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
my salvation

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.



Anonymous said...

See, told you it'd come back.

Anonymous said...

That is quite a revealing story. And some of us thought your job was easy lol. More similiar stories please!

Anonymous said...

Sweet! Love the japan poster.

Anonymous said...

that must be some song to take you like that,can't wait hear it. a beautiful story as well.


Anonymous said...

You must come to Sweden and sit by my special and best lake. It is near my home. Bring a fishing rod. Let your head be filled with nature and make more special songs.


Anonymous said...

What an interesting insight into your work as a song writer. I suppose low points like that are very hard but you must derive lots of satisfaction from getting it all together. Looking forward to hearing the song soon.

I also like the Love Japan poster very much. Are we allowed to print a copy please?

Peace and love to all in Japan and the world.

Anonymous said...

To me this poses the question as to whether it is a gift or a curse to have artistic talent.

I am sure that when it is "given to you" it is the former but to "lose" what you have created must be really hard.

It is interesting to hear how it all happens.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I was fascinated by this piece. I am a music teacher in a school and occasional composer, though not up to your standard. I know how it feels when some thing seems lost.

I think your yoik material is very interesting and unusual, especially the video with the chanting. How did your interest begin? I have trolled the net for other examples and have become a fan of the form.

I think the Japan poster would make a great T-Shirt.


Anonymous said...

I am not a musician , i cant play or sing , but twice in my 50ish years i have composed 2 great songs whilst ive been asleep, i have even remembered them for a short while after i awoke but having no means of capturing them by writing or recording they have long since gone , very frustrating and dissapointing,
i have heard the some musicians keep note book and pencil by their beds for such occasions at least i know they were real and i got to hear them!
keep em coming Rob

Anonymous said...

I was interested by Tonys comment and his two songs. I wonder where it all comes from.

I have some great dreams where there is music I don't recognise. Not songs but like background film music. I can never remember any of it when I wake up though.
I wonder if others have similiar experiences.

Interesting blog as usual. So many different topics on here.

Love to all
Mary and Bob

Anonymous said...

Nice story. A work mans tale.

In Greek mythology the muses were the goddesses who inspire the creation of literature and the arts.

I guess song writers are connected to some thing like the thing the Greeks were trying to understand and explain. Perhaps we are all connected to it but, for most of us it seems it is to a lesser degree. Ah well. Can't have everything lol.

Power to you.


Anonymous said...

I think some of us have the expectation and reason to remember a lot of this kind of thing whereas others think it all a bit odd and forget all about it, unless it's a couple of potential "hits" like Tony's. Then at least the memory of the event if not the detail survives. All very intriguing.......

edgar broughton said...

Hi Folks just reading your comments here. Very interesting.

Tony give me a bell some time and we'll get you hooked up to a digital recorder through a little skull chip interface I am working on lol. You too Mary!

If only I could write songs while asleep. It would be perfect for some one like me. I hate going to bed and I hate getting out of it but I could say " I was working prone" as distinct from "working from home".

Regarding the Japan graphic do what ever you like with it. Print a copy if you want to and if you make a T-shirt Roger please make one for me please.One of my responses to feeling over awed or over whelmed by something, and both applied to my reaction to the japanese crisis, is to try to make something. It helps me.

Actually Runer I'd sit with you beside your lake and I might not mind too much if I was too distracted to write any songs.

Take care all.


Anonymous said...

can you believe the incompitance of the british embassy in Japan. IRC have to return home because they would not give them a piece of paper because they would be responsible for their safety.


Anonymous said...

Yes Mick! We can believe it. It is just another very serious error that most of us would pay for with our jobs.

I've just lost mine due to local govt cuts in Birmingham area.

See you on the march folks.


Anonymous said...

so sorry to hear that sam,hope you some luck finding more work


Anonymous said...

I'm just catching up with the blogs after a couple of busy weeks being 'out of the loop'.
In that time, it seems, the world has got madder and the blogs have reflected that madness.
I often read the blogs without leaving a comment. I'm sure many others do the same. It doesn't mean I disagree with the sentiment or haven't enjoyed or been educated by the prose, just that I have not found the time or the words to record my response.
The seeming lack of initial response to the march on the 26th does not mean it was a bad idea for Rob to attempt to rally support, it simply means that people kept their thoughts to themselves for their own reasons. However, when the quiet ones were asked why they were quiet, they responded by the score - mainly anonomously - which tells a tale.
For all those in the world who are suffering right now - whether it be due to the forces of nature, the idiocy of nuclear power or dictatorial power, my heart goes out to you.
Sometimes, the rest of us are all too busy holding our own lives together to give our time to help.
It doesn't mean we don't care, it probably means that when we ourselves are in need, we will meet with the same response.
Keep up the good work Rob. Carry on doing what you feel is right.