The Process

Hello there! First off, the reason I write, “In this episode…”, is because I’m a fan of serial stories, from the sitcoms of my youth (All in The Family, M*A*S*H, Star Trek) to current shows to comic books. heh. That said, on with this weeks post!!
Every artist works differently. The unique process of making something can be a challenge with or without formal training. What usually compels people to make art is (I think) expression. Humans need to communicate with each other and understand each other often as a means to understand themselves. This symbiotic relationship between a maker and an appreciator is like a conversation between a field researcher who retells his experiences in the wild to a laboratory researcher who processes what the field researcher has given him/her. So the excellent news here is that these are active roles. Television (as much as I dig the serial experience, what’s going to happen next?? etc.) is a fairly passive experience. You are the Lord on the throne (slob on the couch) bring me my entertainment knave!!! It’s good to be the king! The act of making has many levels, steps, and layers. From the seedling of an idea which must be watered to the age of a tree which must be pruned (editing). I’ve been asked, which comes first the lyrics or the melody? Do these things occur simultaneously? It’s a hard question because my process is way more haphazard and circumstantial than I’d like it to be. For instance this song (inkblot) took 5 years to write! It took 5 years because I simply did not have the final stanza…then the giant BP oil spill in the gulf happened and that event tied into what I had already written, boom, tune finished. On the other hand, in the quiet of a particular morning (I’m often up early, before the sun) I heard the birds outside in that black to blue transition of the coming day and wrote ‘birdsong’ in it’s entirety, words, melody, everything. It was a relaxed, receptive moment, the exception for me. Sometimes lightening strikes. I read somewhere that the are two types of actor; those of the blood and those of nerves, those of earth and those of electricity, those of the heart and those of the mind, visceral and intellectual. There are, of course, various combinations to these ways of working and depending on who the actor is, they can use more from column A than column B depending upon the role. My songwriting has been fluctuating between the blood and the nerves. Let it be known that one mode of work is not better than another….whatever works, works and the work is the thing. I try to avoid judgement as I conjure up words and melodies. Will people like it? is a valid question but ONLY after the tune’s finished. Some lyrics are abstract musings, some based on personal experiences, and some declarations. I have a few story songs. Some come from dreams, others from realities, and some just rhyme. I write in those black and white marble covered journals, on post-its, in a nice leather-bound journal and record onto a CTR -111 panasonic cassette recorder when there’s a sketch to get down. I have a lot of sketches. There’s an ache I have for good ideas which never got their comeuppance….left by the wayside (poor bastards). I’ve had one guitar teacher in my life, Fred Draper, who believed in a triad of learning (practice, performance, and teaching). I’ve been working on two out of the three. I’ve been working on my singing with the excellent Jill Edwards in order to truncate the recording process (fewer takes) and I practice and perform frequently. So, as in the “What Am I?” post 12/24/13 about genre, wherever the seedling of tunes comes from, they must be nurtured. Take care for what you make and what you make will carry you….does that sound cheesy? heh yeah i thought so. So listen, have a great week! -p


3 responses »

  1. Hi Philip,

    Glad to meet you on Wednesday! Thanks for saying hi. Again, that open mic was really welcoming and intimate. It felt good to be there. I went to a place in Bushwick on Thursday but there was no one there. No performers or no audience. The business said I could get up and perform if I wanted but I only waited to see what would happen for a half hour, drank some tea, and then left when it stayed dead.

    It would be great to hook up and go to some places together. Drop me a line. I just signed in so I hope that means you have my email now.


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