Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Very odd circumstances can culminate in the creation of new songs. I had one of those experiences the other day, September 8th. It was late morning, following breakfast, with the lingering of a kitchen mess drawing my attention toward clean-up, that I now note as the beginning of this unfolding. The house was still, in the quiet after going through the morning’s ‘catching up’ on the supposed news. Outside the wildfire smoke was intense enough that the windows were all closed up for my intension to keep the concentration of particulate out, increasing the silence within. I thought to change the ambiance by adding some music to sooth my mind as I began the task ahead. Turning on my computer’s music reproduction software, I contemplated the play-list displayed, a remnant of yesterday’s listening to old Neil Young albums. In that moment with the last two tunes of his Zuma album (from 1975) cued up and waiting while my desire wanted something different, yet these two songs could play without disrupting my mood. Still the task in the kitchen required greater duration of time than these two songs could cover, but what to set forth? I wanted something different, something other than playing through the set order of recorded albums. My usual method, calling up artists, looking through album names, then choosing, I chose instead, to enter words into the search box. Happenstance guided what came next, into the search box, I typed the words, “hard times”, finding 11 artist names parsed out in the ordered list associated with those words. I added the titles having these words to the play list, clicked the start button, then back to the kitchen to begin washing the dishes.
With this musical set list now filling the space, I began the dish washing process. At least three days of dishes had accumulated since the last washing, yet the quantity was minimal. I waited for the sink to fill, adding the liquid soap, placing the neatly arranged bowls into the steamy water, while noting the music that set the mood, pleasant in its familiarity. That washing, rinsing, and placing of clean tableware into the drainer began in its normal manner as the second song, the last track of Zuma began. I’d not listened to this in years, it sounded like CSN&Y (I later looked into this to find that all of those guys participated in the recording). My thoughts flipped about, influenced by the music and the activity. As the name themed song titles progressed, my thoughts swayed to the influence, the singing of songs about hard times. By the time the list had tracked through and to Woody Guthrie’s song, "Hard Times," I began considering that all these songs are derived out of the historically hard times that these authors had lived through, or at least knew something of. With the influences of these various hard time themes reflecting in my thoughts, combined with my own ever present quest of creating new songs, I began considering a tale based in songs about hard times. The Guthrie song, being one from the Library of Congress Recording sessions, includes a conversational narrative portion of some duration. It was during this narrative that my mind skipped past the spoken, allowing a phrase of my own to build about songs of hard times. Looking back now, it seems as tho, Woody’s statement about the many songs he knew about hard times, must have influenced my trajectory of thought. So many songs about hard times. I’d just listened to many other songs with the theme, hard times. Everybody’s singing songs about hard times. All these people sang songs of hard times, so why not write a song about a few people who wrote songs about hard times, inclusive of something specific to their author. With the dish washing completed, I moved back to the computer to write out the idea.
Since I had concluded this topic viable for a song, I set upon writing the theme. I immediately wrote what is a sort of chorus, having six lines specific to the general theme, singing songs about hard times, then I went back to the music program to revisit the individual songs that sparked the idea. I began with Woody Guthrie, to derive the respective theme expressed in the song. There in I wrote a verse having to do with Mr. Guthrie. I went down the play-list revisiting all the tunes and researching to discover the author whom wrote these songs, rather than the recording artist listened to, for clarity in addressing who actually created the themes I'd been experiencing. From that point on, the process was quite simple, mechanical really, although it was inspired of my own passion.
Now, in reflection, I realize that this song came about through my deliberate attempt to write a song. This is a different methodology from the usual method I employ. More often than not, my own experience in creating songs has shown up through what I consider as the song finding me, or the universe gave it out, allowing me to catch it due to being receptive, which is not what happened during this song's creation.