Monday, April 23, 2012

Constructing Songs, by Neal Carpenter

Here is a guest post written by my friend and co-writer, Neal Carpenter:

Untitled Lately, I've thought a lot about the idea of a songwriter essentially being a construction worker or architect. While not an exhaustive metaphor and not an ultimate answer, I still think it's helpful. Obviously, this is not a new idea. We call songwriting a "craft," and we refer to our "tools," etc., but lately I've thought about it in more physical, tangible terms.

I've imagined the song as a structure I'm building right in front of me, piece by piece. I see the phrasing of a verse like the perfectly spaced beams in a wall. I see the emotional momentum of the chorus and the placement of a hook (if we use that design) as a roof structure. I think maybe I'll add a back porch with this bridge I'm working on. Some songs are revolutionary in their design with many intricate parts and would look very fascinating if we could see them as buildings. Other songs are very simple using large beams and timbers, yet solid and inspiring all the same. So everyday we are showing up, handling the materials, shaping, cutting, fitting them into place. We use our mouths to try out the words, feel their shape. We see it all happening on the page (one reason I like to write on real paper, but that's another discussion.)

Some days we realize we spent all day building a flimsy structure with poor materials all thrown together. Some days something very solid and fresh happens with little effort and we feel as though the only labor needed is a little sanding and slight re-shaping. Some of us may be lucky enough to find an idea, a design, that we know will change the landscape if we do the work to build it. We are, in a sense, building cities and towns with our work each day.

Is the structure sound inside and out? Are you wasting all your time watching your neighbors build and simply copying them? Are you taking any risks or trying out new designs? Are throwing things together for some quick recognition or are you trying to build something that will stand the test of time?

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