Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Thinking about songwriting -June 10, 2015

Three albums and one songbook released....34 years as a rabbi, with 16 of those as a Jewish songwriter.  Why have I chosen to express my values and beliefs through music?  Or...has the music chosen me?  I don't have an answer to that question, but here is what I think I think I know. 
1) I have always found personal expression through prose or poetry to be meaningful and cathartic.  There is head and heart in articles, sermons, letters-to-the-editor, and op-ed columns.   There is head and heart in songs as well, with several added features: the melody, the chords, and the way in which words are put together to fit the melody add a rhythm and an emotional dimension to what I hope to convey.  The song offers an opportunity for greater sharing of what feel and believe.  
2) In a song that lasts three of four minutes, I feel that I can communicate a message with a depth that I may not be able to reach in the same amount of time only with words.  
3)  The multiple modes of creativity involved in songwriting offer moments of challenge that lead to a feeling of having grown from the experience, once the song is complete.  In other words, with each new song, I have a sense that I have added a new dimension to my identity and personality. 
4) Every song is like a world unto itself, capturing a moment of my life. Sometimes I will tell people where I was when I first had the idea for a song, but what is more important is trying to define the inspiration and the reason that song came into being.  I can remember what events may have led to the attempt to put certain ideas or emotions into words with an accompanying melody.   When the melody doesn't come, it's still possible to create a piece of prose or poetry that can stand on its own.  When it does, the completion of the song becomes a mission, an "itch that needs to be scratched"!   Finishing a song over the course of minutes, hours or days gives me a sense of accomplishment that I was able to shape the words in such a way that they fit into the structure of the me
lody, so that I could share with others my message of the moment. 
5)  Music can freeze time and, also, span time.  The song which begins my second album, "Let Me Sing My Way Into Your Night," seemed complete when I wrote it in October of 1977.   It was the song I used to end a long hiatus from songwriting in 1999.  By adding a verse, and, several years later, a line from the book of Psalms,  my 49 year-old self took the musical statement of my 23 year-old self and gave it new life.   
6) Musical compositions of any type are memorable to a willing, interested and devoted listener.  A tune with its accompanying lyrics might "stay" with someone else who has heard it and enjoyed it, but it can also become "their song" in addition to it being the song of the songwriter.   The potential for sharing and remembering is enhanced by a melody that makes the one listening feel, in some way, he or she is "at home" with both words and music.  If something in the tune or lyrics resonates in a unique way with the songwriter and listener, the song becomes can take on a long life of its own. 
7)  Anything we say or write and share with other people becomes our legacy.  A song shared through a home recording, a studio recording (which takes the music to a different level) or a live performance allows the songwriter/performer to offer his or her gift to the world in a lasting way.   

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