Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Memorizing it

It has been a while since writing anything in here. Today is one lacking an expression based in the creative process. I have not seen the muse come to me in a number of weeks. Instead I want to address the issue of assimilating newly created material. In preparation of an upcoming gig, I have been in the throws of committing new songs to memory, for the intent of presenting it to the public. Throughout my musical history I have never realized the difficulty that this process can exhibit. There could be multiple reasons as to this situation's difficulty, although having previously failed to consider this issue with any focused attention, I am only now seemingly confronted with it.

This year the creative process has allowed me to fully write and compose 10 new songs as well as completing the musical composition of another. Having a desire to incorporate this new material into my song list is what brings me to this situation. In clarification, my desire to commit this material to memory means exactly that, developing the skill to competently present this without the aid of printed information.

The first part of the solution is having a solid structure for a song. Having been a solo artist for so many years presents me with a lack of discipline with a songs structure. Doing it alone has always allowed me the luxury of being flexible with song structure. This past couple of years playing and performing with other persons has shown me the fault of this relaxed way which allows the slippage of a perfectly structured song. Singing harmony allows little room for the structure to have flex. It really needs to be consistent, and thus I realize now that there is significant importance in being consistent with every song's structure.

Once the structure of a song is ground out into the desired written form, the repetitive work begins. I compare it, in a way, to preparation for a school test, or maybe a final exam. I think it is different also, in that presenting songs well, can have no error, where as, forming a wrong answer on an exam may not create a failing grade. I have thoughts about what will work, but I know nothing about the process scientifically as to the process of learning. In the past when learning covered songs, I would listen to the song enough to gain a will to learn it first thing, then it was for the most part a process of repetition in playing/singing repeatedly. Somehow with my own new songs, having no recording to listen to, prevents in the very least the listening method. I may need to experiment with that, record the song in the structurally correct form, then listen to it. My problem is in the lyric for the most part. The guitar playing generally falls in place with rapidity, where as the lyric does not.

Another thing I might wish to consider is the number of songs I am trying to memorize. I have never before had so many new at one time with the need to assimilate. This fact alone might be what is causing my near sense of alarm and wonder about age related issues, questioning if there is potential for this to play a roll.

Yet another wonderment is that of cadence, and the simplicity of the rhyme scheme. These two factors being unique with each song, both contribute their part to the question of learning. Sometimes the word structures I write are very simple, where as other songs are much more complex. Some words flow off the tongue with greater ease than others also. These factors might also play a large roll in the memorization of songs.

What ever the reason, it is time to get back to the process of practice. Maybe today shall show more progress.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The First of Yesterdays Two with Two, to

Last night I left off with having written two songs in the day but having failed to talk of them, so here goes the first of yesterdays two songs.

It was morning in my house, there was a chill in the late summer air, coffee and breakfast were both done while watching the daily version of Democracy Now.  It seems always to be bad news, sigh, why watch?  I know why I watch, wanting to know as fuel for writing songs and other less useful things.  I'd been playing the piano the previous night, listening to Uriah Heep and wanting to learn, so I went to put stuff back in place (storage you might understand).  In doing so I was reminded of an old Bob Dylan song, Hard Rain which made a desire to play the song on my guitar.  One of those songs I sort of know but never had the inspiration to learn.  No lyrics caused a search for them then a copy for use.  I had to play a recording of it in order to determine the key, which is dependent on the version, anyhow, I ended up singing and playing the song maybe three times.  Once was not enough to drive into my consciousness, the entire meaning of that song, nor was it enough to grasp the phrasing cadence in the lyric.  Upon conclusion of that process, I went in the kitchen for something, when a phrase entered my mind, the blue eyed boy...  , from Dylan's lyric, "my blue eyed son."  I recalled the date of the album it was recorded on, Highway 61 Revisited, 1963.  It seems amazing how long ago, at least to me it does.   The lyric of that song are so powerful, as the story progresses.  It is seemingly about: the depths of thought, in talking of where he had been. Violence and threat, is what he saw.  Fear and being lost and or alone, in what I heard.  Fear and contrast in what I met.  The last verse might sum it up as searching for equality, pointing out how revolting it is.  This is at least some of what comes up for me when I go through those lyrics, though if Dylan had a known meaning, he isn't telling me of it!

