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Fans turn into Songwriters

Bob Boilen of All Songs Considered on NPR had a recent interview with Evan Stephens Hall of the band Pinegrove. The band just released its latest album Marigold and had a wonderful experiment before the album’s release – they released the lyrics and guitar tabs in advance of any of their fans actually hearing the album. As a result, many of their fans interpreted the lyrics and tabs and created their own songs. A wonderful experiment!

You can hear the experiment and fan’s interpretations here on the All Songs Considered site or find it with your favourite podcast app.  May the Muse be with you (as it was with these fans)…

Sheryl Crow – A Karmic Truth

Sheryl Crow recently performed at a fantastic Tiny Desk concert and afterward participated in a wonderful interview by Ann Powers, music critic at NPR.  You can find that audio interview and article here.

Ms. Powers covers a particularly poignant part of the interview, in which Ms. Crow is discussing the craft of songwriting today, as follows:

Mentioning a report she’d heard on NPR about how social media has reduced the average attention span, she said "while the kids are all writing fast food — which is super cool ’cause it tastes great, super filling — we’re sort of still writing salmon. We’re the songwriters that are here to tax your attention span."

I like that – let’s all tax our attention spans and listen to some substantial songs out there (including Sheryl’s new album Threads). May the Muse continue to be with Sheryl…

Songwriting Apps for Android

The 7 best Android apps for songwriters and musicians

Android Pit posted a nice collection of apps for songwriters a couple of days ago. I’ll be checking them out and if you do too, please post below (or if you have some other suggestions).

Some Songwriting Tips from Legends

Luke Saunders from Happymag.tv has compiled some interesting tidbits of songwriting in this online article.

My favourite one was from Leonard Cohen:

 Songs don’t dignify human activity. Human activity dignifies the song.

Read some other great songwriting thoughts from Nick Cave and Tom Waits are also in the article.

May the Muse be with you…

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Peace, love & understanding – Nick Lowe in Variety

Nick Lowe is featured in this Variety article after being honoured with the American Association of Independent Music’s Icon Award. A fascinating read from the Cruel to Be Kind songwriter/producer. A remembrance of Johnny Cash, working with Elvis Costello and the history of What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding…The song is a standard. Whenever I hear people do it now it’s almost like I had nothing to do with it! As for that song, Mr. Lowe opines: “The song is a standard. Whenever I hear people do it now it’s almost like I had nothing to do with it!”

May the Muse stay with you sir…

More AI Songwriting–but not very good…

Engadget reported on a University of Toronto Artificial Intelligence (AI) project that would write a Christmas tune from a single image…  I personally don’t think Irving Berlin, rest in peace, has anything to worry about… But who knows where this will lead?

Here’s the tune, for what it’s worth:

May the Muse, the natural one, be with you…

The Music and Lyrics of Billy Joel

CC-MUS-BillyJoelConf-WebBanner-2016Colorado College hosted a symposium this past weekend.  I wish I had known about it before, I would have participated as it was open to the public… as per the symposium’s website:

“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” is a scholarly symposium on the music and lyrics of Billy Joel, the consummate singer-songwriter whose compositions translate larger cultural concerns into accessible and compelling musical narratives. In the spirit of Joel’s music, this public musicology conference aims to share academically oriented insights on this popular figure and his output in an accessible and approachable manner.

Thankfully, someone (Pianomanross) recorded the keynote event, which was actually a phone call with Billy Joel himself!  Here’s the content of the call with Mr. Joel and it adds a heap of colour to the art and craft of songwriting… enjoy the listen and may the muse be with you…

 

AI “Writes” New Pop Song – Daddy’s Car (With A Little Help From Its Friends)

The Beatles vast repertoire of work was utilized by Artificial Intelligence (AI) developed by Sony CSL Music (with the “assistance” of a real live songwriter,  Benoît Carré) to compose the pop song “Daddy’s Car” – described by the Flow Machines AI team as being “in the style of The Beatles”…  I have to admit – it’s kind of catchy (and kind of scary that it is so catchy)…

Sony CSL describes the AI as “expanding towards a new generation of tools, the Flow Machines, whose aim is to abstract ‘style’ from concrete corpora (text, music, etc.), and turn it into a malleable substance that acts as a texture. Applications range from music composition to text or drawing generation.”  In this case, the malleable structure kind of works in a quirky way, but I’ll let you decide for yourself…

May the Muse be with AI and “friends”…

John Prine, Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan honoured for songwriting

John Prine

The Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence Award, awarded biennially, was created by PEN New England a few years back to celebrate the craft of songwriting, specifically the lyrics.  So it’s no surprise that John Prine and the husband/wife team of Tom Waits/Kathleen Brennan were honoured for their lyrical prose this year! This year’s honorees were chosen by a committee that included U2’s Bono, Rosanne Cash, Elvis Costello and Salman Rushdie.

These songwriters create such wonderful lyrical tapestries, fulfilling PEN’s description of the award:

Long before we were able to articulate our thoughts, we expressed joys and sorrows by singing. Patterns emerged, becoming language and making the world intelligible. That’s why the ancients depicted Orpheus, demi-god and singer, playing his lyre with animals around him in a peaceable kingdom, and it’s why we chose the lyre on the award medallion.

There is an unbroken lineage from that breakthrough Orphic moment, down through all the bards, troubadours, and balladeers to the present. Every literary genre is a tributary of that great river.

Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan

Here are some quotes from the event:

Prine’s lyrics are “sophisticated but simple… Who writes songs like that? Two people come to mind – God and John Prine.”  – John Mellencamp

“It’s not always fun writing together. Sometimes the fur flies. It’s not an easy enterprise, but it’s satisfying… We’re different. If two people know all the same things, one of you is unnecessary.” – Tom Waits on writing with his spouse and fellow honouree, Kathleen Brennan

May the Muse stay with these 3 wonderful songwriters…

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