Y9 WK44 - Chris C Notes

The Sunday Songwriters club is a stretching exercise for your mind. Arpeggios for the brain cells, so to speak. After all, writing is like playing - to get better, you have to practice.
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Chris C
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Re: Y9 WK44 - Chris C Notes

Post by Chris C » September 4th, 2011, 4:27 pm

CitiZenNoir wrote:More on Word Selection.


Here's a few comments on them:
"Fantastic song. I don't think there is any great meaning here. It seems to me that Stipe is trying to create an atmospheric song filled with evocative southern images like tent crusades, old rail lines, church bells. I think the album's title says it all: "Fables of the Reconstruction". No deep meaning behind anything here just Stipes love affair with words and images which continued wholly on to Lifes Rich Pageant. I think he means the album to be like a tattered old book you pick up in a used bookshop. Interesting stories and great illustrations but most of the pages are missing. You have to fill in the blanks and will never have all the answers. Thing is, the mystery is more engaging than the whole story could ever be. This is a great song on a fantastic album."



That's a very interesting point. I tend to write stories whose meaning is pretty explicitly spelled out, but I'm fascinated by the skills of those who write in a more abstract way.

I bought a thick book of Bruce Springsteen songs a while back, partly to look at his lyrics. I'd always thought of him as a guy who tells straightforward stories in most of his songs. but I hadn't really caught all the words. So it was quite a surprise to discover that the particular ones I looked at weren't really laid out like some of the old folk songs, which often told clear and simple stories. Instead they seemed to create the story with a series of small scenes and images. It was very effective, but also left plenty of room for the listener to build their own interpretation. Further down the track are those whose words could mean just about anything and which seem more akin to Jackson Pollock flinging paint at canvas.

Sometimes the latter approach can produce something of lasting value and interest, but it can result in a lot of forgettable crap too. Balancing the words with the right music can make a huge difference as well, so there's never any danger of running out of things that can somehow take off and fly...

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: Y9 WK44 - Chris C Notes

Post by CitiZenNoir » September 5th, 2011, 11:19 am

Hey, Chris :D

I've always been fascinated with abstract writers, too :wink:

Springsteen! Love his first album - Greetings From Asbury Park.
He seemed to be making a tremendous effort to write like he thought Dylan wrote.
Fantastic imagery!
It may have seemed rather childish, but it would later serve him well after he refined it a bit more.

Chris wrote:
But a songwriter can keep re-arranging their words and music for as long as they like. Every performance can be sliightly different, and often is. Sometimes it's good to have that freedom I think.

Speaking of, Dylan.... I read something rather recently that he said about songwriting. I'm not quite sure that I grasped it correctly, but what I was getting out of it was, he said something like this - You can come up with an idea, then you have to GET OUT OF IT. Once you get into it, your job is to then get out of it. Otherwise, he went on, you could spend your whole life writing ONE song! lol

Of course, as you said there, Chris, Dylan is always one for changing his lyrics. Especially live (He is a Gemini :wink: )
I found what he said interesting though. To have a mindset of 'getting out' of whatever you got your mind into as soon as possible. That was your job, as a songwriter.
Like, making up a character in a given situation, and then figuring out how to get him out of that situation....?

Also, I wanted to share this with you. It's something that R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe said about songwriting:

You once said that the producer of Lifes Rich Pageant, Don Gehman, caused you to start examining what you called the “cell structure” of what you do, and that it might have been a bit early for that. Were you talking specifically about lyrics? I believe this was in 1986.

Yes, lyrics. He was the first guy who sat me down and, to his credit, said, “You can't just sing about nothing. What is this? This doesn't mean anything to anyone.” He was really challenging me in a way no one had ever done before, about what the songs were about. And I was like (feigns an overly sensitive voice), “I'm a poet, I'm sensitive, I'm shy, leave me alone.” But he made me think about that, and I might have over-thought it. I might have overreached for a couple of records. I think it shut me down, in a way. But I really learned a lot from working with him, and I learned a lot from him sitting me down and not being precious with me, which I think a lot of people were doing.

It finally brought me to a place where I am now, where I can separate thinking about a lyric and really working on a lyric, versus just allowing something to happen and letting it be what it is. That's the conscious versus the unconscious voice. It's really easy to write pop lyrics. It's falling-off-a-log to write a song that everyone can sing along to, with a great melody and with words that are memorable. But there are enough songs like that in the world. And there are a lot of them that I think are incredibly mediocre, and I just don't want to contribute to that. I would rather write something like “E-Bow the Letter” [from the 1996 album, New Adventures in Hi-Fi], something that makes no rational sense to anyone, but that has a visceral feeling and a mood that's undeniable. You know what that song is about, even though if you start examining and picking apart the lyric it makes no sense. It's just a “feeling,” versus an essay. I'm not an essayist.

