Writing

Can there really exist an orchestra of words?

Soundcloud – a bedrock of inspiration

I was listening to my favourite playlist on Soundcloud. Entitled Brotherly Love – because my brother got me into ambient music – the playlist contains nearly 100 tracks. Anyways, I was on my teeny balcony watching the sun set over the horizon when this song came on.

For whatever reason, words started to walk towards me. When that happens, I know to pick up my pen and notebook because the walking-of-words will become a frantic sprint. When that happens, I need to be ready to help them to the finishing line. And so, I began to write whatever came to mind while I set the song to repeat-play.

After a while, the music became a distant hum as words took the lead. Eventually, the last stragglers of syllables and consonants made it past the finishing line and received their reward.  ‘An Orchestra of Words’ was written. If you listen to Wildes ‘Bare’ as you read the poem, I wonder if you feel the words differently?

An Orchestra of Words

She slips into the room, unannounced, unheard

Lets her small voice slip between stone-aged curves

Unadulterated, still unfound

Unsure, still without sound

 

Her hand reaches over, tentative to fear

A soft skin enveloping a hand young with years

In that moment I saw all she could be

And wished more for her than I did ever for me

 

Fingers point softly to the words on a page

Her middle one directing the orchestra’s gaze

With words plain in view, they began to be heard

As the symphony rose, and her words gently stirred

 

In this quiet summer air she began to take breath

And the generations before who’d wished they’d been there

Let their memories rise up and come to the stage

An assembly of souls, in unison, played

 

As she walked with words, her voice did rise

And the syllables danced while the consonants cried

The violins skipped haughtily to the beat of her drum

And the cellos mourned gleefully at this prodigal son

 

The crescendo, you ask, it shone for all to hear?

You ask that of me, why not ask that of her?

When a young girl makes words come alive on the page

An orchestra of souls will always come to the stage

Words of a Voice poem by Kathy Muir
‘Words of a Voice’ stream of consciousness

Here is the complete playlist if you’d to listen to some of my favorite tunes by other artists.

Writing

Eyes Of a Child

I recently played at a very special place, a place where I used to volunteer most weekends for several years. Ten years in the making, Mill River Park is a dream coming true; a ‘Central Park’ in downtown Stamford, CT.

The Mill River Dam was demolished, allowing herring to spawn for the first time in 360 years and land along the riverside has been reclaimed from invasive plants. It is a park for all seasons and for all people: a playground for the kids, the 4th grade science curriculum at Hart School is now being taught through the laboratory of Mill River and each summer yoga takes place on the Grand Steps as does the Cherry Blossom Festival that celebrates cherry trees donated by Japanese-American immigrant Junzo Nojima, as a thank you to the community who supported him during WWII.

On that particular weekend, Mill River Park had organized a series of Horse & Carriage rides and asked me to play. It was lovely to give back to the Park, this time music instead of muscle.

To keep folks warm, hot chocolate, toasted marshmallows and firepits were provided. Cajon player Vinny and I played throughout the 4-hour event. I hadn’t played out in the cold before but it was just magic. While singing I found myself looking at the folks with their kids toasting marshmallows, all wrapped up and excited whilst trepidatious at touching the horses.

Eyes of a Child

What gave me most joy was seeing the kids dancing or stomping their feet to the fast songs. After our second set, Vinny and I took a break. I noticed a wee girl looking at me, bent down to say hello and asked her if she liked music. Her Mum said they sing her a lullaby every night. I told the little girl that I have a lullaby I like to play called ‘Hush Hush’, an old Scot’s song. I took off my capo and started to play the lullaby while the young child stood listening, eyes wide open.

Afterward, she made a gesture that her Mum said meant ‘more’. So I sang the song a few more times. Once I finished singing, the wee girl picked up my capo and handed it to me, her little hands so small and cold. It was a sweet moment, made the sweeter after discovering Vinny took this photo.

It’s so important to try to make a creative impact on children, whether it is music art, writing or anything else that helps to reveal themselves as human beings. And have fun doing it at the same time :-).

black and white

The Stage is Set

Just_before_coming_on_stage_to_do_a_show._It_s_weird__you_create_a_set_list_and_then_as_soon_as_you_pick_up_the_guitar__see_the_audience_and_feel_the_room__you_often_change_it._Last_nigh

Just before coming on stage to do a show.

It’s weird, you create a set list and then as soon as you pick up the guitar, see the audience and feel the room, you often change it. Last night was no exception and I tried out Si Doucement. And many songs from new album #secondlife. The sound makes or

The sound makes or breaks a show. When you have great sound and you can hear yourself, well, you can try just about anything vocally.

