Burst of Creativity

August 29th, 2010 at 8:09 pm (Random Stuff, Songwriting)

Had a nice burst of creative energy yesterday on some songs I’ve been writing.  Was released early from a 12:00 rehearsal for “13” (a Broadway in Boulder musical I’m working on) and went home in a really focused musical and lyrical mood.  Man I love those bursts, but they’re so precious rare — it seems everything from the preceding weeks of creative work (and deadlock) to exactly how much sleep I got the night before, how much coffee I drank and when, what other music I was exposed to that day, etc. all have to come together in just the right way.  I swear I felt like had I got 15 minutes more or less sleep, it wouldn’t have happened.

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Rodgers and Hammerstein on Writing Music

July 2nd, 2010 at 11:17 pm (Songwriting)

Playing Carousel in two weeks at the Dairy Center with Centerstage.  Watched the movie last night; slightly crushing on Shirley Jones, not gonna lie.  Special features included a segment with some audio from interviews with Rodgers and Hammerstein.  Hammerstein talks about having spent weeks and weeks writing the lyric to “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over” before handing it over to Rodgers, and then in the two hours it took Rodgers’ wife to take the kids to the movies, Rodgers wrote the entire song.  Hammerstein: “It took me several weeks and then I gave it to him, and two hours later he called me and said ‘I got it!’ And I could have thrown a brick through the phone.”  Rodgers, of course, had been thinking about the title, and discussing it with Hammerstein, for “weeks and months” before the 2-hour rush of inspiration.  Rodgers: “I have to do an awful lot of thinking for an awful lot of time before I even dream of doing actual notes.  I think that the moment of creation should be a spontaneous one, I think possibly the results are better if it comes in a rush.  But you can’t get that rush going without doing something about it.  It isn’t just there, you have to think.”

Love that — many people seem to think that writing music or a story or anything creative involves sitting around and waiting for a flash moment of inspiration.  In my experience, sitting around never achieved anything, and loads of time and work must be spent writing the stuff that you end up throwing out (you have to write the bad stuff before you can get out the good stuff) and otherwise thinking and “feeding” the mind and spirit, and then occasionally, if you’re lucky, you will stumble on a rush of inspiration (but not all great songs are written in a rush).  And let’s not forget that Hammerstein spent weeks and weeks writing and re-writing the lyric before it was right — not all of the song was done in a rush.

On a side note, some of the interview clips seemed to imply that Hammerstein often wrote out the entire lyric before giving it to Rodgers to set to music (he said “Soliloquy” was written this way) — which surprises me.  I find that pre-written lyrics can too often lead to stodgy, square melodies (rhythmically uninteresting in particular), and I would have thought the lyricist/composer collaboration would have been more of a back-and-forth.  Pretty sure it works the other direction with Andrew Lloyd Webber and his many lyricists (the song is written first — just listen to the forced lyric for the chorus of the title song in Superstar — not that I’m knocking Tim Rice, he just had an impossible job with that melody).  Would love to learn more about how that lyricist/composer collaboration works with others, but I certainly consider Rodgers and Hammerstein masters.

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