I sat down with Sam the other day, to ask about what he does when he is writing a song. In particular, I was curious about the song, The Little Blue Fish, which is a lullaby he wrote for our would-be babies before they were even conceived. For a while we were religious about playing it to them before they went to sleep. It was a goodnight song, and we swore they would hear it and immediately conk out at the same time for the whole night.
If you have ever tried to put newborn twins to sleep, you know this was a total fantasy. If you have ever tried to put any size twins to sleep, you also know this was a total fantasy.
But this post is about the song, which I invite you to listen to here. Its about a little blue fish, who is learning to swim. He swims all around, he eats food, he swishes his tail with his mama. Eventually, it is time for him to sleep (this is where the fantasy about the twins also sleeping came into play).
I expected Sam to tell me something like, he started thinking about a sweet little song for babies to close their eyes to.... But no. He started with the sound of water. He wanted to make a piece of music about the sound of water. He didn't know what it would be about yet, or the genre or form. Rather, he was thinking about how comforting the sound of water is, the way it sort of holds him in a focused stillness, how his whole body relaxes when he hears the sound of water. He was remembering being a small child in his grandparent's home and listening to the sweet creek babbling all night long.
What's striking to me about this place that he started the lullaby is that it captures a feeling. He didn't set out to tell a story or write a lullaby or even make a song for his future children. Rather, he set out to explore his own relationship to a particular sound found in nature.
Even the fact that it's a lullaby seems perfect to me: he was exploring the sound of water musically- and for him, its a sweet sound, one that reminds him of being a child, a sound that is comforting and warm. When he tells me about how relationship to the sound of water, it feels like being wrapped up in warm blankets and being handed a cup of hot tea and being surrounded by people I really really love. All feelings, qualities, ideas, narratives we want our own children to associate with falling into a sweet, comfortable, safe sleep. Ergo, the lullaby.
Musically, I suppose writing a song is more like exploring an idea- the way I do in these blog posts, or when I write elsewhere. It seems different though, right? I mean we come back to the song again and again, we hum with it, we tap our feet and move our bodies. Pieces of writing can be embodied too, but differently: we read them, the pages of a book have a particular feel and smell and sensation, the keys on a keyboard click a certain way, our shoulders hunch predictably. But song, song feels more fluid. Easier. Simpler. More playful.
Anyways, I'm off now, to listen to The Little Blue Fish and fall into a deep sleep. That is, until one twin wakes for a bottle. Sweet dreams, you guys!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!