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A Plague of Songwriters?

George Papavgeris 18 Dec 03 - 02:23 PM
Clinton Hammond 18 Dec 03 - 02:30 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 18 Dec 03 - 02:48 PM
The Shambles 18 Dec 03 - 03:03 PM
mg 18 Dec 03 - 03:16 PM
PoppaGator 18 Dec 03 - 03:23 PM
Amos 18 Dec 03 - 03:41 PM
PoppaGator 18 Dec 03 - 04:07 PM
GUEST,Peter from Essex 18 Dec 03 - 04:16 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 18 Dec 03 - 04:22 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 18 Dec 03 - 04:28 PM
The Stage Manager 18 Dec 03 - 05:41 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Dec 03 - 06:27 PM
Art Thieme 18 Dec 03 - 06:32 PM
Amos 18 Dec 03 - 06:38 PM
Joybell 18 Dec 03 - 07:13 PM
The Fooles Troupe 18 Dec 03 - 07:15 PM
George Papavgeris 18 Dec 03 - 07:20 PM
The Fooles Troupe 18 Dec 03 - 07:23 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Dec 03 - 07:32 PM
McGrath of Harlow 18 Dec 03 - 07:34 PM
Leadfingers 18 Dec 03 - 08:00 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 18 Dec 03 - 08:24 PM
Alaska Mike 18 Dec 03 - 09:01 PM
Jerry Rasmussen 18 Dec 03 - 09:50 PM
GUEST,Russ 18 Dec 03 - 09:58 PM
The Shambles 19 Dec 03 - 02:29 AM
GUEST,clanger 19 Dec 03 - 04:13 AM
GUEST,MC Fat 19 Dec 03 - 05:44 AM
GUEST,Santa 19 Dec 03 - 06:07 AM
Leadfingers 19 Dec 03 - 06:31 AM
GUEST,SM at Work 19 Dec 03 - 07:19 AM
The Fooles Troupe 19 Dec 03 - 07:24 AM
GUEST,Das Lied Politzei 19 Dec 03 - 08:23 AM
GUEST,Santa 19 Dec 03 - 08:44 AM
GUEST,Songwriters Revolutionary Front. 19 Dec 03 - 09:03 AM
GUEST,Islamic Folk Jihad 19 Dec 03 - 10:19 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Dec 03 - 10:49 AM
GUEST,Rain Dog 19 Dec 03 - 10:52 AM
GUEST,Das Lied Politzei 19 Dec 03 - 10:59 AM
GUEST,Jim Knowledge 19 Dec 03 - 11:25 AM
GUEST,The Benn Agency 19 Dec 03 - 11:55 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Dec 03 - 11:57 AM
GUEST,The Benn Agency 19 Dec 03 - 12:05 PM
breezy 19 Dec 03 - 12:13 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Dec 03 - 01:33 PM
GUEST,Guest, Questioner 19 Dec 03 - 01:35 PM
GUEST,The Benn Agency 19 Dec 03 - 03:24 PM
PoppaGator 19 Dec 03 - 03:40 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Dec 03 - 04:06 PM
The Fooles Troupe 19 Dec 03 - 05:47 PM
The Fooles Troupe 19 Dec 03 - 05:52 PM
GUEST,The Benn Agency 19 Dec 03 - 06:52 PM
The Shambles 19 Dec 03 - 07:18 PM
McGrath of Harlow 19 Dec 03 - 07:31 PM
The Fooles Troupe 19 Dec 03 - 08:19 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 19 Dec 03 - 08:36 PM
harvey andrews 19 Dec 03 - 09:31 PM
George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca 20 Dec 03 - 09:42 AM
The Stage Manager 20 Dec 03 - 05:13 PM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Dec 03 - 05:24 PM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Dec 03 - 05:45 PM
The Stage Manager 20 Dec 03 - 06:06 PM
YorkshireYankee 20 Dec 03 - 06:19 PM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Dec 03 - 07:36 PM
The Fooles Troupe 20 Dec 03 - 07:51 PM
McGrath of Harlow 20 Dec 03 - 08:22 PM
The Shambles 21 Dec 03 - 01:48 PM
YorkshireYankee 21 Dec 03 - 09:05 PM
harvey andrews 22 Dec 03 - 03:07 AM
GUEST,A Scribbler 22 Dec 03 - 07:30 AM
George Papavgeris 22 Dec 03 - 07:48 AM
The Shambles 22 Dec 03 - 07:39 PM
McGrath of Harlow 22 Dec 03 - 07:44 PM
Morris-ey 23 Dec 03 - 09:54 AM
GUEST,KB 23 Dec 03 - 10:03 AM
Morris-ey 23 Dec 03 - 10:20 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 23 Dec 03 - 10:42 AM
GUEST,Santa 23 Dec 03 - 10:51 AM
GUEST,The Benn Agency 23 Dec 03 - 11:13 AM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Dec 03 - 01:47 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 23 Dec 03 - 02:11 PM
harvey andrews 23 Dec 03 - 06:37 PM
McGrath of Harlow 23 Dec 03 - 07:18 PM
GUEST,perplexed 23 Dec 03 - 08:50 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 23 Dec 03 - 10:12 PM
harvey andrews 24 Dec 03 - 06:33 AM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Dec 03 - 07:13 AM
GUEST,Rain Dog 24 Dec 03 - 07:16 AM
GUEST,Hugh Jampton 24 Dec 03 - 07:40 AM
GUEST,Hugh Jampton 24 Dec 03 - 07:42 AM
George Papavgeris 24 Dec 03 - 07:43 AM
GUEST,Rain Dog 24 Dec 03 - 07:50 AM
GUEST,Jim Knowledge 24 Dec 03 - 08:09 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 24 Dec 03 - 09:25 AM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 24 Dec 03 - 09:40 AM
harvey andrews 24 Dec 03 - 09:48 AM
George Papavgeris 24 Dec 03 - 11:01 AM
The Shambles 24 Dec 03 - 12:01 PM
GUEST,Hugh Jampton 24 Dec 03 - 12:08 PM
McGrath of Harlow 24 Dec 03 - 12:25 PM
GUEST,Hugh Jampton 24 Dec 03 - 12:30 PM
WFDU - Ron Olesko 24 Dec 03 - 12:55 PM
harvey andrews 24 Dec 03 - 01:03 PM
GUEST,Rain Dog 24 Dec 03 - 01:05 PM
George Papavgeris 24 Dec 03 - 02:21 PM
The Fooles Troupe 24 Dec 03 - 08:03 PM
Snuffy 25 Dec 03 - 05:22 AM
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Subject: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 02:23 PM