Ken
"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles

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Re: Y9 WK44 - Chris C Notes

Post by Chris C » September 5th, 2011, 4:55 pm

CitiZenNoir wrote: You can come up with an idea, then you have to GET OUT OF IT. Once you get into it, your job is to then get out of it. Otherwise, he went on, you could spend your whole life writing ONE song! lol
Thanks Ken. I like that way of looking at it! It's always good to have a variety of ways to think about the way you shape and develop ideas, and that rings some bells for me. :D
Like, making up a character in a given situation, and then figuring out how to get him out of that situation....?
It does sound like regular fiction writing advice/strategy doesn't it. I think Dylan was pretty good at taking things from wherever he saw them and then applying them to his own ends. Could you perhaps use that view to work on your cicada idea?

Also, I wanted to share this with you. It's something that R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe said about songwriting:

Good to read that Stipe was able to take the advice about not getting too precious about being a poet. :)

I get what he says about not wanting to write more pop songs, but I'm not sure that I agree with his take on it being all too easy.

It's really easy to write pop lyrics. It's falling-off-a-log to write a song that everyone can sing along to, with a great melody and with words that are memorable. But there are enough songs like that in the world. And there are a lot of them that I think are incredibly mediocre, and I just don't want to contribute to that.
There's certainly more than enough crappy formula pop out there, but there's no shortage of bad pretentious 'poetic' stuff either. I'd say that writing GOOD popular songs is every bit as hard as writing any other style. In fact, it's arguably harder because the ground has already been covered so much, there's a lot of skilled professionals working in the market, and the snorts of derision are so much louder when you fail! :shock: How much safer it is to stay a little obscure and have some 'poetic' cover to hide behind. You're really out on open ground when you write clear, simple and 'obvious' material, and that's not as easy (or as comfortable) as it might look.

I think Nick nailed in in a post he made a long while back. It went something like "If you want to see how to write great lyrics, look no further than Bob Dylan. But if you want to see how to write bad lyrics then.... look no further than Bob Dylan". :wink: I think Bob has written some stinkers too, but because he's Dylan he gets away with it, because there's alway the potential get out of jail clause "It must have a deeper meaning, because it's Dylan....." :D

It's all good fun though... :mrgreen:

Cheers,

Chris

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Re: Y9 WK44 - Chris C Notes

Post by CitiZenNoir » September 7th, 2011, 4:47 pm

Haha - yeah, I found his belittlement of writing good pop songs pretty amusing, myself.

Chris wrote:
Could you perhaps use that view to work on your cicada idea?

The Cigale song so far is a mass jumble of Jazz Fusion in my head at the moment.
Just music. I have no idea for the story as yet, other than the title - Love Song of the Cicada.
I'm thinking the words will have to be yet another abstract love story of sorts.
Although, a loosely structured Jazz thing - A mix of singing/spoken word and exclamation.
I may have something.... I came up with it today. Though not intended for the Cicada song.
We'll see.

I tried working on the music track a couple days ago - Harder than I remembered! LOL!
I'll keep at it :D

I am intrigued by the Dylan bit though. And I would like to try it out on something, sometime :wink:
I'll let you know :D

Ken
"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles

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Re: Y9 WK44 - Chris C Notes

Post by s1120 » September 8th, 2011, 2:12 am

CitiZenNoir wrote:The Cigale song so far is a mass jumble of Jazz Fusion in my head at the moment.
Just music. I have no idea for the story as yet, other than the title - Love Song of the Cicada.
I'm thinking the words will have to be yet another abstract love story of sorts.
Although, a loosely structured Jazz thing - A mix of singing/spoken word and exclamation.
I may have something.... I came up with it today. Though not intended for the Cicada song.
We'll see.

Ken
Sounds like a interesting idea. Living in the woods, I can almost hear that song go together! Im thinking a irreguler croaking toad as a bassline in my mind though. I envy all you that can "think music" though... I get words all the time, and story ideas, but as of yet the music has eluded me.
Paul B

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Re: Y9 WK44 - Chris C Notes

Post by CitiZenNoir » September 15th, 2011, 8:09 pm

Thankx, s1120 :D

I like the croaking toad idea 8)
Someday I'll have to put something together using only sounds from the night -
Cicadas, crickets, toads, owls, wolves, etc.

Ken

Edit:

This is the second time I've made reference to Cicada's singing at night....
As far as I know, they don't. When it cools off after the sun goes down, they get quiet.
Maybe on a night with a full moon, otherwise, not really.

So, more than me copping to a repeated mistake, I'm finding that I'm fascinated by my memory overriding known fact.
Why do I keep associating that sound with summer NIGHTS?
Hmmmm....

Ken
"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles

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