My friend, Bob, the drummer in all of our rock and roll bands over the past 20-plus years, called me up the other day to chat and, as he is apt to do, Bob handed me a phrase of words that he thought I could turn into a song: Dripping Faucet.
When I went quiet, he explained that these quarantine days have forced, or allowed, couples to get to know one other, to spend time together, to be active and quiet, to hear the dripping faucets. He thought the metaphor could work, but I was doubtful. Even trying to rhyme with “faucet” is pretty tricky.
Still, later, I kept circling back on the idea, as much because if I can give a friend a gift of a song — and Bob loves to inspire songs — I will do it, but also, it was less the phrase than his explanation of the phrase that rumbled around in my head. That evening, I wrote the lyrics and the next day, I worked on the music.
I changed the original phrase, first to “here we sit / we let the faucet drip” in the song and then when I misspelled “faucet drip” on my paper to “faucet drop” I thought: I like that mistake and kept it as the title of the song.
This is another song in my collection of music tracks I have been making during this strange time of being home. My aim is gather them all up on Bandcamp at some point.
I was walking on my usual hikes (with the dog) throughout the day when both the title of this instrumental beat/loop track — Every Day The Same But DifferentEvery Day — and the beginnings of the melody lines began to converge in my head. When I got home, I went right to work on it, trying to capture the ideas brewing of both the tedium of days in social isolation and the noticing of the small things that are different each day — the new buds blooming on the bush, a fading flower, a trinket left on a wood stump, a fallen tree branch, the frog pond higher or lower, and more.
There’s a lot of purposeful repetition in the piece, but also, if you listen, there’s small things happening underneath as things move along — percussion and keyboard lines and other elements that intrude upon the forward motion.
In the piece, the most entertaining moment (I think) is where I placed the single triangle, the light tapping of pause in between the main elements — a point where the listener leans in and takes a breath, before the music propels forward.
I wrote and shared the first draft of this new song with my students, as a message staying connected in the time of isolation and as an avenue to peel back the process of writing. I have a handful of students who are writing songs, too, and sharing with classmates in our closed spaces. I wanted them to get a glimpse of how I go about writing a song.
In the first video (below), I showed students my scratched-up, penciled lyric page, and then played the song on acoustic guitar. The more polished version (above), which I am sharing today, was done over a series of days, and I like the rock/pop feel to it.
Along with teaching, reading, parenting and all that, I’ve been making time to play guitar and fiddle with sound loops, making music. I’m going to share some of it out now and then.
This three-chord bluesy song – I Ain’t Moving (From My Easy Chair) — is no doubt inspired from some listening to John Prine and how he used humor in his songwriting. I was hoping to capture some of the oddities observations of the times, and the character’s sense of being alone and being left alone. I hope you’re OK.
I Ain’t Moving (From My Easy Chair)
Is it a Monday?
or is it a Sunday?
I seem to lose track of time
Is it morning?
Or is it evening?
I’m sure I’m losing my mind
No, I ain’t moving from my easy chair
tell the world, I disappeared
You can’t move me if I don’t care
tell the world that I disappeared
Is that a news show?
Is this a game show?
I don’t know the truth anymore
When home is the work site
and work is the home life
I pull the plug and shut the door
When the food is gone
and the cupboards bare
and I’ve chewed through every box that was there
Still I won’t go
I’m hanging on
I’ve got soup cans and dried beans somewhere
When it’s all gone small and reduced to the screen
when the distance between us is more than we’ve seen
We can still find a way to get on through
You keep an eye on me and I’ll keep an eye on you
So I’m sending out a signal on the video lines
hoping if you hear me that you’re doing fine
‘cause if you’ve got time, I’ll connect with you
I never once thought that we’d be here
worrying about each other from far and near
and I’ve got the time if you connect with me
Note: This entry is actually the last stanza and chorus for a song I worked on yesterday, to share my writing process and music with my students, from a distance. And it is all about distance, and thinking of how a real sense of loneliness is starting to surface in my interactions with my students more than before.
Get your anger out
in power chords –
fretboard distortion –
but leave the last note
with hope’s resonance
Note: I was finishing up a song yesterday and getting into the recording of it — a protest song about the president and the times and how angry and frustrating it makes me to watch him not just spew lies to help himself but to do so and let people die from his inactions. This poem bubbled up from that cathartic songwriting experience, of using the strum of the guitar and some underlying distortion chords as a way to express emotion of the times. I had Woody Guthrie on my mind. Here’s a version of the song, if you’re curious.
(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 was following the Democratic election news out of Iowa about the first caucus, thinking about where we are as a country and where we might be heading (although, who can say with any certainty?) and this song began to write itself. Sometimes, writing is like that. So I spent some time with it, sitting with the words and the chords, scribbling in and scribbling out ideas, and letting it flow forth onto the page, and then into the microphone.
As usual, the notebook page is a mess of ideas.
It began as a song of resistance and defiance in this age of Trump and the GOP’s control of government – the title of Bend ‘Em ‘Til You Break ‘Em gives it away — but something arced for me about halfway through, and the third and fourth stanzas are more hopeful, more optimistic, more reasoned.
I’m not driven anger not driven by hate I’m driven by the chance you might reciprocate
You hold out a hand you might invite me in we might find it in common a place to begin
Yesterday, I shared the song I created after reading Terry’s poem. This morning, after reading some lovely comments from him about process and time and effort, I went back into my sound project and began to annotate where his words influenced what sounds. I found it a useful bit of reflection and I suspect Terry might find it a bit intriguing, too.
Note: Shrinking the project to see all the tracks made everything tiny. Apologies.
What I find interesting is how I was both trying to capture my own feeling of reading Terry’s words but also being intentional in taking it in a new direction. If you read his poem, you should hear some of his moments. You may also wonder what I was thinking, as you listen to other elements. Mostly, I was trying to capture the heartbeat of his piece.
Doing this kind of work brings you deeper into the text, a closer kind of reading. Every word has the possibility of something to give. I hope Terry enjoys the interpretation, left for him as a gift for his birthday.