Friday, August 25, 2006

SONGWRITING: Raw Materials

This is where song ideas turn into songs, here at my piano, with a pile of freshly sharpened pencils (Papermate American Naturals unvarnished wood) and lots of notebook paper on pads.

American Naturals are my pencil of choice for all writing. Some are better than others, even though they're labeled as being same the brand. The best ones are very smooth and made of a reddish wood. The others are made of a lighter wood, not sanded as well and have smudgy erasers. When I've gotten those by accident I've gone over them with a fine grained sandpaper before using them. It's just one of those things. They don't feel right.

Last time I found the good ones in a store I bought up all they had. Spent about $20 on pencils. I should be OK for the next couple of years. :-)

I'm very possessive of my song writing pencils. For some unknown reason they seem to grow legs and disappear into an alternate universe along with all the singleton socks, coat hangers, winter gloves and guitar picks.

Here's a link to a blog for Dave in NZ who also has strong feelings about his pencils, in case you're interested.

During a songwriting session, I rip the pages off the pads and spread out them out all at once across the piano, so I can see the ideas as they develop. I'm working on an upright piano where the individual sheets have a tendency to slide off onto the floor if they're not secured in place. I've use a long strip of cardboard sitting on the piano's music rest and 8-10 bankers clips over the top edge of the cardboard to hold the music in place.

I've come to these preferences through experimentation.

The bare wood pencils are part of my desire to feel more connected with the natural world, to simplify my life, and to have my creative work flow from that place. Besides, they feel good in my hand.

The cardboard-and-bankers-clips setup developed as a solution to accompanying singers while playing from multiple sheets of photocopied music. This idea carried over into my songwriting.

By using my creativity to find solutions to problems in the environment where I do my creative work and discovering materials that fit with my values, I've added another dimension of meaning to my artistic work processes.

I encourage you to find creative ways to make your materials, methods and working environment a supportive reflection of your own artistic impulses.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps Papermate are making the Naturals from several different species of wood? Or maybe they have changed from one species to another and one of us has old stock and one has new stock? The one I tried was definitely a very light, almost white or “blonded” wood.
    You know, for some strange reason I’ve never really associated pencils with the creative process of writing music! Obviously they’re just the thing for a musical masterpiece in progress. If you are composing on a piano made from wood, or with a guitar made from wood, then a wooden pencil would fit right in.