Saturday, August 14, 2010

I Just want to get some sleep 3

A good example of when I learned about songs having minds of their own happened some years back, when my daughter was a grumpy, teething one-year-old. It was close to Christmas, and I was up most nights walking the floors with her, trying to comfort her when her gums were aching.

In the wee hours of one morning, my sleep-deprived brain pondered the various Nativity scenes with the Holy Family, Baby Jesus in His Perfect Babyness, and Mary and Joseph the serene parents of a newborn. Hmph. I don't care if Baby Jesus IS the Son of God, He was also Son of Man - hence, He must have had colic. And later, teething pain.

My sleepless brain started to spit out this crazy song, "Rock dat Baby Jesus." It was about the REAL Nativity Scene, complete with smelly sheep and noisy angels keeping the Holy Family awake at night. Silly, yes; but it helped me to smile a bit during a very trying time.

The next morning, after a few hours of sleep, I sat down at the computer and started typing. My unconscious mind had been busy while I was asleep, and I knew when I got up that I had to write this silly song. But what happened as I wrote was that this silly song began to change as I wrote. It became a lullaby, sung by a very human mother and her love.

Later that evening, my husband and I were getting ready to go to a Christmas party, and it hit me while I was getting ready - I already had the tune for this developing song. I had been singing a wordless "la de da da da" to my daughter over the previous nights - and with some tweaking and reworking, it fit perfectly. The song became "Rock My Baby Jesus," and you can listen to it here. (If the link doesn't work, go to and click on your choice of the high-speed or low-speed modem.)

Babies (usually) wait until they are ready to be born. So do songs.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Happy synchronicity...

"Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently causally unrelated occurring together in a meaningful manner." (Thank you, Wikipedia.) It's a Jungian thing, and more than mere coincidence.

There is also a name for inventions, ideas, etc. all popping into existence close-to-the-same time in different places (and by people who haven't been in contact with one another). And no, I don't remember the term for it (but it may well wake me up in the middle of the night).

This type of thing happens with songs - with any creative effort, really.

I was at a friend's hone studio yesterday, listening to some recorded tracks. One song in particular jumped out at me (heck, they were ALL good!) - very moving, beautifully performed.

It also happened to be on a topic that had been nudging my brain lately.

Now, this might not be so surprising if it were a timely topic, like something going on in the world, the environment, in politics. But it wasn't. In fact, it was 260-year old news. Whoa!!

Once, I would have thought "dang...someone else wrote it already. Oh well" and shelved the idea. But consider this: What are the odds that 2 people who know each other have song inspirations about topics that are so similar -- but so far removed from present day reality?

Sounds synchronistic to me. Now, I just keep writing.

If an idea is powerful enough to make several people sit up and get inspired, well.... it's powerful.

Keep writing. Say what you have to say. The song will have its own way, no matter what!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I Just Want to Get Some Sleep...2

Technology is wonderful...when it works.

Did I say that already in this blog? Possibly...I say it at least once a day, because it's true. Over the past few weeks, I have fought computers at home, at work, and my cell phone. All of these things, as friend/music partner Joshua reminds me, are "tools." "Tools," he says (with the earnest attitude of the True Believer), "are to make our lives easier."

"Yeah, as long as they work," I snarl in response.

We both agree that there is a limit to the "probation period" of such techno-gizmos and that too many manufacturers rush their latest creation to market before it's truly tested (can anyone say VISTA?) or troubleshot. (Troubleshot? Is that a word? Songwriter's rule: It's a word if you need it to rhyme with something.)

I will resist griping about the computer that friend/music partner/and-did-i-mention-computer-guru Joshua has been grappling with. (Not one, but TWO failed hardware components...which means I can't even blame Windows this time.) But the cell phone...argh!!

BTW, you may wonder what this has to do with songwriting. It's a tools thing. Tools make our lives easier. Or they should, at any rate.

So, this Pantech Persuit (which my son is going to inherit quickly, because he picked it up, played with it for 30 seconds and Got It) must be charged every night. So, I leave it plugged in and turned on, sitting, screen side down on my bedside table.

Last night the muse nudged me. Just an idea, a phrase. She does that a lot, just a phrase, a teaser of what's to come.

Instead of fumbling for the pencil and paper, I slid open the keyboard on this little green phone-pod and typed myself a note. Hit save, hit the pillow.

This afternoon, I scrolled through my notes, and saw that one. I had completely forgotten about it until that moment. OH! YEAH! WHAT A HOOK FOR A SONG!

Technology IS wonderful when it works! And it worked! For some odd reason, the glow of the keyboard was enough light to enable me to type a few words. I could READ it the next day. Do you know how many scribbled middle-of-the-night ideas have been lost because I couldn't read them later? And - even better - I WENT BACK TO SLEEP!

So I felt a bit better about that little phone today. Instead of going back into the box and back to AT & T, it's going to my son (who loves it already) to support his Texting Habit. In the meantime, I'm heading back to AT & T for something a little "smarter."

Think about your songwriting tools. Do they make your life easier, or do you fight some of them?

Monday, August 2, 2010

I just want to get some sleep.

It can happen in the middle of the night, and often does.

For me, it happens a lot in the morning, when I'm half-awake-half-asleep.

Your brain goes on these excursions, and comes back with some wild creative stuff. Sometimes it is a simple idea, an "ah ha!" that you make a note of and then move on. At other times, it is an idea that will NOT let go, and it starts to really disrupt your life.

"But I don't have time to deal with this!" you think. "I have to study for this test / pick up the kids / finish this report / make this presentation / cook supper / etc."

"Why can't the muse visit at a more appropriate time?" "I have GOT to get some sleep!!"

It is a juggling act. Sometimes we complain that we don't have enough ideas, that we have Writer's Block. Other times we complain that the ideas are plentiful - but they show up at the wrong time! Or, just as bad, they are the Wrong Ideas!

"I wanted to write a love song...and I keep getting this protest song about government bailouts!"

Well, the song is gonna tell you what it is; just go ahead and write it. You won't get any peace until you do, anyway. Mind, it doesn't have to be perfect - but you do have to get it OUT.