Live Music

LIVE VIDEO: new song ‘Same As Letting Go’

Here is the full Rough Diamond (slow) version of new song ‘Same As Letting Go’, inspired by the opening visuals of the BBC show Taboo, featuring Tom Hardy and a dirty, sleazy London of old (full blog post is here). Rough Diamonds are songs in their infancy: rough around the edges until they go into the recording studio where they are cut, polished and made to shine.

Check out the process of making this song, which involves playing the song in two different styles: fast and slow. We’re in the studio next week laying down both versions.

Have you ever been inspired by something that prompted you to write/paint/draw/compose? If so what?

Writing

Did I Dream a Dream or a Nightmare?

I woke up a few mornings ago with words rather than melodies running around my head. So, I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote stream of consciousness while they were still vivid.

The Underground

If I bleach my skin will you let me in?
Or show my face to unveil my race
If I cut my hair till my head is bare
And stoop my head, will you bend instead?
 
If I recant my faith will you save a place?
Or rescind my right to stand and fight
If I share my light will you shine more bright?
As you splice the dark to seal your mark
 
On lips that seek to have sound
And eyes that look to be seen
Or hands that want to be found
As ears try to shut out the scream
Pilot pen and ink_Kathy Muir
Creative process · Songwriting

How did BBC show ‘Taboo’ inspire new song ‘Same As Letting Go’?

Where the inspiration started

A few days ago, I had been working heavily on a project for most of the morning. After three hours of deep concentration, I decided to have a break. What to do?

I then remembered the fun I’d had the previous day when I discovered a melody I’d recorded on my phone – where I capture all my first song ideas. Same As Letting Go had a melody but no words. So, I took advantage of my break time and set about trying to find the words. It didn’t take long.

Finding words this quickly only happens on rare instances, ones that often relate to an event. In this particular case, the BBC show ‘Taboo’ was my inspiration. I’m a Scot living in the States and though I watch little TV, occasionally watching the BBC soothes me and reminds me of home. The storyline of Taboo is far from soothing but has a way of luring you in. The production quality is exceptional and the acting superb, especially from lead actor Tom Hardy.

What made a deep impression on me were the opening visuals. Symbolic imagery of someone underwater, their limp body aimlessly falling further towards the sea floor. The camera follows air bubbles that rise to the surface, becoming shadows humbly bowing to an increasingly penetrating sunlight. It’s wonderfully evocative and makes you think of so many contrasts: light/dark; hope/despair; fight/relinquish; body/mind etc.

Inspiration put into words

With these thoughts running through my mind, I placed a pen in my hand and let my mind do the rest. Songwriting is a peaceful exploit, I mean the actual process of writing down words. It’s peaceful because you quietly contemplate each word, each verb. You figure out if the syllables flow well or whether you need to position your vocal differently so as to complement rather than conflict with the overall song melody. You pick up the guitar and let your voice follow your fingers, each trying to find a space to make their own.

And words, those beautiful words that dance around your head, dying to take to the stage only to discover some other words came out of nowhere to steal the limelight.

Amongst all of this, you’re not only creating something outward but you’re giving back to yourself. Your song is a tangible reflection of how your brain and heart function in unison at that precise moment in time because of something that seized you, that connected parts of you never before connected.  That is why my words are written in the way they’re written, and why no two songs are ever the same lyrically.

Eventually, thoughts stop running and now simply amble, unconcerned as to whether they missed their chance to be heard.

 

Same As Letting Go

Song Lyrics

Same As Letting Go
See it rising from the south, it’s heading for us now
Reaching far and wide, it crashes like a tide that pulls us down
Into the deepest darkest places, where shapes have hidden faces
We see the mirrors of our minds

Hands try to hold the night that wants to let us go
Arms tired, caught, entwined
Maybe holding on is the same as letting go
The same as letting go

Feel the weight that’s bearing down on limbs but not on minds
With the underwater sounds slowly drifting round our bodies floating further down
To deepest darkest places, where shapes have hidden faces
We see the mirrors of our minds

Hands try to hold the night that wants to let us go
Arms tired, caught, entwined
Maybe holding on is the same as
Letting go…

…of the undertow that took me
To a place untamed and without bounds
But you can still find me, the breathing is easy
If mouth to mouth

Hands try to hold the night that wants to let us go
Arms tired, caught, entwined
Maybe holding on is the same as letting go
The same as letting go

Time to pull everything together

I like a concept I created called ‘Rough Diamond Sessions’. These are simple unplugged versions of songs when they are first born. They are uncut, rough around the edges but I know that once we take them to the studio, their edges will become smooth and will eventually become diamonds, shining bright.

With morning voice – cracks and all – I was keen to hear what Same As Letting Go sounded like both fast (which I love) and slow. I like to play some songs in several ways so as to really gauge if the song structure is sound and if the words ring true outwith (Scots for ‘outside’) their musical environment. I created a wee video at home of me trying out the song if you’re interested in hearing it.

Same as Letting Go – Rough Diamond video

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