In the world of collective nouns, my favourite is a "business" of ferrets (so apt!). But recently in various threads there seems to be a tendency to create a new one: a "plague" of songwriters.
Now, why is it that in the folk club or session environment we often (rightly) endure and support the average or below-average singer or player of an instrument, yet we judge songwriters so much more harshly; as if they are to be scolded simply for wanting to inflict their creation/abomination on us?
Songwriting is a form of expression, like singing, playing music, reading poetry or prose, story-telling, joke-telling etc. The majority of songwriters do not aspire to greatness; only to tell the others about the world as they see/feel it. It's like somebody lending you their kaleidoscope - you may not see what they see, but you get the idea.
So, two questions:
a) Do we judge songwriters more harshly than other folk singers/ musicians and if so, why?
b) What advice would you give to a songwriter wanting to inflict their "baby" project on you, in order to make it more interesting for you?

Seconds away...Round one: Discuss


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Clinton Hammond
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 02:30 PM

a) Do we judge songwriters more harshly than other folk singers/ musicians and if so, why?

The audacity of public originality?

b) What advice would you give to a songwriter wanting to inflict their "baby" project on you, in order to make it more interesting for you?

For me? Well, don't suck for starters... heh (Good advice eh?? LOL) I donno.. how do you write a song so that I'll like it? I'd be happy if -I- could write songs that -I- liked!


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 02:48 PM

a) The difference is that usually in a folk club, the below average singer and or instrumentalist is "participating" in a communal setting - everyone is usually joining in. This indidividual is usually doing their thing for fun, not profit.

The songwriter usually "performing" in an environment where the listener is an audience, not a participant. Songwriters often have aspirations of performing on a higher stage. They become open to criticism.

If I am given a home cooked meal, I am likely to be less criticial that I would if I pay to have a similar meal in a restaurant.

Please note - I am using the words "usual" and "often" in my comments. There are no universal truths in the scenario that El Greko suggested.

b) Be patient and open to suggestion.


