Grand Canyon

2/7/17

I am not a man who picks fights
I try to see the view from both sides
But you and I are miles apart
I can’t seem to reach you
If I did you got no space in your heart
We both think we’re right
I beg you to see reason
And you tell me ’bout the truth and the light
How deep is this canyon
If we climb down could we reach the bottom
Stand in the same river
Or does this rift go all the way down
You can’t keep your hands to yourself
You’ve got a book and a gun
And not much else on your shelf
You and I are totally mired
We don’t agree on facts or even
Whether facts at all are required
We both think we’re good
I say love your neighbor
And you tell me ’bout the can’t and the should
How deep is this canyon
If we climb down could we reach the bottom
Stand in the same river
Or does this rift go all the way down
Does this rift go all the way down
Does this rift go all the way down

Songwriting as Search

At some point during the songwriting process I usually find myself stuck on a particular line. Maybe I’m having trouble with the rhyme, maybe it’s the meter, or maybe it’s just that the tone is a little off. I try a different word here, which in turn causes me to change a word there, and that in turn makes me rethink of an entirely different image for the line. That in turn triggers a cascade of other possible changes, and before long I find myself paralyzed by possibilities.

It’s occurred to me more than once that this is really songwriting as a search problem. You’re trying to put together a stanza that conveys a particular image or story. That stanza in turn is made up of lines that have a certain meter and rhyme (i.e. constraints), and those lines are made up of words that each have a certain number of syllables, particular combinations of letter sounds, and specific nuances of meaning. There are almost always multiple choices that might work for a particular word. The challenge is thus in finding the best┬áchoice in the context of all of the other words you’ve selected that satisfies those constraints. The combinatorics are overwhelming, so you can’t be exhaustive in your search. You have to use heuristics, instinct, and experience to guide you. Otherwise you can easily get bogged down to the point where you never finish a song.

RPM Challenge 2012

RPM Challenge, if you’ve never heard of it, is an annual event where musicians from all over the world try to record an entire album in the month of February. I participated this year and not only finished my album but had a couple of keepers.

Here are the RPM versions of the two good tracks:
http://soundcloud.com/houlette-1/arabesque-demo-rpm-challenge
http://soundcloud.com/houlette-1/pyramids-demo-rpm-challenge