Peter Case

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WHERE MY SPIRIT IS, I AM : Magical Aspects of Songwriting

WHERE MY SPIRIT IS, I AM : Magical Aspects of Songwriting

“Painting  isn’t an aesthetic operation, it’s a form of magic designed as a mediator between this strange hostile world and us, a way of seizing power by giving form to our terrors as well as our desires.

When I came to that realization I knew I had found my way.”  – Pablo  Picasso

“If you get an idea you just elaborate on it. If you’re singing about a house,  you talk about the shingles, you talk about the door, the window… there aren’t any rules.” – Lucinda Williams

” I’m the antenna. You just stick your finger in the air, and grab a bit of it.”  – Keith Richards

“Hope & Fear are :  Vision.”

                          – William Blake

What Unworldly Love…

“Can you name what you desire? I took one key -from one line in Williams “Unworldly love, that has no hope of the world, and cannot change the world to it’s delight.”

“So what eternal spring of feeling do you have in you, that you feel sure of, or that you feel unsure of, but returns over and over again, in dreams, and in waking moments of longing? What object of love, or what desire, or what delight, returns over and over despite the appearances, despite discouragement, and despite all rational calculation-even trying to repress it, it still comes through. What freshness of feeling, and what freshness of perception, comes through anyway, even despite blocking it, even despite, either the condition of not noticing it, or thinking you better not do it (you better go straight, you better get a job)-what comes through anyway? What unworldly love, that has no hope of the world, and cannot change its world to its delight,persists, and breaks through always, if only in dreams? because in dreams you get these great baths of eroticism or liberation or recognition. You know, your mother recognizes you, Kissinger recognizes you.”

-Allen Ginsberg, quoted by Anne Waldman, in “Howl, Fifty Years Later”

“Write like mad.”

Song Assignment 1

1.  Write a song based on a desire,  about a person, place or time that you long for: someplace you would like to be, someone you would like to see, a time, or something you long to do. Compose the words as vividly as possible, so as to make a very clear picture of your subject, that appeals to the senses. Examples of this type of song  are the Byrd’s Chestnut Mare,  the Beatles’s Strawberry Fields Forever, etc…

example:

PENNY LANE 

by John Lennon & Paul McCartney

 

/A              /F#m          /Bm        /E7

1. Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs

/A                /F#m       /Am

Of every head he’s had the pleasure to know

/Am7                 /F

And all the people that come and go

/E7

Stop and say hello

2. On the corner is a banker with a motor car

The little children laugh at him behind his back

And the banker never wears a “mac”

/D

In the pouring rain, very strange

 

/G            /Bm            /C

Ref.: Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes

/G                /Bm           /C              /E7

There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit and meanwhile back

3. In Penny Lane there is a fireman with hourglass

And in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen

He likes to keep his fire engine clean

It’s a clean machine

Ref.: Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes

Full of fish and finger pies in summer meanwhile back

4. Behind the shelter in the middle of the round about

The pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray

And though she feels as if she’s in a play

She is anyway

5. In Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer

We see the banker sitting waiting for a trim

And then the fireman rushes in

From the pouring rain, very strange

Ref.: Penny Lane …

/A            /C#m          /D

Ref.: Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes

/A                /C#m         /D

There beneath the blue suburban skies

/B            /D#m          /E

Ref.: Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes

/B                /D#m         /E              /G#7

There beneath the blue suburban skies I sit and meanwhile back

/B

Penny Lane

BE VIVID! 

1) notice what you notice

2)  catch yourself thinking

3) observe whats vivid

4) vividness is self selecting

-Allen Ginsburg

Song Assignment 2 Write a song using the imagery of something that frightens or threatens you.

example:

HELLHOUND ON MY TRAIL

By Robert Johnson

I gotta keep movin

I gotta keep movin

Blues fallin down like hail

Blues fallin down like hail

Umm mmmm mmm mmmmmm

Blues fallin down like hail

Blues fallin down like hail

And the days keeps on worryin me

theres a hellhound on my trail

hellhound on my trail

hellhound on my trail

If today was Christmas Eve

If today was Christmas Eve

and tommorow was Christmas Day

spoken : Aow wouldn’t we have a time baby

All I would need my little sweet rider just

to pass the time away huh huh

to pass the time away

You sprinkled hot foot powder mmmm

mmm around my door

all around my door

You sprinkled hot foot powder

all around your daddy’s door hmm hmm hmm

It keep me with ramblin mind rider

every old place I go

every old place I go

I can tell the wind is risin

the leaves tremblin on the tree

tremblin on the tree

hmmm hmmm hmm mmm

All I needs is my sweet woman

and to keep my company hey hey hey hey

my company

Wake Up The Language : Evocation & Metaphor

You could write the essence of all that great ideas in the history of literature, on a matchpack.   “The love you take is equal to the love you make,” “you gotta reap just what you sow,” “for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction”: a couple more and you’ve just about got them all. Collect the whole set.

