Grappling with song

No matter how deep i get into sound and my appreciation for obscure and experimental kinds of “music” or “sound-art”, I never lose my love for all of the more accessible genres like rock, folk, psych, metal, etc. All these things are related of course, in that they are all sound. The differences are matters of intent, organization (or lack thereof), content, and probably a bunch of other things I can’t think of right now. One of the problems I consistently have with people into far flung forms of music, is when they abanodon the more accessible or “normal” forms of music as if they have moved on to higher ground. Of course here we get into ideology and value systems which I don’t really want to get into in depth. At least partially because I’m not sure I really have a solidified position on the subject, or if I should. What I do know is that I enjoy a CCR tune just as much as a piece by Steve Reich (albiet in slightly different ways).

There is always part of me, no matter how out my tastes get that wants to write songs and record them and make a record to give to friends or whatever. So I’m often sitting around playing little half written songs on the guitar and sort of slowly developing them over time. I don’t generally record these things beacuse I know that if I get pulled in to recording them, they will eat me alive. I’ll inevitably want to put my whole crappy instrument orchestra on there and obsess over the mix, arrangement and lyrics until I’m finally sick of the song and it goes on the scrap heap with all the others. Occasionally though I’m able to settle down and just bang something out without putting too much pressure on it, just to be able to hear it with some added parts playing along.

This brings us to todays piece. I play little riffs like this all the time. they sort of get stuck in my head and I have to sit down and play them or they will drive me mad. I decided to keep this dead simple, short and sweet with couple of little changes. Of course after I played it back and heard all of the overtones more clearly, I decided I had to try and play some of the melodies (in the overtones) I was hearing on chord organ and then that lead me, once finished, to add another guitar part and tamborine to round it out. I probably would have played bass on it too if I had a working one, but I don’t.

When I was done I played it for my wife, who really liked it (always a good sign) but asked if I was going to do lyrics. My answer was “probably not”. Lyrics make it a song and making it a song would mean I would get all crazy and probably run out of steam in the manner I stated above. I’d like to get to that point one day, but I never want to write all of the crappy lyrics that I know I have to write before I write good ones and orchestration is something I just get too obsessed with. This made me feel go though, so maybe I’ll give it another try soon enough. For now however, I hope you enjoy this simple non-song. 🙂

Take it easy like a river


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6 Responses to “Grappling with song”

  1. ig Says:

    So, why call it “Take it easy like a river”? See, with no words, now we have to figure out the title. 🙂

    Nice piece of music. Also agree with your point about exclusivity in music. There’s always a time for every kind of music, in my opinion.


  2. howsthatsound Says:

    Thanks for the kind words. You ask an interesting question. I have thought about this a bunch, and the resolution I came up with is this… when I finish with something and I sit back and listen to it, I always get pictures in my head. Sometimes they are really blurry, and sometimes they are clear. Sometimes they are just a color. In this case it wasn’t very clear, but I the image was green and brown and as I thought about it the music and the colors I fealt like it had that pastoral quality like when you sit in the woods by a river, which tied in with the green and the brown. The rest I sort of came up with, but the idea behind it comes from taoism. A river never runs into a wall… it just flows. People get really bent about insignificant things, like a stone in their river. It’s not a big deal, just go around it. Take it easy like a river. It sounds a bit corny and hippy, but there’s something to it.

  3. ig Says:

    Makes perfect sense now. Thanks for sharing the thought.

    I’ve been reading your blog for some time now, and I really enjoy all your work and the insight you provide. I wanted to ask you if you would like to contribue to my blog. It is a blog about guitar, but more on the fun and encouraging side of things (as opposed to gear heavy and all that). I record playalons that I post for readers so that they may download and playalong to, in my belief that this is a good way to practice and have fun.

    I’ve been wanting to do a cool “drone” playalong, and your recent post on drones got me excited. Would you consider recording a drone to contribue to my blog? Give it some thought and let me know. I love playing drones, especially improvising over a drone. It really makes you focus on the sound itself and opens you up for explorations that you never thought were possible. And that’s what I want to encourage my blog folks to do. I like the sounds you use and your overall productions, so, I thought it would be cool to have you contribute. I would of course credit the work to you and write a little blurb about your blog, which I just think is so cool. Let me know! Keep up the good work.


  4. Lemon Mahler Says:

    I completely agree with what you have said in regards to listening to a variety of music. Over the past few or so years I’ve listened to an obsessive amount of bands and composers, and recently came to the universal conclusion that sounds should be understood as sounds, and enjoyed as such. In this way, appreciating music is almost objective, unrestricted by class or genre. Too many times I see a listener plumbing the depths of his preferred style, recognising the wealth of one particular category, but sadly ignoring the virtues of another. It’s this kind of ‘genre lock-in‘ which stifles appreciation of older periods of music. Children brought up with hip hop and alternative rock, find it hard to recognise the value of free jazz or the romantics. It’s a shame, but I guess people enjoy the warmth of their “comfort zone,” however unrewarding it may ultimately be.

    I guess, despite my enjoyment of nearly all kinds of music, I find it important to underline the fact that I don’t enjoy everything I listen to. The reason is simple and comes from a simple rationalisation I came up with a few months ago: among the music I enjoy, there has always been one common denominator; inventiveness. Too many times I listen to a track which attempts to replicate the form of a previous one, sometimes out of fashion, sometimes out of laziness, sometimes the artist does not know any better. This disappoints me; their sounds become redundant, a rehash of what has already been done before. Many times a band or a composer is content to sit and stew in a certain genre, neatly checking the boxes of participatory requirement while exploiting its devoted demographic.

    Many ask me how I measure the validity of music. I just ask myself: “have I heard it before?“ It’s always a pleasure to listen to something which expresses a new idea, whether sonically or lyrically, and it’s this constant drive for new forms of expression, stylistically or emotionally (to better express ones abstract thoughts, or explore the possibilities of the medium, or something completely different to what I have stated) which is what makes me proud to be part of an audience.

  5. Lemon Mahler Says:

    Of course, I’m always up for a new perspective. If you disagree with what I’ve said, I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts.

  6. howsthatsound Says:

    actually lemon, i agree with almost completely.
    i have to say, it’s odd for me to listen back to/read this, as it seems like so long ago now. at this point it’s been a long time since i’ve even picked up a guitar in standard tuning and played a chord. when this was written, i’d heard so much less than i have now, it’s hard to put myself back there. i still basically agree with what i’ve said above but i have been so focussed on absorbing sounds from the outer-limits that traditional music just doesn’t sound the same to me anymore. (although, i still enjoy the piece posted above, and still do, occasionally pull out the queen or the t-rex) 🙂
    when i said i agree almost completely, i just wanted to add a caveat, that inventiveness is wonderful, and surely i do look for this in every new thing i hear, but it can be as dangerous a desire as comfort. i myself, worry that if i am only in search of a “new sound” that i may miss out on something that takes an old sound and does something to it that makes it (almost) new again. maybe that fits into your definition of new as well, i don’t know, it certainly could.
    i definitely do agree though that when people “play the genre” i find it extremely tedious. especially if they are a 18 year old from brooklyn pretending to be a 55 year onld from kentucky (or something equally as inappropriate).
    i do still have this odd dream of figuring out how to create some kind of new musical hybrid that takes into account the massive amount of stuff i enjoy, and yet is both culturally authentic and sounds like nothing i’ve heard before. oh, and somehow makes lyrics relevant to “experimental” music again. lol. if i ever figure that out, you’ll know. 😉

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