The cosmology of song writing

cosmos-500

Song writers have to be prepared to answer these two questions ad nauseam:

“How do you go about writing songs?” and “What comes first, the words or the music?”

I recently watched a documentary about the Eagles (yes, I know, but they were good really) in which Glenn Frey, (or was it Don Henley?) spoke about sharing a house with Jackson Browne, and hearing him get up in the morning and work away for hours and hours at the same bit of a song, over and over. Don, (or Glenn?) was made to realise that song-writing is principally about hard work and perseverance. So that’s one answer to the first question.

To learn more, should you really want to, I’d recommend reading Jimmy Webb’s book, Tunesmith: Inside the Art of Songwriting. It is a superb in-depth exploration of the whole business.Jimmy WebbAs for me, I was niggling away at ditty this morning and suddenly struck by an analogy as I stared at a screenful of words, half-lines, rhymes and suchlike ascii scribble. It was this:  my songs seem to come together in the same way that stars and planets coalesce from cosmic dust. Everything whirls around in a cloud for ages until little clumps form, which attach to, and sometimes detach from, each other. Eventually a lyrical solar system is formed. In the old days the ‘universe’ in which this process happened was a note-book with pages of scribble. Nowadays it’s a word document. The ‘cloud’ is made up of single words, short phrases, perhaps a couplet or two. They expand, join up, move around, collide and shatter, disappear completely or if luck is in, form into solid pieces of lyric. These pieces may then suggest a larger structure, a form of verses, chorus, bridges and so on.

Although this process can happen over a day or so, more usually it seems to take a lot longer, though not perhaps as long as it took our galaxy to form. I have unfinished songs which I began decades ago. Space junk, cosmic debris. They circle round and appear in close orbit every year or so, then disappear into the black again. I don’t expect them to ever fall to Earth.

 

As to the second question, here’s the thing sometimes the tune comes first, sometimes the words, but usually they arrive in bits together. So no need to ask that question again. Ever.

 

 

 

The Ghost of Lady Bennet

This song was written for the Living Archive Band’s radio ballad The Horse and the Tractor, but was not included when the ghost story fell victim to the editorial axe- a not inappropriate metaphor! The song intertwines two stories- the murder of Lady Grace Bennet at Calverton Manor, Buckinghamshire in 1694, and the childhood fears of Richard Fountaine who was brought to live in Calverton Manor after his family had bought the farm and the house. Not surprisingly, having heard rumours of hauntings, the boy was not happy, as he recounted much later in life:-

Richard Fountaine talking to Roger Kitchen in 2009

Manor House

Grace Bennet was widowed when her husband Simon died in 1682, and thereafter she lived alone as Lady of the Manor in Calverton. She was widely disliked for her ‘mean and covetous’ ways, and being ‘a terror to the village’ she would have anyone found gathering firewood on her land severely beaten.

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Farewell, old friend

No going back. I have sold my fiddle.

My 19th century German workshop Maggini copy, with two bands of purfling front and back, and an extra turn in the scroll (apparently not one of Maggini’s signatures).

In thirty years together we have seen and done a lot: from Castlethorpe Village Hall to Westminster Hall, from Leicester to Leipzig, countless ceilidhs, innumerable morris stands and nearly as many pubs as there are stars in the sky. I ought to be sad, but I truly am not. I keep saying that l’d rather all my instruments were being played and loved rather than hanging on my wall, and I mean it. It isn’t even leaving the village, so I could ask to see it every so often if I really wanted to. It is in good hands. So long!

Old friend

Slipjazz

Fresh old music from the depths of StudioBlend:

I named this tune years ago. If only  I’d known then what would happen when you search on ‘Slipjazz’ I might have had second thoughts. Ah well… Continue reading

Shining, Sheltermore & Samuel Palmer

Two years ago I set myself the task of finishing off a number of tracks which had been hanging around for some time. Here are the resulting two albums. Sheltermore is pretty folky (after the folk-rock of the first track), while Shining is much more layered, instrumental and personal.

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The Five Minute Wonder, 1969-2016

This is the story of a guitar.

It is a very unremarkable guitar, except to me and to its current owner.

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The Five Minute Wonder

 

It was my first guitar, bought for me by my parents some time around 1969. I had pestered them for it, and Dad was not too convinced.
“It’ll be a five minute wonder like everything else,” he predicted. Continue reading

The Cat Club de Purr-ee

StudioBlend is proud to announce the new single from the Cat Club de Purr-ee.
Entitled Calling All Rabbits, it is a toe-tapping, tail-wagging piece of Tabby-Jazzfolk.

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The Cat Club de Purr-ee  ( l-r: Ringo, Bingo, Yehudi, Bassman)

Ringo, Bingo, Bassman & Yehudi went into the studio last month to record the tune, which was written by StudioBlend’s very own Kevin Adams, and are very pleased with the result.
“We all feel like the cats who got the cream,” says Bingo. “Kevin is such a great writer, and as soon as we heard his demo we knew we had to do it.”
“That’s him on mandolin, by the way,” adds Yehudi. “I could have played that myself, but his original was so hot we had to keep it.”

Of course  we had to ask, why Calling All Rabbits? This is what Kev told us… Continue reading

Calverton Suite

Here’s a piece comprised of four tunes which I wrote for the Living Archive / Living Archive Band’s project about Manor Farm, Calverton. Continue reading

Shining

Here’s a song which is some years old but only recently mixed. It grew out of a hallucinatory experience I had one night while lying in a hospital bed not feeling all that well really.

The picture is part of  A Cornfield by Moonlight with the Evening Star by Samuel Palmer an artist who was influenced by William Blake. Continue reading