This may be an exaggeration, but the point is :  if that’s all we had to say to each other, we’d go crazy with boredom, and we’d shut out the message anyways. We need and crave new ways of hearing old truths.

For the songwriter, it’s not what your saying, it’s HOW YOU SAY IT! Everyone in the world has a story. People are going through the most incredible things all the time. But, it’s the songwriter’s job to find and sing the stories. Troubadour: the word comes from the french      “trouber”: to find. The songwriter finds the stories, and puts them into the words that will hold the listener.

  Words that will hold the listener:

Colorful fresh descriptive language is the key to how we “make the cliche GO AWAY”. Drawing on our own sense memories and experience, songwriting is the art of evocation: evoking sense pictures in the listeners mind.

Definition: Evoke : 1. to call forth or summon ( a spirit, demon, etc.) as by chanting magical words; conjure up. 2. to draw forth or elicit a particular mental image or reaction, etc.

From an interview with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter: “When you put a rose somewhere ( ie in a song) it’ll do what it is supposed to do. Same way with certain jewels. I like a diamond here, a ruby there, a rose, certain kinds of buildings, vehicles, gems. These things are all real and the word evokes the thing. That’s what were working with, evocation”.

 

Words give off amazing energy when used in new combinations. Figurative language is the name of this tool: the art of metaphor and simile: talking about one thing in terms of another.

JULIA  

byLennon/McCartney

Half of what I say is meaningless

But I say it just to reach you, Julia

Julia, Julia, oceanchild, calls me

So I sing a song of love, Julia

Julia, seashell eyes, windy smile, calls me

So I sing a song of love, Julia

Her hair of floating sky is shimmering,

glimmering in the sun

Julia, Julia, morning moon, touch me

So I sing a song of love, Julia

When I cannot sing my heart

I can only speak my mind, Julia

Julia, sleeping sand, silent cloud, touch me

So I sing a song of love, Julia

Hum hum hum hum… calls me

So I sing a song of love for Julia, Julia, Julia

(We will also study the music to this: writing in the number names of the chords. The point here is the language : metaphor: oceanchild (a translation of his wife’s name, Ono) being the base, then windy smile, seashell eyes, etc. He’s speaking of a person he loves in terms of the ocean. Think of this, and the Waits songs, in context of the metaphor excercises below.)

Exercises:  x = y      the y of x      the x’s y   experiment with word combinations.

9TH & HENNEPIN

by Tom Waits

Well it’s Ninth and Hennepin

All the doughnuts have names that sound like prostitutes

And the moon’s teeth marks are on the sky

Like a tarp thrown all over this

And the broken umbrellas like dead birds

And the steam comes out of the grill

Like the whole goddamn town’s ready to blow…

And the bricks are all scarred with jailhouse tattoos

And everyone is behaving like dogs

And the horses are coming down Violin Road

And Dutch is dead on his feet

And all the rooms they smell like diesel

And you take on the dreams of the ones who have slept here

And I’m lost in the window, and I hide in the stairway

And I hang in the curtain, and I sleep in your hat…

And no one brings anything small into a bar around here

They all started out with bad directions

And the girl behind the counter has a tattooed tear

“One for every year he’s away”, she said

Such a crumbling beauty, ah

There’s nothing wrong with her that a hundred dollars won’t fix

She has that razor sadness that only gets worse

With the clang and the thunder of the Southern Pacific going by

And the clock ticks out like a dripping faucet

’til you’re full of rag water and bitters and blue ruin

And you spill out over the side to anyone who will listen…

And I’ve seen it all, I’ve seen it all

Through the yellow windows of the evening train…

From a 1968 interview with John Lennon, by Jonathon Cott

Q: “What is Strawberry Fields?”

JOHN “It’s a name, it’s a nice name… Strawberry Fields is anywhere you want to go.”

Q: “Songs like ‘Good Morning, Good Morning’ and ‘Penny Lane’ convey a child’s feeling of the world.”

JOHN:  We really got into the groove of imagining Penny

Lane– the bank was there, and that was where the tram sheds were and people waiting and the inspector stood there, the fire engines were down there. Itwas just reliving childhood.”

Q: “You really had a place where you grew up!”

JOHN: “Oh, yeah. Didn’t you?”

Q: “Well, Manhattan isn’t Liverpool.”

JOHN: “Well, you could write about your local bus station.”

