I’m one sixth of the way into my project. I’ve written and recorded a song, and now I’m going to forget about it. It’s time to write another song. The nature of the project is such that I can’t take my time with it: there will be no faffing about with “writer’s block” or anything. I need to push forward. I need an action plan. Like writing a story, there are questions to be asked, a structure to plot out, and details to be filled in. For this song, I’m going to start by making decisions, and then I’m going to implement them. This is a top-down approach: I’m starting with a few big questions so that I can then break everything up into little parts.
Question 1: what’s this song going to be about?
I made a spontaneous decision about this. I’m going to write a song based on a poem I wrote about quantum mechanics and being a ghost on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. I’m not going to share it here because it’s not particularly good, but I like it, and it’s good inspiration. I wrote it back in my first year at University. I was a dreamy emo kid… I suppose I still am.
Question 2: what’s it going to sound like?
First off, no vocals. I just can’t. Secondly, guitars. Soft guitars building into heavy guitars and slipping away into calmness again. Like post-rock, but maybe not so wispy. I’m too impatient to write like that. To expand on this, here’s some musical influences:
Caspian – Some Are White Light
I saw this band a couple of nights ago in Glasgow. It felt like I was underwater or dreaming. I didn’t know any of their music prior to the gig as they were the support act and I was there primarily to see the headliner, but that didn’t matter, it sounded familiar and warm. This is post-rock music at its finest. Wistful guitars swelling into brilliant intensity. “Tears and hope”.
Russian Circles – Micah
Another instrumental band. These guys are also really intense live, and, unbelievably, they’re a three-piece. The guitarist uses a loop pedal to build up all the different guitar parts over each other when playing gigs. I can’t get over how cool that is.
Gates – A Vague Ambition
My goodness, I could rave about this band for days and days. They played a gig in the tiny Banshee Labyrinth in Edinburgh back in March or April 2012, and I went to see them with my boyfriend, having never heard any of their songs. It was near the end of my senior honours year, and at that gig I basically had an emotional meltdown about exams. Ach, I don’t even know what happened. Awful timing: my poor boyfriend had been so looking forward to the gig and I pretty much ruined it. Soon after the gig though, I got really into their music, and I still listen to it almost every single day. So much regret about my behaviour at that gig, but I couldn’t help it. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to not like this band – I can’t comprehend it. Gates. Go listen to them. You can even download their music for free http://gatesnj.com/. But you should give them all your money.
More questions include tempo (fast? slow?), structure (verse-chorus-verse-etc?), time signature (4 beats in a bar, 3 beats in a bar, etc), key (major or minor?)… then more questions for each subsection of the song. The idea was to sketch out a plan and compose the details, so for example I could say “the intro will be 16 bars long; during which the bass will be about the sound and colour of the cobblestones on the Royal Mile; there will be a guitar softly winding into focus while another guitar plays the sound of the overcast sky and the people dressed in dark colours”. You know, something like that. Maybe I’m being too adventurous. Maybe I’m turning into a pretentious artist. Let’s see how this’ll go.