Making Music, part 1

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A couple of weeks ago I started casting around for someone to write me some music. I want an original tune for this year's World Hoop Day Dance project and so I was telling to my musician friends about it. I never thought this would happen but my ukulele teacher, Huw, suggested that we work together to make a song. I'd write the lyrics and he'd do the music. What a fantastic challenge.

Huw wasn't the only person I talked to. My darling friend, Jesse, upon hearing that I was going to be writing lyrics, presented me with a hula hoop song. "This is what a World Hoop Day song would sound like if I rolled out of bed and wrote one." I listened to it over and over. It was catchy and cute, plus I really love his singing voice.

Not only was his song sweet, it was inspirational. If Jesse can write a song in a morning, I surely can write some lyrics in a couple of days. Lyrics are poetry; I can write poetry. This should be fun. So I sat down and wrote a poem about hooping. It was complex, included lots of hooping concepts, and had a nice rhyming scheme, and I also used some of the lyrics that Jesse had written for me. Here's one verse:

There is no isolation;
None of us is alone.
Hoops bring us together,
Together we spiral in flow.
Face to face, heart to heart
I take your hand
Never let it go.

I sent it to Huw. He replied, "...way too complicated to set to a regular beat, a 7-6-6-8-6-4-5 scheme can be turned into an art song or opera, but not a catchy dance number." He suggested I try to think in rhymes more like Dr. Seuss.

So I tried again. This time, I stuck to a much simpler, singsong rhythm. 

Today we celebrate the hoop
A simple little plastic ring
We groove with it around our waist
Waste not a perfect chance to sing
A melody of joy and glee
So beautiful our hoops take wing

But it still wasn't right. When Huw read it through, the music he heard in his head was a waltz. And I don't think I can choreography a snappy hoop routine to a waltz, so no good. Back to the drawing board. Make it even simpler!

I came up with three more concepts, the simplest of which was


But that was perhaps too open. Huw liked the other two, though, and presented me with some chords a few days later. They are ones I can play on the ukulele, even. So now I have something to hang the words on and to find a melody in. Or to change the words.

It strikes me that this collaboration puts me in a completely different position than usual. Normally, I am in control of the creative work. Now, I am the "client". I have no idea about creating music; no clue what happens next in the process; no ability to listen to a half-finished piece and fill in the blanks. I am like a nightmare design client. "This is too blue; can it be more pink? What about a script font? My cousin says that we shouldn't use too much white space. Can we get a photo of a lion with a mouse for this part?" Instrumentation, arrangement, recording...I know these will happen. I don't know how or when. I don't know anything or how much I can influence the final product. 

But I sure am having fun feeling off-kilter and not in control. And my poetry is getting better, too.

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