Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Songwriters' Circle at Sparky's Last Night

We missed last month and it was so nice to be back. There were Syracuse University students attending this session; they behaved and even seemed duly impressed when their professor blew the room away with his tune. They were right to be impressed.

The group is getting tighter, more trusting of one another, quicker to find the laughter, less awkward. I'm enjoying the discussions about the process that are popping up: does one write for the audience or the songwriter; does the melody drive the words or vice versa; abstract concepts versus the virtual; show versus tell. These are issues my writing group wrestles with all the time. I sometimes wish more time could be spent on exploring those themes in this arena, although only because it furthers my goals.

The critique can be intense. I wish people would listen, take a deep breath, remember the reason they are there. If they want warm and fuzzy, "that's wonderful".....this probably isn't the group for them. As a former human resources director, I often had to be the one to pass on information to people who thought they were doing a great job when they weren't. It was often tough. Someone once told me, "I take constructive criticism very well the second day." I wish some of these songwriters would think about that......and think about some of the things that are suggested to them at the songwriters circle...on the second day....when it's sunk in.....when it might make some sense. Because, Dana is sometimes right on the money, folks.

Lots of surprises were to be found last evening:
... A timid song by a newcomer that held greatness in its core: It didn't necessarily need the Simon and Garfunkel references to make it strong, though they were lovely.
... A contribution by one of the students: I didn't get the lyrics so I can't do it justice here this afternoon. What I remember is that a word he used -- microcosmic, I think -- immediately brought me out of the song and made me think about it so I lost the rest of the song. That was too bad. I hate when that happens.
...The professor's "Stop, Drop and Roll" song that caused WAY too much conversation about what was happening or going to happen. I felt it was pretty clear, had a rousing guitar melody and it might only be made better by being a little shorter of a song. It was romping and clever and just plain fun to listen to. I'm still humming it today.
...A "cute" song about what pops up at a 7-11: It's on its way to telling a story. I hope the writer keeps working at it. I agreed with the suggestion of working on the internal rhymes, knowing all too well how much work that is....but the song concept seems worth it.
...A rambling tune about an abandoned pond with so much promise you can see those old waters sparkling. I truly hope this songwriter pulls away the weeds here to let the real story shine through.
...An amazing song written just that morning in a kitchen about the battle between the sexes that said a bunch and can say even more once she figures out who the enemy is....harder said than done, but I'm sure she'll get there.
...A delightful, luring melody (I'm getting used to that from this gal) about kisses in a lifetime, with thoughtful lyrics that just need a little more polish. I'm struggling with the concept of a full heart "shining"...I think she could find a better word, although it fills her rhyme.

And then my favorites. I had three "wows" last night. I simply couldn't pin it down to only one.

"Wonder"......After hearing some of the comments, I felt as though I might have been one of the only ones who got it. The writer had revised it from last month and I was sorry to have missed the first version, but this song spoke to my poet's ear and my woman's heart, loud and clear, "I've been there."

"Unknown Waters"....A man, his guitar, nature and the calling of the muse, all blended with a haunting melody. Just a word here or there I might have tweaked.....the word "glimpse" kept taking me off track.....the rest, soothing yet unsettling at the same time, exactly how the creative process is for so many of us.

And, last, but certainly not least, "Let Me Go". I spent ten years working for ARC in Cortland County and ran my own business, Incredible Journeys, taking adults with developmental disabilities on vacations. So I would be the very FIRST person to jump up and down if I felt it was politically incorrect in any way to start off a song about someone with Downs Syndrome with the lyric "Why am I slow?" This song is lean, crisp, to the point, and poignant. Of course, I may be somewhat biased towards this writer's work (it's Mark Zane....check back on past posts, I've reviewed a couple of his shows) but he has an uncanny way of cutting to the chase and showing you what's what. I've said it before: he nails it

Thanks, Sparky, for your hospitality. Thanks, Dana, and all the songwriters for allowing Chris and I to observe. It's always so difficult for us to get to sleep after watching such talent and creativity. See you next month!

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