Sunday, July 1, 2012

July in Oktober: Old Songs, New Songs, 7/1

 Working on true stories here last month was both liberating, and harrowing. I came to it from a place of having many stressful incidents happen in a row, in my personal and family life. It seemed as if everyone around me was having their lives explode at the same time, and coping with it all put me in the odd mood to spill private truths I've never written about as openly before. I had no idea they would be interesting to others, but as some stories were, I worked to put more out. Only, the weirdness continued, and a few tales are left unfinished, in draft on Blogger. They may appear next June, or another time, but for now I'm done with true stories.

 For several years, July has been a period of increased songwriting for me, as I habitually attempt to nail the challenge of the 50/90-- that is, 50 songs in 90 days, an offshoot of February Album Writing Month, (FAWM) when the challenge is 14 songs in (the usual) 28 days of February.  (Which was an offshoot of NaNoWriMo, of course, and a great one). For a couple years, I've done the challenge twice simulaneously, on two author pages.

 The 50/90 begins on July 4th, and the energy at the official website is pulsing right now. People have talked about what they'll be trying for, style or genre-wise, or with new instruments. Pre-challenge challenges get thrown down and met, but mostly we are all simmering, waiting for the time to let flow our bottled up energy and write some new songs as fast as we can.

After that initial spurt, the feeling in the forums calms down, and people settle in. There's less pressure than February, although it's a greater undertaking. There's also less listening to other people as the months go by-- well, most of us check out just as many or more songs, but as each musician is building a list of fifty, you can't expect your entire catalog of songs to get equal attention.

 And I don't, especially as, for technical reasons mostly, I have posted only lyrics to any of my songs. You have to read them, not hear them, unless another musician takes a fancy to some of them and puts up a collaboration with me. That happens frequently, but still-- most of my songs must be read, even though they are always, always written with a full melody line, (and usually get a quick vocal sketch recorded, so I won't forget the heart of my songs). The upshot of this is, most of my favorite songs, the best songs I feel I have ever written, haven't often been seen or heard by more than one or two people, max. And because my singing and writing skills far outclass my instrumental powers, they may never be properly heard.

 It kills me.

 I understand that my personal favorites may be too esoteric, wordy or poetic for the average reader. I've heard that some feel they don't scan well-- that they wouldn't fit in a proper musical phrase. But most people that write songs are more creative and fluid as musicians than they are as singers. They have a wider, more complex grasp of styles with a guitar or piano, than with their voice. They are usually guitarists first, writing from a different place. And I will never be able to play that well, play the deep layering of notes I hear when I write.

 My lyrics sing perfectly, if you have at least my level of vocal skill, and don't think in 4/4 rhythm. They are sometimes challenging to sing. But they work. I know, I sing as I write them. It shapes the phrases, the chorus, the bridge, the verse. If you don't think it works, you're not hearing it right.

 So for July, at least, I'll be sharing old and newer lyrics, all previously published and copywritten, all recorded somewhere, if not as well as they deserve; they definitely deserve to be seen.

 I'll include tidbits of the original intros, where I have them, that explain part of where the songs come from. I can add on a bit about the process that led to a particular song. But intros and such never explain as much as people take from them. You have to let lyrics explain themselves like poetry; they have internal references, they use metaphor, they may swim around the main subject, or use a red herring before springing out to surprise you. They are never straight up, even when they are.

 Here are a couple of 2, 3 year old songs to start with. I hope you'll enjoy them, however they sound to you.


21. The Secret Life of Snow**

2009-08-18 @ 05:09pm
tags: choral cold-thought confessional canticle

"It's been a loathesome level of hot-n-humid for days so this is where my mind went today. Sort of a wish, or a self-induced trance toward a cooler mental place. Getting it from inside the myth of no-two-alike."

--Note: written years before Kate's 50 Words for Snow.

**This was a popular enough lyric that two musical friends put up differing collabs of it-- one, by Tim Fatchen, was intrumental (thus far) and is on his wonderful CD, Dark Sparkles. I would love to have him meld his version, and my version, sometime. The other, by my Irish bud Flav, was a lovely guitar version sung with his typical, understated, gravely merry approach.
The thing is-- it's a good song, still.


As the mask of cold begins
To cover anxious cheeks and chins
The startled hearts of snowflakes
Lose their homes...

For they must freeze out on their own, each one
Divided and alone
Gone from
The cool lake of air that bore them
To change and make the crystal
Solitary art that is
The secret life of snow

A quiet, purist freefall jump
They cannot choose
Or slow

The prism-layered secret life of snow

As they lay in wind-moved hills
Building on soft strength of will
And learning they are
Sisters of the skies

Comes the surprise; of giving up the flight
The grounding of their lightness, they must begin
To meld and lose solitude
Shapely singles dripping to a coarsely molded form
Hardened from their own
A glancing masterpiece that is
The secret life of snow

Insensible persuasive union falls
Beneath the shovel, pick and plow
A bitter glinting beauty's end
They cannot help but know

The finely brutal secret life of snow

© 2009 by Mari Kozlowski

**This was a popular enough lyric that two musical friends put up differeing versions of it-- one, by Tim Fatchen, was intrumental (thus far) and is on his wonderful CD, Dark Sparkles. I would love to have him meld his version, and my version, sometime. The other, by my Irish bud Flav, was a lovely guitar version sung with his typical, understated, gravely merry approach.
The thing is-- it's a good song, still.


From my first-ever FAWM, written while I was still giddily grinding out the longform of my first novel. I was writing at least 12 hours aday, then. Good times. Below are the liner notes I included during that FAWM.

Toads and Diamonds

Tagged As:
grimm whiny fairy-tale folk

"Was watching (again) an old Brit 80's show, Robin of Sherwood (get it on Netflix, people, do) and thought of some furry-tiles. I'm a devotee of all types of fairy-tales, more so the old, un-Disneyfied versions. And thought of this, taking a little bit different perspective. After all, getting married by someone who wants to use your disability to keep them rich probably doesn't ensure much of a happily-ever-after quotient."  (And like the Mary Magdalene/Virgin Mary thing, I decided these sisters were possibly two sides of the same goddess/woman/daughter.)

The man of the house told me to add; this title is from a fairy-tale in the Grimm's Blue Fairy book, if ya don't already know. He didn't.
Also-- a little inspired by FLAV, whose tunes you should listen to, or be cursed forever for your lack of Brigidity.


you fall into my dense forest
like a man who's lost to green;
then curse me for a harlot
so i'll loose those precious tears
that prove you king...

you collect them, and gift them back to me
so we live, and so we misconstrue
it's always toads and diamonds, with you

when you first came to this leaf-blown place
you saw a path, shone, to my face
what e'er i said,
you clearly heard
and listened closely
to each jeweled word

but time has grimed our gleam, now all you read
are the vip'rous tones you drag from me
it's always toads and diamonds, lately

you say they're coarse and shun my kin
their care is poison on your skin
my response drops
in petals to my knees

you don't understand, you echo
how they love me
it's always toads and diamonds, in my family
toads and diamonds with you and me...

once all i expressed of love
was pearls upon your hands
now you only feel the stony cold
as my demands

an affliction you cannot bear to own
but i speak toads and diamonds
you've always known....

© 2009 by Mari Kozlowski

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