Ron


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Shambles
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 03:03 PM

The writer (and usually the performer) of original songs does have a hard time. They can be accused of pushing their creations upon people but of course if they don't sing their song - no one else will. So they are rather damned if they do and damned if they don't.

We are all different and I would liken songs to houses, which we all need. Songs (to folkies anyway) are just as necessary. Some of us will move in to a house exactly as it is, some of us will knock it around a bit, to our own personal preference and some will need to build from scratch.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: mg
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 03:16 PM

well, if someone is pretty awful but they sing a song everyone knows, you can all chime in and keep them on key etc...if it is not a song anyone knows, but has a tune or chorus, you can hum along etc..but if it is a tuneless sort of tune there is sfa you can do except listen to the lyrics and I am not one who really listens to the lyrics..I'd rather read them..who knows...there are some great ones that come along this way...mg


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 03:23 PM

I just posted a fairly lengthy rant in another thread, decrying the abysmal quality of "original" material imposed upon the audience by individuals and groups who can be perfectly enjoyable performers as long as they stick with good, established, proven songs.

The way El Greko posed his opening argument here gave me pause. Why, indeed, should aspiring songwriters be judged more harshly than other amateur performers? Perhaps I've been unfair in my attitude.

NAAAHHHHH!

Ron has got it right. Amateur/mediocre singers and players of known tunes (traditional or popular) tacitly invite the audience to participate (by "active listening" if not by outright sing-along-ing), but with aspiring songwriters, we have no alternative but to sit still and listen, for better or for worse.

In my salad days as an active busker, a great many of my fellow performers were writing songs, and most of them, well, sucked -- big time. The offenders were still my friends, and were usually fairly talented singers and/or pickers as long as they stuck to proven material, but I rarely enjoyed listening to their efforts at composition, and it was worse when they asked me to comment. (I'd usually white-lie, of course.)

There are rare exceptions, of course. Only one of my many musical acquaintances from that era ever really impressed me as a songwriter, even when she was just a teenager. After many years laboring in obscurity, and she did eventually "make it" to moderate commercial success (and substantial critical success as well). But, that's just the exception that proves the rule, as far as I'm concerned.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Amos
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 03:41 PM

It can take as much time and focus to learn how good songs work as it does to learn how to play an instrument well. It is not a trivial proposition. And people who bumble around with it, without bothering to understand why songs survive and why they don't, are just blocking traffic and imposing. "It's Henglish, ain't it? Well, there y' are!! Hi speeks Henglish!! Woddyer tink?"

A


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 04:07 PM

We do need a continuing supply of good new songs, so there do need to be new songwriters learning their craft at all times. And, I suppose, it is only to be expected that even the best writers' early efforts be less than impressive.

But, sheeeesh! There are just so *many* really lousy self-penned songs, many not showing a glimmer of promise.

Part of the problem is that the current structure of the music business offers greater compensation for writing/publication than for performance, and anyone hoping to make a living at music is almost forced to take a shot at being a "composer."

Hence the appeal of non-commercial music.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Peter from Essex
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 04:16 PM

IT all depends on the circumstances of the performance.

IF I have paid out something in excess of the price of two pints of beer I expect a certain standard in return. As posted above that can be a less than brilliant rendition of something I can join in with or something worth keeping quiet to listen to.

If I am paying a premium on top of that for a major performer topping the bill I expect the support spots to be of a quality to reflect what I have paid.

At an informal singaround then you take pot luck.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 04:22 PM

a - I agree that songwriters are given short shrift. I think a songwriter has to be given a chance to provide the song/tune we need. Where would we be if someone such as Pete St. John, or John Connollyy had not perservered with their creations. I feel that if a song is good, it will strike a chord in the minds/imagination/hearts of audiences. Songwriters HAVE to take the abuse, however, such as when a blade is tempered. As the songwriter learns his craft, he gets better with REASONABLE constructive criticism. However we, as audience, must listen constructively.