The end result being this thought of time and how much at least to me, in the moment, the song screamed of inequality. My thoughts went on to watching some of the Newport festival recording of early Dylan, then there was the recent reunion and anniversary of The March on Washington for Jobs and Justice, 50 years later. Better known as the March on Washington, Bob Dylan Played a few songs there that day, though not Hard Rain. None the less, the date of the album , the march there that day and its significance it all reminded me that the big fight was raging back then and is still not resolved, but Dylan was singing about injustice back then, yet still it is a problem of society.

I wrote some words that are both pointed as to lynching, its horror, the fact that this subject was even louder in the public consciousness back then as compared to now although the problems of inequality remain rampant in this country,  The whole of it all causes one to wish to hide in a bottle of whiskey because little if anything seems to touch that condition.

The music is a very fast 3/4 time, simple three chords, a 1, 4, 5 sort of thing.

There remains some energy for the second song of yesterday.  This one started swarming up while on a walk down to my mail box, down on that gravel road below my house.  Like songs this one seemed to come out of nowhere.  I have been trying to meditate some in recent days, something I have not done consistently for a few years.  That and I have been attempting to remain conscious of my thoughts, being mindful of my actions and sort of disciplining my brain to better concentrate for playing music.  Thus the thought of looking past one's memory without dwelling on/in the past, as a contemplation came to mind, then time fades away, as time fades away, but choosing to avoid sounding like Neil the cadence must be far from anything he did.  That led to other thoughts that flew out of my head through an invisible hole, as I walked back up my driveway with a wad of junkmail in one hand, picking up pine-cones with the other to add to the collection for winters wood fire starting.  By the time I arrived back at my computer many of the good phrases I had come up with while walking had dwindled into the universe, unknown, forgotten.  But I got to the computer where I typed out what turns out to be the chorus of the song, I think.  That was followed by three verses, four lines each, which had a different pace and cadence than that which I stated as being the chorus. 

In the moment there was a coming disruption that was eminent although the timing was not certain.  My music partner was said to be on the road driving toward here for practicing.  With this in mind, I looked at what was there, momentarily I thought this song, with its structure and organization could easily be continued, lengthened.  But with time running out, I wanted to at least grab the inspiration of the moment, hopeful that the momentum would provide something fresh and new I grabbed up my guitar, very quickly followed by a musical theme which I found pleasing.  I also realized that this set of lyrics with its obvious two parts needed to be segregated, which lead with ease into a B part.  In the end I switched it around, with the initial part I thought up being the B part with its subsequent second part being renamed the A part.  I sang the song roughly a time, then in recalling my actual time issue, decided to make a quick rough draft recording to capture its escence.  It was rough, but I got a copy made.  I had to name the files, both the text and the audio something, so I gave it the name 88, and typed that into the save as box for both files.  I had succeeded in getting this completed before my guest had arrived, much to my surprise. 

After practice had completed, there was much to do, dinner, and domestic nonsense.  During dinner I watched the end of a film I had begun watching the previous night, which led me to the idea of getting back to blogging since I had written so many songs and compositions in these last few days.  I was ripe for writing, when I started, but by then it was as it is again now, rather late in my day, which fatigue controlled by disallowing my completion of what I am now attempting. 

Dateline, now or actually not now, earlier in the night before what is now, in reality morning, being after midnight, again!  Back in the evening of this period of being awake, lets call it that, I found the time to sit down and attempt something that I have found in the past to be nearly impossible.  That is, reentering the space of an incomplete song and creating an addition to it which retains the previously written essence, feel or what ever that is.  I must now say that I had an unusual success in this particular case.  The song is mostly complete now.  It is again nearly a ballad, yet it ends too abruptly to actually be a ballad.  It doesn't actually tell a whole story as a ballad does, this one leaves the contemplation of what happens to the observer.  It ends by making the story a continuous loop, if the observer wishes to understand the story that way.  The story ends as a succession back to where it started.  The structure is what is not settled.  As it is now written the song is introduced in the chorus, leading to the first two verses, another chorus, two more verses another chorus, followed by the last verse which introduces the loop.  The song is concluded by another chorus, which is in total 4 lines, where as I repeated the last two lines in the ending.  After completing, I renamed the computer files for this song, from "88." to, "Meanings in Rhyme."  I followed that up by making a new rough draft recording, incorporating the changes arrived upon this evening. 

I've never had a song come together like this.  Generally if they get interrupted during the major construction phase of writing, the piece is never concluded.  This one is different.  I was able to step back into that state of mind well enough to retain the songs essence and even the surprise ending, which was not planned.  It is a fact though, I don't plan what I write in song, it just comes and I grab it as though right out of the sky.  Creativity is awesome!

