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Not Pete Atkin >> Off-topic >> Songwriting
(Message started by: colin_boag on Today at 17:17)

Title: Songwriting
Post by colin_boag on Today at 17:17
Might I refer you to an excellent poem on the subject of Songwriting by the wonderful Liz Lochhead.  It's called 'Ira and George' and it's dedicated to Michael Marra (soon to be Dr Marra when Dundee Uni awards him an honorary doctorate).  You can find it at the bottom of the news section on Michael's website

http://www.marra.me.uk/

I hope that you like it.

Colin

Title: Re: Songwriting
Post by David Morgan on Today at 17:45
Thanks, Colin - pretty much on-topic, I'd say (at least, I could imagine Atkin and James in similar flow), and right on the button. Very nicely done.

Title: Re: Songwriting
Post by Pete Atkin on Today at 19:55
Yes, it truly captures something of the idea of the relationship between words and music, something not often attempted and even less often achieved.   It does describe the Gershwins' music-first way of working, but truthfully I'm not sure they often worked together romantically late in the Manhattan night, not if Ira's still-excellent book is to be believed.  Mostly they seem to have worked apart anyway, with Ira using 'dummy' lyrics (Roly poly/eating solely/ravioli/Gotta change this diet or bust).    And, to be really picky, melodies don't have chords, at least only by implication and then only questionably;  and, besides, even by implication very few if any of George's had only three.   But maybe none of that matters at all.   (And, by the way, in case anyone should be doing an annotation job on Liz L, it was Sammy Cahn who made that 'phone call' crack.)  

Nice call

Pete

Title: Re: Songwriting
Post by Ian Chippett on Today at 20:54
Pete wrote:

<<And, to be really picky, melodies don't have chords, at least only by implication and then only questionably;  and, besides, even by implication very few if any of George's had only three. >>

This came up once before ob MV IIRC and made me ponder then. Is Pete saying he didn't sit hunched over his guitar or piano gazing into the blue while his fingers picked out chords that led to say, "Sunlight Gate" or "Thirty Year Man?" Melodies that come straight at you out of the blue just waiting to be used  are (I humbly suggest) rare at best. Can Pete suggest one of his songs where completely new chords to the same tune would be appropriate?

Ian C

Title: Re: Songwriting
Post by Pete Atkin on Today at 22:55
Not appropriate, maybe - almost (I'm just hedging my bets) without exception, there's a final decision of 'rightness' - but there's hardly any song that can't be re-harmonised.   At its worst (and depending on the familiarity of the song) it would just sound 'wrong', but at its best it's a technique which the greatest arrangers can and do use sometimes to make you hear the melody in a different way.   If nothing else, it demonstrates that a melody doesn't automatically always carry its harmony with it.

Pete

Title: Re: Songwriting
Post by Ian Chippett on Today at 23:30
Pete wrote:

<<Mostly they seem to have worked apart anyway, with Ira using 'dummy' lyrics (Roly poly/eating solely/ravioli/Gotta change this diet or bust).>>  

It seems to have been the rule in the days of Tin Pan Alley that the music came first and the words arrived later. I read somewhere that "Tea For Two" was itself a dummy lyric. Writing tunes without an existing lyric must dreadful: almost as dreadful as writing a lyric for an existing tune. Which did Pete prefer?

Ian C;

Title: Re: Songwriting
Post by Ian Chippett on 23.01.07 at 00:05
Something went wrong in the writing of the previous message:

Pete wrote:

<<Mostly they seem to have worked apart anyway, with Ira using 'dummy' lyrics (Roly poly/eating solely/ravioli/Gotta change this diet or bust).>>    

Has Pete ever written a tune which later found itself to be adaptable to a lyric? The Gershwins and Rodgers of the day seem to have come up with the tunes first though I imagine that it wasn't just two chaps working in their separate ivory towers all the time. I read somewhere that Richard Rodgers wrote the lyric of "Dancing On The Ceiling" as well as the tune.


Ian C

Title: Re: Songwriting
Post by Pete Atkin on 23.01.07 at 11:01

Quote:
Has Pete ever written a tune which later found itself to be adaptable to a lyric?


All the time.   I have notebooks which I raid and cannibalise all the time, full of sketches and phrases and ideas for this and that.  They almost never amount to anything like a proper tune and they need another idea or several in order to turn them into something.  It's quite a lot, I imagine, like keeping an artist's sketchbook with a view to larger paintings later.

But it's not easy, whichever way around you work.  There are no tricks, no secrets.  In the end each individual has to find his or her individual answers to the manifold problems, and hope that the result seems inevitable and effortless.  All you can do is to try to give yourself the best chances.

Keep at it!

Pete



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