Feb
22
2013

  Behind the Music

While my video is uploading to YouTube (an interminable process on our slow internet connection), I figured I could use the time to explain how I came to write a social commentary song.

On Sunday, I read an article in the New York Times that irritated me. It was Creating Histurbia. The first thing I did was try to figure out what is was exactly that irritated me. The list was long, but I think it boiled down to the fact that the article implied that "hipsters" were doing something new by moving out to the suburbs. I disagreed.

I mentioned this to T, and told him I was so piqued I was considering writing a letter to the editor, since comments were not allowed on the online version of the article.

T then told me that he and his bandmate Jessica had been discussing the phenomenon of internet commenting. How it is mostly filled with emotion, people firing off their comments in the heat of their first encounter with the material and initial reaction. T said that they decided (I don't know whose idea it was or if it developed first during their conversation) that the proper response to an inflammatory article (whether it meant to generally inflame or just aroused a response in one person matters not) is to feel the emotion, then transform the emotion into thought, and then the thought into art. They thought that art was the proper vehicle to comment on society.

So I decided to give it a try. I had already transformed my emotion into thought (because I wanted to discern what exactly irriatated me). But turning the thought into art was a more difficult process.

I've spent a little time every day so far this week trying to express my irritation through a song, and finally came up with the bones of it yesterday. I spent some time this afternoon fine tuning the lyrics, and then after the kids were in bed I recorded a million takes until I got one where I managed to both sing and play the entire song all the way through without any major errors.

And now it's uploading to YouTube. I am interested to see if anyone watches it. I will probably link to it in facebook tomorrow, so perhaps that will help.

The most interesting thing to me about this process, was the way it narrowed my focus. I had a broad range of irritations that I wanted to address in the beginning, and actually got lyric fragments for a good many of them. But I did not find it easy to create rhymes that told the story, so I found myself ruthlessly editing to try to think about what the minimum requirements were for storytelling, and just focused on getting that done so I would have a cohesive song. If I had thrown it all into a letter to the editor I would have covered all my points but it would have been rambling and certainly not published. Although it might have made me feel better. But I suppose there is always time for me to add verses to the song later, or just write another song about another aspect of my complaint. But it was such an effort to produce this, that I now have a better idea about how important something has to be to me before I ought to make some comment about it. In retrospect, if creating art to make your social comment is to be the standard (versus some immediate comment online), then it will be easier for me to just blow things off and not let myself get worked up about them, if I know the only remedy is to create a piece of art for relief. On the other hand, the process of working through something this way is quite cathartic, so if there IS something that bugs me in a major way, then I will not hesitate to create something if I am so moved.