Songwritings

songwriting
" … inviting me to begin all over again again."

The Muse is forever after me to pick up my guitar. Last night with an honored guest over for supper, she quietly asked as we finished eating if I felt like playing my guitar. I nodded in the negative and she dropped her usual insistence with only the barest hint of a whimper. Over the past couple of years, I've found myself persistently not really in the mood to pick up my guitar. It's sat in a closed case down in my basement studio which I only very rarely even enter anymore. I consider this hesitance to be an affliction, though I remain uncertain of the underlying pathology, if, indeed, an underlying pathology even exists. I certainly don't have a ready name or syndrome to assign to this curious separation, one equivalent to finding myself separated from my self, since my guitar has been as integral a part of me as my heart since about fourth grade.

I write songs. Not to make a living, though I once imagined that I might, but to live.
Writing songs serves as the clearest expression of the me I know myself to be, my identity. Yet I hesitate to engage, increasingly in recent years, as if it were more punishment than reward. Writing songs never qualified as a picnic or a pastime for me. It's always involved rather excruciating effort, frustrating from almost beginning to end, which never really ends. My most favorite songs, I've sung until they're polished like ancient river stones, no obvious surface imperfections remaining. My more recent tunes, if only because I've not yet repeated them enough to wear them down into their final form, retain a few sharp edges where rhythm and rhyme don't quite mesh and where the changes still require me to remember rather than to simply express. I can forget a verse mid-performance, embarrassing everyone present and humiliating the songwriter huddling inside me still aching to get out.

I believe that everyone writes songs, some without any external melody and few if any words, but each exerts a rhythm accompanying even the more pedestrian daily activities. The differences between these externally tacit tunes and their more extroverted brethren probably don't amount to much, though I know of no way to verify this assertion. Still, I can see it on the faces of those passing by me as if marching to an internal cadence. The music enriches in ways that no-one can successfully hide. Likewise, I can sense when I pass someone within whom the music has died, for they seem to be unsuccessfully dragging themselves against an overwhelming gravity with little evident levity propelling them. I think myself curious, and always have, that I sometimes feel compelled (and this is not too strong of a description) to bring my internal melodies out into the world, though not so much lately.

The form always presents a dilemma. I write almost exclusively in a ballad form, though many other valid forms exist. Nothing better harmonizes with my perception of my place in this world than a well-crafted three verses separated by a twice repeating chorus, preferably with a surprising play on words modifying the second chorus. The chord progressions mostly take care of themselves, if only because I'm no trained musician and attempts at training me in the dialect of notes and keys proved to be about as successful as the many attempts to show me how calculus works. I'm largely fueled by an intuition, a felt sense or a flurry of felt senses which somehow make sense to me. Judgement comes into play, though hardly to play. Judging amounts to hard work, especially if aimed back in the general direction of the judge.

My life works much better when I'm engaged in the middle of Songwritings, and 98% of writing any song can only be fairly characterized as occurring in the middle: past the start and out of sight of the end. Only after the song's finished can I claim to be a songwriter, but by then, I'm done writing the song. Then, I morph into a song performer, a whole other ball of waxy substances that I've also never really mastered. I doubt now if mastery could properly qualify as a term associated with Songwritings, for until it's done, mastery's never proven and after it's done, its future has become at best speculative. It's as close to a permanent new beginning, which might explain my original attraction to it and also why I've lately been so hesitant to engage. A point probably comes in every life when holding on seems more prudent than beginning anew, and anyone heavily invested in having achieved hardly belongs in the field. The seventeen year old who endlessly chirps, spewing out fresh songs as easily as breathing has nothing to let go of to begin anew. Us geezers might tread more carefully along that once enlivening edge.

The trick might be to simply let go, to follow my stupid heart however much it might have betrayed me in the past. To squirm down that ultimately reassuring rat hole without either great dread or resolve, but to follow that heart, which has already started suggesting a rhythm for which a melody probably lurks close by. I did not return my guitar case to the basement studio upon our return from our latest excursion, but planted it close to the home's major thoroughfare. I cannot get anywhere without its presence reminding me, inviting me to begin all over again again.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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