This is the process that I go through trying to figure out what song should be my next project. In my last post I said this: “I need to find a song. It always starts that way. But it is difficult. I need to find a song I can spend a month or more with and still like the music. That is tough.” Let me add to that description the words frustrating, confusing, and even boring after sifting through dozens of songs. Here is how it went down for my next project.
I have a list of songs that I keep in my computer note software call Songs to Paint.
Each of these listings where added because I had an emotional moment that matched up to the listening music moment. If I pick a song on the list, I remove them otherwise they remain on the list long after I have “lost that loving feeling.” Sometimes I am lucky and a song or a piece of music just catches me when I need a source. Other times, when nothing trips-my-trigger, I start my search with the list.
Until recently, once I found the music I wanted to paint I would look for a phrase, or a sentence with a clean start and a clean finish. If the music had words that I also wanted to include in the artwork, I then had to make sure that the notation was interesting to catch the viewer’s eye. That part of the process remains today, except I am now a lot more flexible with my word use. What I have added since 2018 is the sound of the music the artwork is portraying. Having to create a soundtrack for an artwork complicates my project choices. It has also changed my project flow. I now create my cover music for the chosen song, which then becomes the template for the artwork
I create the soundtracks using a Digital Audio Workstation (computer) using StudioOne. There is an immense learning curve with this software. To keep things simple, I build my notation with an instrument I am familiar with, the piano. It then takes a week or more to build a respectable sounding cover that often includes the addition of other instruments, mostly strings and woodwinds. Getting my soundtrack to sound decent and polished is demanding. My music needs to sound good enough to represent the why I chose this music. My goal is never to I match the original music. The goal is that my cover music, when played, presents to the listener the spirit of the music that the artwork is displaying to the viewer.
For this project, I rejected everything I had on my list. Here then are some of the music choices that I considered and discarded over a couple of days:
I started with Bob Dylan but moved on to Jeff Lynne singing Lift Me up. This music I like for its uplifting music and lyrics and its musical lightness. I feel that combination would be a suitable match for my mood. But I hesitated. It was not quite what I wanted. It did not ring-my-bell.
In desperation, and the hope to find a potential classic song material amongst today’s music, I turn to the google search looking for the “Best songs of the 21st Century.” I went through a number of lists: 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far- The Rolling Stone, Every song of the Summer of the 2000s, 150 songs of the 21st century (so far), The Best Songs of 21st Century – Ranker. I even listen to a Spotty playlist Best Songs of the 21st Century. Besides Mr. Brightside, which I have already painted, nothing I listen to tripped-my-biffy, and which I thought I could notate and create a respectable soundtrack.
The next day, I thought for a moment to go with Born in the USA. No, I am not doing another Bruce Springsteen song. I did like the song’s rebellious sound, which got me to think about finding a Punk Rock song to paint. That idea popped up after listening earlier on my walk to the Violent Femmes singing Blister In the Sun. I have for a long time wanted to paint an example of this music genre. It somehow relates to my youth when I played the organ and sang backup with a local garage band. So I looked around. I started with the Ramones. I then moved on to play a few other bands, mostly from Spotify Punk Rock playlist. Nothing tripped-my-trigger. Besides, punk uses a lot of guitar which I have limited skill level to produce. The band Green Day surprised me as their music shows up in the punk music category. I have always liked their music. For me they felt like a garage band, but that wasn’t enough to move me.
I then thought about doing a song by Bon Iver (I liked his voice on the Taylor Swift song) They are a kind of local band, but that also went nowhere. Finally, I thought I could turn back the clock and so I searched but found nothing: not a pop standard or a Jazz Standard, or even a torch song was going to flip-my-switch. All delightful music, but again no light went on. I was in the dark, not knowing which way to go. Then in a soft desperate voice I spoke to myself that I needed a song to play, “Play that song,” I said. At that moment I paused as a faint connection with those three words popped into my head. In my Spotify search I typed “Play that Song.” There it was, Play that song by the band Train.
Finally, a song that caught my attention. It had that similar uptempo sound and interesting lyrics as my earlier option, “Lift me Up,” but its title and its story fit my current emotional situation better. I even think I can listen to this music, maybe for a month. Maybe. Hopefully.
Oh my god, this video played after I listen to the Cleftones, Heart and Soul. Would you know it? There was Bruce Springsteen with Chuck Berry singing Johnny B. Goode. Definitely on the list. I thoroughly enjoyed this video.
This is a special blog post. For this is my 651 post, and it ties the number of letters Vincent Van Gogh sent to Theo Van Gogh. Somewhere in a long ago blog post I set that as a goal to reach. Today I have. The best stuff is yet to come.
Scott Von Holzen