It is the most secret and personal part of being a songwriter that is the most important. Yes, performance and recording are of utmost importance but there would be none of that without the song itself! It is that intimate and personal moment of creativity that allows the song to be drawn into creation that is the fundamental starting point.
Any art form comes from a wellspring of creativity. All of us have it in different ways because it is part of life itself. Creativity is an awesome quality that humans can play with and make their own. We can reach out to the unseen realm of ideas and potentiality and dream something into being. I use the word dream quite consciously because there is something about the world of ideas that has a “dream” quality to it. In cultures all over the world people have found different ways to explore the art of manifestation. The Aboriginals believe in songlines- literally singing things into being through resonance, drawn from a different dimension. In Buddhism there is the notion of the Dharmakaya- ultimate reality- where all potentiality resides. In modern quantum physics they talk about the quantum field- a malleable place/space of formless creativity. By being alive and human, with minds that can think, problem solve and create we can all draw from this field. But, we need to do so with grace and consciousness….as we can create anything. To create the atom bomb as opposed to something that benefits humanity/ the world is not a considered use of this human gift.
Being a songwriter and a Creative and someone who is interested in the human mind and psycho/spiritual development, I find this a fascinating topic. Some people are able to reach into this space more easily than others. Indeed, I heard somewhere ( this is not a verified fact) that dyslexics have a brain pattern that resides more often in theta brain waves . These brain waves are connected to play and are ones that young children live in. Perhaps that is why so many dyslexic spectrum people are creatives. Perhaps that is the gift that makes up for all the linear, sequential thinking we don’t have!
It is also true that the world of intuition/ creativity is more accessible if one meditates as it alters the brain into yet another brain wave pattern where the flow of the unconscious mind can function. There are visualisations and meditations designed to encourage this if one so desires. All of these are generalities that I find to be true.
Each person is unique and each mind is unique, so what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. what I describe next is just my individual process.
I songwrite, I suppose, in four different ways.
The first is how I first started and still use. A nugget or a seed of an idea comes to mind- it always, always has to be something that pulls on my heart strings or is an issue that I care about at a heart level. It is therefore an intimate and personal heart reaction that pulls the creative force into being. A few words and a melody drift into my head- usually when I am cooking/ cleaning or driving. They keep nudging me to keep singing that wee phrase. Needless to say, I have burnt pasta sauces and not mopped corners of floors as I have been too busy listening to the whisper of what wants to manifest instead! ( I am far more interested in songwriting than cleaning, I have to say!). Sometimes, that feels enough and I allow the song to bubble unconsciously in the song cauldron of my mind for as many days or weeks that it wants. It needs time to form and marinade and move out of creative dark potentiality into the light of consciousness.
Sometimes, on a few occasions, a song wants to be born and burst out all at once. In which case it arrives as a whole download in one complete sitting. Three songs – so far have arrived in this fashion. “When a child stands alone” ,( which won an international humanitarian award), “Farewell Sweet Sister” ( one of the first songs I wrote) and” Into Blue” ( about my son leaving home and setting off into the big blue sky of life/potentiality). All three had a strong emotive reason to be called into being and I think this is why they arrived in complete form. I knew and felt them, like something whole and complete in me that needed to be expressed. If this happens I just hope I always have a piece of paper and a pen that works to hand…..as it feels like entering an altered state. I might not remember it afterwards when it comes like this…or maybe I am just scared of not remembering it afterwards…It is a kind of automatic songwriting, almost. Perhaps I should try and remember to carry around paper and pens…..but usually they would end up being used for shopping/to do lists at the bottom of my bag!
A more pragmatic way that manifests is when I decide consciously and logically to write a song about a topic and jot down some lyrics and then let the melody either twirl round my head whilst I am cooking supper or actually go and twiddle on the keyboard- whilst engaging in deep inner listening to the threads of formless whispers and impulses. Songs like “Phoenix” and” 8000 Souls “were fashioned over time in this way…..also one I have just been working on called “No more must the Shadow be King”.
Sometimes I meditate or do a visualisation journey and the song comes as a response to that process or just being in that space. “Skyland” arrived like that and a new one called “Tara Dakini Girl” . Interestingly enough both those songs have a listening to something bigger than our normal selves feel about them…..but actually other songs do to, so maybe that perception is more general….
I write the melody and lyrics and then- as I am not trained in composition and can not even- due to being a bit dys, write my songs out as scores. I have to then work with other musicians to create instrumental parts. This is an interesting creative process in the songwriting journey. Sometimes I have very, very clear ideas of a colour, soundscape, emotional tone and sound tapestry that I want to create and other times I don’t. I also really like other people at this point to share their responses and ideas of what would work.
One can not own creativity and it is a gift to the song to have their input into it, so we can create something more than the sum of its parts. I always want to create something though that has beauty, meaning and a story telling feel on an instrumental level as well as a vocal lyrical level. I sometimes will want unusual combinations of instruments together because they create an alchemical difference that will add to the tapestry and feel. ( I always see colours when I listen to music so I choose instruments for their colour palette and how they fit together in terms of colour). “Phoenix” is one such example, using electric guitar, viol and Duduk. I have a new one about stillness/silence ” Stillness speaks in the Mountains” where I want to use crystal singing bowls as an Ostinato , a guitar using lots of harmonics and possible electronic sounds ….my instrumentalists sometimes just roll their eyes at me ……and think what on earth is she going to come out with now!
I think, we are so lucky in this day and age as songwriters….we have all the instruments from all the ages and all the places in the world to draw upon…..The only thing that probably stops some of this exploration is a practical one of availability and time. But, it is exciting to feel into all sorts of possibilities.
The last thing I will say about creativity is that I have to like and feel a kinship with the people I work and create with. It is a process of growing something together so the “beingness” of being a person has to fit. One has to be able to meet on a more subtle level so this element is very important to me. I just could not create with someone who I did not feel some kind of person connection with. So far, I just follow my intuition and see what connects and flows ….both in terms of people and the process of songwriting itself. It is all quite simply just down to connecting….to the beautiful world of unseen potentiality or to other people.
Next time I look at why I write on the topics that I choose and also songwriting and the humanitarian agenda.