I'm trying to make up some video recordings of me performing songs in a very controlled setting, alone, in a place where there is little chance of interruption.  I have succeeded at getting 10 songs captured.  I am still needing some filler video to complement the production which is meant to enhance the songs story line.  Which leads me to another thought, of what the heck are all these songs that I write actually about.  In times to come, if I continue playing and playing out (a desire) I need to define what these songs are in order to share them with an audience.  Yet when I look at some of them, their lyrics and the poetry contained, some is very vague and mysterious in word, rather deliberately covert or otherwise riddle like. 

Well peace and this concludes two in a row! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Catching Up From Summer

Large chunks of time pass without reaching out to blog.  I'm not so sure I understand why I don't write here.  I have been very active in writing music this summer.  First, there was a tune back on May 28. called 'The Trip Will End."  It is life, summer evenings/nights, around a campfire, enjoying life under the stars, this entirety is known to end with death, so the trip will end, it is as simple as that.  I enjoy the song, it is quick in tempo, in a 4/4 time. I really am having a hard time trying to write about, without revealing lyrics and/or giving up a recorded audio file.  The intent is to write of the process of creating songs/music.  I guess it doesn't actually require a demonstration of audio to be effective. 

The earlier part of summer didn't provide any new ideas or creations.  It was August 5, that I wrote the next song.  Now this was a very unusual experience, for it began with the full intension of writing a letter to a friend.  So I wrote my friends name, followed by a coma, after the new line, I started writing what was in actuality poetry of a rather pure form.  This was very unexpected and purely spontaneous.  This song has a sort of story line, more fairy tale and certainly fiction.  I really grasp at, still, the ways that the lyrics of songs come upon me, having no actual idea of how it is that lyrics come to me out of thin air.  Like this song, "Cows and Birds" being about neither cows or birds, but having their subjects named is a just reason to include the words in the title, right?  It is a fun to play song, I think because the lyrics flow along so easily.  I have written songs that at times seem like a tongue twister to get out of my mouth.  This one, despite having rapidity in delivery, still flows easily and even better seems easier to remember than a lot of my songs.  Now in this email to my friend, after concluding the actual lyrics of this song, I did a copy / pasted into a new document, then proceeded to block out the song lyric as a separate item but leaving it in place for my friend to read.  I went on and wrote him a rather long note, explaining the passage of time in writing him this email that turned into the lyric of a song, and then I went on and recorded a rough draft of the song in an mp3 format, sending it along to this friend.  Now this person I met while serving military service in the Marine Corps.  We were both jet engine mechanics working on fighter jets of the day, F4 phantom.  We became friends because of music, well that and the times I guess, being in contact at the work place must have had a lot to do with it also.  The crux of the significance to this is that we began doing music together back then, I composed one of his lyrics sets back then.  I recorded it a few years ago, posted it on my web site where it resides in this place where you found this.  Running With Angels This is not the first time I have written in rhyme while writing to  friends, though the first song, for me.  I am not editing so I do imagine this is a convoluted paragraph.  Back to Cows and Birds, it is nonsense disguise as a story, though the story is vague enough to consider it verse.  I know not how to describe songs.

August provided a second song, on the 22nd called, "Gone Crazy," a rather political piece, although actually its focus is truly on a perception of the world of humanity and its overall effect.  It is powerful as seen from my point of view, because I believe that as a structured group of humans, I think gone crazy as an apt description of what's happening.  Now although I personally have halted the use of broadcast television from any source, I remain aware of the influence it puts on the collective understanding of many sections of human activity, mostly as it relates to the expenditure of money, but also through the propaganda of those news outlets, feeding infommercial, hype-crap, unworthy of my participation.  Though being aware of this condition, I wrote about how we (the collective) sit back and do nothing about what our government does, and what it allows corporations to do which flies in the face of both logic and even civility in many instances.  Honestly it is sad to note, and will bring us all the blues eventually. This tune I placed in a blues theme, B minor is the key and it is far from being a twelve bar blues.  The cadence combined with the tempo are blues, plain and simple.  The idea erupted right immediately after the conclusion of watching Democracy Now  As always the news can seem such crazy stuff.  I have no actual recollection of the subjects covered during that showing.  It did leave me disturbed, as it so often does.

