by adding keyboards and other elements in Garageband, and then shared it back out again.
If you’re counting, that would be Song Iteration Three: me, then me and Laura, then me and Laura and Ron. (Well, Four, if you count Dylan, and you probably should.)
None of us (including Dylan, as far as I know) have ever met in person to jam. We only know each other through our networks, coming together for a shared purpose with shared interests. When collaboration comes together like that, it’s magical and powerful.
Who knew so much was going on when I kick out the power chords … thanks to Richard Byrne, over at Free Tech for Teachers (a must-read blog), for sharing this Ted Lesson on the Physics of Guitar. (Note: he shared this out a long time ago. This has been sitting in my draft bin. Time to post)
(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write about the small moments. You are invited. Come write with us.)
It snowed. And from a small window in our studio area, I was watching this one tree get snowed upon, its branches grabbing the heavy wet snow like a blanket. Then, as the day grew warmer with sunshine, I watched the snow drop off, almost in slow motion, as if the tree branches were reluctant to let go.
During the first Snow Day of the year, I started to write this song, with that tree in mind. It’s a musical Slice of Life today, constructed from loops and imagination.
Thank you for asking me to remix your song, Butterfly Waltz, for your upcoming picture book, set to be published next month. I love, but am not surprised, that you are envisioning music as part of the release party for your upcoming picture book. Music and words are deeply connected in all of our conversations and collaborations over time. I know you as creative and musical, and a reliable partner in my own musical escapades.
I listened to your track of your version of your song and stared long and hard at the manuscript of music you sent along. I printed it out and carried it around with me. I wondered how I could take the music in another direction and yet, still honor you and your ideas. I played around in Soundtrap for some time, and then began to find a kernel of muse in a jazz drum beat.
Over the course of the day (as you know from my messaging to you), I wandered back and forth into the song, adding bits here and there, and ending with my own vocals, layered low into the mix on purpose. I hope you like my version of your song, my friend, and I am grateful for the musical challenge.
It occurs to me that this is personalized Connected Learning at its best — reaching out to peers in our networked spaces, finding common ground on a shared interest, creating and making something in the process, and sharing out to the larger audience. That’s why I am writing this as an open letter, Ron. It just made sense.
Good luck with your book! I am sure it is going to be a great release party next month! I am curious if others will be making music as part of your invitation, too, and what the whole collection will sound like when it is done.
Sincerely and Peace (’cause I always end in peace),
(Note: This post is a convergence of a couple of ideas, including DigiLitSunday, where the theme this week is “purpose.” I am sharing out and reflecting on that theme as I contemplate making music as a protest moment.)
I often respond to the world by turning to songwriting. Admittedly, my first attempts at writing songs always seem to slant negative, and then I often have to wrestle the words back towards something more positive and productive (well, sometimes a song just needs a downcast view of the world to be truthful and honest).
As I continue to go through my stages of What the @#&% over this election, I have been turning to music to vent. My purpose here, in both the writing and then the decisions I make with the production of my music, is to find a creative path into grieving and, then moving into action. It’s meaningful for me to write — it’s how I process — and my guitar has always been a companion during difficult times. I find comfort there.
The more optimistic song – called Hope Remains — is my attempt to remind myself, and maybe you, that we have each other in dark times, and that even in the darkness of the world, there is light. It can be hard to see. We sometimes need to search long and hard for it. We often stumble. But it is there. I wrote this one for me. I wrote it for my friends. I wrote it for you. Hope remains.
This song came together rather quickly. I knew I did not want to reference the election directly. That’s not what it was about. I started negative, and turned positive. In less than an hour, the lyrics and chord changes were done, and I had recorded the demo on my iPad. My original purpose in recording was to keep the song raw. No production – no reverb or compression or anything. The next day, though, I knew it needed something more, something lingering off the edges of the guitar and my singing. I then layered in the bass/cello on the bottom end and did a slight mix of the guitar/flute on the higher end.
The second song — called Welcome to the Boardroom — was my attempt to use Trump’s words against him, crafting a dangerous-sounding remix with his own voice as the underlying track. My purpose? Channel anger into song and use his own words against him. I put his voice through all sorts of effects, and gave the tune a driving beat, with an underlying distortion field of instruments. Listen in headphones to get the full effect. I also added in strange sounds, to aurally show how off-center and off-kilter I feel right about now. I felt a lot better afterwards. The cathartic effect, I guess.