Sunday, November 15, 2009

The creative process #2

So now I have the general notion of the song down and an idea of where I want it to go. I have fragments of lyrics here and there and an idea of which verse is going to be about what part of the situation I'm imagining. Now what?

Well... now I sing "Ghost in the Mirror" all the way through, trying to fit the lyrics to the tune I'm playing. The end result is not going to be the final song, because some of the lyrics are going to be mumbled or fumbled and I'll think of some other things I want there too, but mission accomplished -- I now have a song. It's 4:30 long so obviously I have *too* much song, but that's why they invented this thing called "editing"... now I get to prune the lyrics down to a nice comfortable 3:00 or so that's easier for me to remember than that friggin' novel, not to mention making it more enigmatic and general. Then I can record the final version of the song.

And yes, we songwriters often *do* deliberately make the songs deliberately obscure, the general goal is to give people room to fit the general emotions of the song to their specific circumstances or to situations they can more easily imagine than the exact situation I was imagining when I wrote the song. It is that whole Bob Dylan vs. Phil Ochs thing again, where Bob said to Phil, "you're not songwriting, you're reporting." Bob is still around. Phil is not, and is largely forgotten outside of former tie-died hippies. There are very, very few topical songs that hold up well, and usually they're deliberately made general in order to have wider applicability, such as the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice" which is about making choices and accepting consequences, not just the specific choices they made that caused a furor. I still am chuckling over the time that a drug-abuse campaign asked if they could use one of my songs. The song was not about what they thought it was about, at least not for me when I was writing it. But if that's what it's about from their perspective, well, my job is done ;).

-- Badtux the Music Penguin

Sorry about turning this into a music blog for a few days, music is what I've been doing for the past couple of days. So here, have some Dixie Chicks...


  1. Never appologize for music.


  2. it's your blog, whatever you want to write about is your call. It's not as though any of are paying you.

  3. Oh, you already know I'm going to do what I want to do, like when I stopped blogging to concentrate on my writing and the novel I was writing at the time (stopped blogging, LOL! Yeah, that lasted!). The apology was pro forma :).

  4. You come up with the best tunes... don't even think about apologizing.

  5. music blogging is always good, almost as good as cat blogging.


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