Friday Afternoon Songwriting Club (FASC)
Are you leaving room for the unexpected in your music-making?
One way to think about art is in terms of what kind of balance it has between the expected and the unexpected. Or a way to say it more quantitatively is that each piece has a ratio between what’s predictable and what’s unpredictable by the audience that hears it.
Allen Ginsberg, the profoundly influential poet, teacher and co-founder of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, was known for teaching the poetic slogan at Naropa, “First thought, best thought,” and you’ll hear me repeat it often when leading songwriting prompts in any of the courses or workshops at golden lotus studio.
I’m asked from time to time what is the formula for a great song. Or what are the clichés that evoke a particular feeling in the listener. Or can you just give me the recipe that I can follow?
And believe me, there are formulas.
There are tried-and-true recipes.
Are you stuck on writing a song?
Listen, I get it.
I’ve been there so many times. Because I’ve been there so often AND with deadlines looming, I have about a hundred tricks in my pocket for getting unstuck. And I’d love to share one with you today.
Or is it just me?
Heck, you probably don’t have any neuroses. It’s probably just me, isn’t it?! (I have so many…)
Before we get into my neuroses (and we will), here’s a fun thing:
In my creative process, in my work, and in my daily life, I love to introduce some element of chance so that I’m surprised.
When I was 6, I was acting out in school because I was bored, so my first grade teacher recommended to my parents that they put me in music lessons. My parents took me to the local music store and signed me up. I had a really great teacher who made the lessons fun and even encouraged me to write a song based on a little poem I liked about a wolfman.
OK, so I know I started with a catchy, gotcha-style title. And, if you’re reading this, it seems that on some level it worked.
But I actually want to invite you, gently, to simply notice a process at work in your artist-warrior life.
The process goes something like this:
Music changes lives.
You wouldn’t be here if it didn’t.
Maybe it saved your life.
A few times.
Maybe just earlier this week you accidentally caught the season 3 finale of Stranger Things again and that Peter Gabriel orchestral cover of David Bowie came over the montage and you completely lost it, purging a year’s worth of feelings you didn’t even know you had.
Can I interest you in one or more listening experiments right now?
Close your eyes and listen to the sounds of your environment with a spatial awareness such that you are capable of sourcing sounds in all directions. Enjoy the delight in this superpower.