Monday, 14 March 2011
anatomy of a song
There is a room with a dining table and chairs, some books, a chest of drawers and little else. It has lively, bright reverberant acoustics like a very tiny church and very unlike the room I sit in now. This room has heavy curtains, a settee, a table, chest of drawers, two benches and a bed.
Now if I was recording vocals I would usually choose the room I am in now over the first room I described. The recording would be drier with out any natural reverberation and more suitable for adding effects such as echoes and reverberation. How ever the first room is where I would choose to write songs with an acoustic guitar. I won’t expand on this further except to say the acoustics and ambience of a room can have a very significant impact on the process of song writing.
About two months ago I was sitting in the lively room in my usual position. I was playing one of my electro nylon strung acoustic guitars. It’s a favourite instrument for doodling around towards writing a song. On this occasion I was playing around with three or four chords I have used before but in a different order. A melody occurred to me and I began to sing non-words. This is the form that happens when I am looking for a theme or feeling for an emotion that will lead to a lyrical idea.
After a while I began to sing my non-words with a new conviction and I began to feel my way into a new place. I think the new place is a room inside the mansion that is some times called the muse.
I found myself singing the new song as though I knew it. Some real words began to form and suddenly I had a chorus. I was delighted. I knew this would be some thing special for me. It has happened before but rarely. I can only say it feels as though the song is being given to me rather than being written by me. I jokingly said to a friend that as far as I was concerned I had done my work for the week and that on another occasion I could work on songs for days and get nothing as good. It felt great. I had a portable digital recorder in my bag but I was sure the outline of the song was burned in my memory.
The next day I picked up my guitar as soon as I was awake and began to play the previous days discovery. Nothing! It had gone. I was distraught. I made half-hearted noises to the effect that I didn’t mind and that it might pop up in my brain leading to some thing just as good. I didn’t believe a word. This was a bad day and I felt so stupid because I hadn’t bothered to record the idea.
A couple of weeks ago I got the same guitar out, sat in the same chair, in the lively room where I have written several songs and there it was. The rudimental song was back and I began to sing as tears rolled down my cheeks. I can hardly describe the feeling. My heart soared. Not only was my lost song coming back together, my laziness in not recording the first version was redeemed. I reached for the recorder and recorded one take of the idea. When I played it later on my computer I could see and hear the development and consolidation of the song over 3.5 minutes. By the end of the recording the non-words have become real words and a theme is established.
Currently the last two lines of the chorus are :
this is my hope
It seems to me, that over time this process that is song writing, has been cathartic and therapeutic for me. I believe it has kept me safe and still does. It has also helped to drive some of the happiest times in my life including my interaction with many of you and my fellow travellers.