Friday, March 1, 2013
SOME THOUGHTS ON SONGWRITING PROCESSES
Last night I was playing around with a song and I began replacing the ideas at play with geologic images: black smokers, fumeroles, tectonic plates, steam vents. I was really more engaged at that point than I was before. I had a playful sense of anything goes, and of freedom: any interest being available as material for a song. This might break some rule I have about authenticity that I learned in school or from a creative writing manual. "Only write about what you know." It certainly isn't something an old bluesman or country singer would do. (Or is it?)
It occured to me, I could research any topic and enjoy reading about it as an adjunct rock and roll activity. I imagined myself in a bathosphere, ten leagues down. What are our limits as songwriters? No limits, really, except that pure prog rock erudition is probably not interesting, nor pure fantasy/imagination. A song generally needs feeling, and melody and good changes help. At dinner time, lavender foam and reduction of blood orange is novel, but bread and cheese more typical.
This got me thinking about a new project: songs about science. From my point of view, science would not remain science for long. I guess I should say songs informed by science, by learning and exploring. To take a song and feel out what branch of research it might require. "Under The Boardwalk" is a fine song, but if I were in that mode and unable to do better than "Under The Boardwalk," I could look to wiki articles about urban planning for new ideas, terminology, a wider and more expansive sense of the world.
Songwriters share feelings, and that can be quite raw, straight ahead, cathartic, and squarely in the troubador poet tradition. But a child in school does not practice goal-setting around the sharing of feeling, as a craft. When I was in grade school I was enthusiastic about: dinosaurs, constellations, early American heroes, sports biographies. I enjoyed looking at rudimentary X's and O's in books about football, and learning about baseball plays: double steal, hit and run, safety squeeze. I liked skeletons, volcanoes, comets, sharks, rocket ships, and war: grenades, guns, battlefields, jeeps, and so forth.