Now it is mid September, nearing the autumnal equinox, again, (eek), and more songs come.  This week brought four songs, starting Saturday, well technically last week, but...  It was another occasion of unintended writing, as sometimes happens.  Busy doing something when a thought, a line of verse simply materializes inside my mind, without any consciously understood trigger.  First one line, then another, which these days quickly leads me to this keyboard, where I open a document and type out the words for the sake of preservation.  At this point I usually have no idea which direction the words will take me,  The first two lines during a beginning can be moved to the middle, to the end, to the chorus, or anywhere else.  Trying to remember the what and the why of an event last Saturday seems difficult in this moment.  The song I titled "Back Porch Gatherings." It is another complete fiction, story like, though not actually a ballad.  The words talk of thunder storms, watching them and talking nonsense.  This song has 3 and a half verses, that I repeat fully.  I guess the chord progression of this song is quite unusual having three semi-unique sections.  The sections are each a patterned progression of four chords that repeat.  The following section, these patterns are then transposed down four steps.  This second section is followed by a third section that is up one step above the previous, where it then concludes by walking back up to the origin.  I do like the beat of this, again a quick 4/4 time in the key of D.  Oh I wish I understood theory well enough to accurately describe this progression, but I don't and so I can't do it justice other than to say it is unusual and catchy to my ear.  Now my music partner told me today that it is a difficult song for him to play, yet I seem to find ease in it.

Sunday brought another song, though for this song only the musical composition was formed.  The lyrics I wrote April 28, although at that time, the lyrics had no accompanying music.  On the morning I completed this composition, I had a plan to practice, although, in opening the folder containing song lyrics, I noticed the title 1-river, which I actually had no recollection of. The prefix of the numeral 1 I use for keeping that particular file at or toward the top of the file tree, so there it was, glaring at me as I opened the file manager program for viewing the list of file names, all being song lyrics.  I decided to look at the file to recall its contents.  Four full verses were written, well structured for the most part, although I did do some minor editing, then rather suddenly a melody came to mind, I grabbed my guitar and in seconds I had this new idea fully formed.  This one I finger pick, an unusual technique for me personally.  I have only in the past 3 years began to use a finger picking method due to my previous inability to coordinate my right hand well enough to create the desired effect.  Many times over the years I attempted to finger pick but I simply could not master it, something about separating nerve impulses to opposing fingers doing differing things.  That combined with my sense of pitch and physical direction (up or down the neck).  Finally just a couple three years ago, I learned a pattern from a friend, and after much persistent practice I was able to do that one pattern though with difficulty.  Even today I played that original patten and I still find it difficult.  Regardless, back to the subject the song formerly named 1-river, upon completion I renamed to, "River Song."  I am now able to finger pick some, using patterns of my creation, which I did.  It is a simpler pattern than the original finger picking pattern I learned.  I think the song turned out to be quite a beauty.  The melody flows, as rivers do.  What more could one ask for.

Now as for the two songs I wrote this morning, I am going to have to write of them at another time, if in fact I can remember to do it.  It is now, as Peter Rowan wrote, "it is tired, and I'm getting late."  I simply must go off to the flat lands where dreams can happen, rejuvenate and get on with the next day when I live it, as I live it. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Back To My Future

Again it has been another long absence, greater in duration than the last. So little has happened of what seemed a plan. The winter of recording passed without its want being realized. For better or otherwise we decided to add a bassist, creating a more complete sound. Hindsight proved that to be a mistake, not the idea, the individual we chose to fill the roll became the issue. The individual was seemingly a very talented player, yet practice never happened for this person. How can one be a musician and never practice on your own as an individual, seeking to better one's own ability. Thus after over 3 months being patient and hopeful that we could together achieve consistency we eventually concluded that the only consistency we were capable of was that of being inconsistent. The end result was that of removing the bassist from our efforts entirely. The result there in is that of months of lost opportunity for creating the recordings we had planned to create. Over that time period we were able to rehearse two to three times a week, although we had chopped down our set list to be only 10 songs rather than the 30 that had formerly been in use, thus we lost a lot of our momentum. Live and learn right!

Now we have crawled along seemingly over the past two months, practicing only occasionally due to schedule conflicts mostly. For myself as a musician, I have been playing more than I have in recent years, practicing individually most days for hour at a time. I have also had the occasion to write several new songs. The song writing results are impressive to me, although I may not be my best critic for obvious reasons. I do however think these recent songs are of the highest quality I have yet created.

Hopefully as the near future days pass, I can again be more active in writing here. As I said at the onset of undertaking a blog, I want to use this as a tool to help improve or otherwise hone the skill of writing new total compositions. I have failed in writing when it has been ripe to do so. I have been otherwise occupied with life's twists and turns. I try to keep the creative juices going although it seems most of my music time has been the continual review of material, known as practice. The future remains, as always, unknown.