Monday, September 10, 2007

Dicotomia Falsa

It seems that there are exactly two general ways to go about writing a song: (1) independently: the open road of jamming and/or see where the progression takes you or (2) dependently: conforming to some video imagery (scoring), replacing a temp track, or writing for someone else.

It's a false dichotomy, I'm sure, because you can start with limits - a mood, a theme, etc. - and then go nuts with your imagination, keeping those limits in the back of your head. By the same token, you can fly to space during the initial songwriting process, then bring it back down to earth if that song is to serve some specific purpose.

I write about this because "Time (Lose Your Hold)" was pretty much a song crafted from limits, but also needed to break free from the temp track from which it was initially confined, so that there wouldn't be the stink of plagiarism associated with it. Songwriters do have our pride, you know, to create something remotely creative, albeit undoubtedly influenced by our influences. Yes, I am aware of my redudantly circular word use.

For Elan Vital, the songs also initially were confined to limits: the 12-bar blues for "Do the Code," creating a drone for the Elan Vital drone, and adapting a waltz. That's the initial step in the process to create music that fits a movie or fits another purpose. After those "rules" are set, then it's a songwriter's job to innovate within those limits.

And then there's the process that I much prefer - jamming until something cool comes out. It's almost like natural selection for music. "White Rhino," "Fifty Can't Be Wrong," "Shield," "Transcend the Writing," and "Who Are Your Friends?" were all born from either jamming with the band, or strumming a guitar alone. They've been written and re-written several times before the recording process. And while, as is, they're the product of jamming, they still have some sort of limits - whether it be towing the line of standardized song structure (ugh, I know) or gathering them together eventually to form a coherent album, and dropping the ones that don't quite fit.

All in all, the dichotomy is false, as there are a seemingly myriad ways to go through the process. By the way, if you want to read a about a more meaty false dichotomy, head on over to the blog.

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