19 March 2014

Anyway here's not Wonderwall

For about a month and a half, I took a songwriting class from the Berklee College of Music on Coursera. I was actually looking for some media studies / journalism classes I could take as refreshers for work and (possibly) school when I saw that a songwriting class was starting soon.

Why not? I wanted to write but didn't like the idea of my own writing — what little I'd done, what I'd failed to finish, what I felt too inadequate to start. There were some issues I wanted to process into some tidy paragraphs, but diary entries and a dozen drafted posts couldn't help me, for some reason. It got to the point that I looked at my diary and my blog URL with dread. Maybe what I needed was to try writing something else.

I had written lyrics before: the words to my high school class's cheesy graduation song, and two or three just-as-cheesy love songs as a college freshman, before actual schoolwork took over. I think I never tried songwriting again, partly because I didn't know piano or guitar chords, but mostly because college life — and later, post-college life — was just so full of things to do.

So, anyway, here was this class on the Coursera lineup, with the description claiming I wouldn't have to have any great musical background to be able to take it. And here was I, in a rut and casting about for something creative to do. Again, why not?

The songwriting process ended up fixing the emotional leaks I'd been trying to plug. Just in the first week, we were shown how to take a song idea through three stages, making sure that the chorus or refrain gains weight at each stage so that the repetition at the end of the song has the most weight.

I soon found that my tendency to repeat myself in my personal writing has its uses in song. More importantly, though, while taking my own song ideas — all based on issues I'd been carrying around — through those three stages, I ended up resolving stuff that had been bothering me for months:

Idea 1: My life is great, but it doesn't feel secure. It doesn't help that my friends are complaining about how everyone on Facebook is getting married.

Idea 2: I'm no longer mad at this person, but I don't want to be friends. I wish I could stop feeling bad about not wanting to be friends.

Idea 3: There are all these little, ordinary-seeming things about being with Cris that make life awesome. How can I tell him that in a way I haven't already, and without dulling the secret magic of those little things?

Here is the song I wrote for Idea 1. Like all great songs, it was recorded on my phone in the bathroom, with an exhaust fan going in the background. It was the first song I completed, early in the class, and so is the simplest; it doesn't incorporate any of the stuff I learned in the later weeks — phrasing, language shaping, rhyme schemes, the use of bridges, etc. But, it's the one I feel least shy about sharing.

Here's to more projects for happiness. Here's a link to the class, in case anyone's interested. And, here's an old video of the teacher.

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