Q: “In Manhattan?”

JOHN: “Sure, why not? Everywhere is somewhere.”

” The function of  poetry is, in part, to draw back upon our mind a paradise , if you like,  or equally, one’s less detestable hours and the outrageous hopes of one’s

youth.”  -Ezra Pound

‘to me Beale Street was the most famous place in the South. We got in at five or six in the morning and it was pouring down rain, but we just drove up & down, and it was so much more than I had even envisioned. I don’t know if I can explain it to this day-my eyes had to be very big, because I saw everything, from winos to people dressed up fit to kill, young, old, city slickers, and people straight out of the cotton fields, somehow or another you could tell: every damn one of them was glad to be there. Beale street represented for me something that I hoped to see one day for all people, something that they could say, “I’m a part of this somehow.”  – Sam Phillips

a thought for the week:

‘It’s not like you see songs approaching and you invite them in. It’s not that easy. You want to write songs that are bigger than life…. You have to know and understand something and then go past the vernacular. The chilling precision that the old-timers used in coming up with their songs was no small thing. ‘ -Bob Dylan

STYLE

style is the answer to everything-

a fresh way to approach a dull or a

dangerous thing.

to do a dull thing with style

is preferable to doing a dangerous thing

without it.

Joan of Arc had style

John the baptist

Christ

Socrates

Caeser

Garcia Lorca.

style is the difference,

a way of doing,

a way of being done.

6 herons standing quietly in a pool of water

or you walking out of the bathroom naked

without seeing

me.

-Charles Bukowski, from   Mockingbird Wish me Luck.

If I Was Washington 

By Townes Van Zandt

If I was Washington

Valleys would I forge for

If I was a fat man

Fun would I gorge for

If I was ghengis

Gold would I horde for

Wish I had a dollar a day

If I was a gouger

Gouge would I wish for

If I was a fisherman

Fish would I fish for

If I was a french whore

Frenchies I’d dish for

Wish I had a dollar a day

Turkeys are for flyin’

Chickens are for eatin’

I’m all for fun

Fun’s forbidden

Forbidden’s forgotten

And forgotten’s for gettin’

I wish I had a dollar a day

Buzzards are for circling

Circles are for heroes

Heroes for floatin’

Fiddles to nero

Fingers for countin’

Numbers for zero

Wish I had a dollar a day

If I was washington

Valleys would I forge for

If I was a fat man

Fun would I gorge for

If I was ghengis

Gold would I horde for

Wish I had a dollar a day

If I was washington

I’d wear wood teeth

If I was a policeman

I’d walk me a stone beat

If I was a singer

I’d stop right now

Wish I Had a dollar a day.

House Rent Party

She was standin’ on the corner of wonderland & woe

waitin’ for the light to change & wonderin’ where to go

take the bottles to the grocery? the records to the shop?

or step out on the sidewalk & make some traffic stop?

’cause the phone is disconnected

landlords at the door

tow truck at the curbside’s

here to repossess the Ford

& THERE’S A HOUSE RENT PARTY TONIGHT: EVERYBODY SHAKE!

we’re gonna blow the roof sky high/ see how much we can take

when they put you on the street/ you can sit & watch the dawn

but there’s something you can do when you’re last gold dollars gone

He’s in his double breasted jacket & some cherry wing tip shoes

big ‘ol hat with a feather high & a pocket flask of booze

but he can’t afford the treatments & there ain’t no other cure

sad to say without no pay he won’t get well no more

then the night falls up on broadway

the neon starts to shine

the dancers in the love act

are gettin’ ready for the grind

& THERE’S A HOUSE RENT PARTY TONIGHT: EVERYBODY SHAKE!

people come from miles around/ now we’re gonna catch a break

I know we’re gonna make it don’t care what I have to do

’cause I know you’d do the same for me as I would do for you

& THERE’S A HOUSE RENT PARTY TONIGHT

So I bought a lucky ticket/ & pinned it to the shelf

I put one away for you baby & kept one for myself

I’m gonna take my winnings/ I’m gonna disappear

I’m gonna start a brand new band/ we’ll play anywhere but here

’cause nothin’s comin’ in, sugar

nothin’s goin’ out

when there’s nothin’ left to talk about

seems all we do is shout

& THERE’S A HOUSE RENT PARTY TONIGHT: EVERYBODY SHAKE!

we’re gonna blow the roof sky high/ see how much we can take

’cause nothin’s comin’ in, sugar

nothin’s goin’ out

there’s nothin’ left to talk about

& all we do is shout

& THERE’S A HOUSE RENT PARTY TONIGHT…

(c2010 peter case)

“No Ideas But In Things”

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