b - Mary Garvey, I have always assumed a song is to listen to. The words are what are important. Why would you not try to identify the chorus, even if you can't get the verses, to a song as it is being sung? A song that speaks to you, should resonate without the printed page. Oftimes I encounter singers, either with original or cover material, and if the song is good, I TRY to pay attention and sing along. I once had a comment from J.P. Cormier, when he released his Another Morning CD. I had been sitting in a darkened corner of the room. Somehow, when I came up to purchase the CD at the break, he asked me, how did I know the words to be able to sing along with the songs. I had been listening to him from time to time over the previous year or so, singing many of these same songs, so it wasn't hard to sing along with the chorus, and even parts of the verses.

c - I think one of the ways a songwriter can make the listening of his songs more enjoyable include:

    1 - KNOW the song. Don't stop and apologize that you JUST wrote it with more than one song.
    2 - Show enthusiasm for your song, and have a good introduction as to why the song was written.
    3 - DON'T be apologizing if you make a mistake. Keep on going. It destroys the rhythm of the performance if you do. If you have to apologize, do it AFTER you have finished. If the people are clapping, and seem to enjoy it, SHUT the HECK UP! and then Thank the audience.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 04:28 PM

Disclaimer === I am speaking as professional audience. I am NOT an aspiring singer or songwriter. I like to sing-along with performers, in concerts (very quietly) or in pubs (loudly if the sound system is loud). I know very few songs completely, but I can probably sing along with many of them, even new to me ones. It's not hard to figure out what is going to come next in many songs. Try it, and free yourself from the FIVE INCH BINDER of songs (that's my big one, but I have 2 others about 2 inch, and several others smaller)


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Stage Manager
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 05:41 PM

Interesting questions

"Do we judge songwriters more harshly than other folk singers and if so why?"

I can only answer this from a personal perspective, from being a member of an audience. I go to a club or a session to "join in" the evening in some way. This usually means joining in choruses or being engaged by, or able to identify with, the songs being sung.

While I don't expect floor singers necessarily to have the level of expertise or polish of the guest, I do feel that whatever they do should contribute to a general feeling of inclusiveness, whereby everyone is feels they are making a contribution to the evening.

This probably makes it extremely difficult for an unknown floor singer to come along and sing his own material, unless it is of an unusually high standard or (s)he is able to 'connect' in some way with the audience

Ultimately I feel this has to come down to good folksingers and bad folksingers. When I refer to good and bad folk singers I'm not referring necessarily to a standard level of musicianship. The good singers communicate with their audiences, the bad ones alienate them. I think a good folk singer can get away with a poor song now and then. But it would need to be a truly exceptional song to outshine a poor performer.

The implication of your first question El Greco, via my convoluted way of thinking, is if we judge songwriters more harshly it is probably because they are the poorer folksingers. Fortunately this is not always the case. I guess if you stand up in front of people and expect them to take you seriously, then you have to be a performer first and a songwriter second. If you can do both then wonderful, but there's no point in writing a good song if you can't put it over to an audience.   


"What advice would you give to a songwriter wanting to inflict their "baby" project on you, in order to make it more interesting for you?"

I speak as Mr Sullen in the third row here.   

Slip it in with other songs you are reasonably confident that I either know or like. If we're sailing into uncharted waters I don't particularly want to know about it. I like to feel the captain knows where he's going.

Make it look as though you've sung this song a hundred times before. I'm of a nervous disposition, and don't want to be anybody's Guinea Pig. On the other hand if the song is a run away success and you end up headling festivals around the world, I will want to bang on about how I heard the first performance of your song from here to eternity.

In your introduction don't say anything that might suggest that this song is anything less than sure fire winner. Your insecurities make me uneasy. I also like hints about how this song might relate to me. Please flatter what's left of my intelligence and taste in music at every available opportunity, preferably with a touch of humour.

I most definitely don't want to hear about your problems before, during or after the song. I've got plenty of problems of my own and I haven't come tonight to inflict mine on you.   

Please note my reaction and that of my colleagues. If we are less enthusiastic than you think we ought to be, please don't assume that repeated singing on every subsequent occasion will force us to come to our senses. I can assure you it won't. We are your audience, you are a folk singer, while we are predisposed to like you and want you to do well, we remain judge and jury in this matter. Our decision is final. In this instance we felt you should have done better.   

Oh goodness! I've gone on a bit. I hope I haven't offended anyone.


SM


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 06:27 PM

"Songwriters often have aspirations of performing on a higher stage. They become open to criticism."

Perhaps that explains why I've never been conscious of this anytime I've been singing a song or two I've written, because that doesn't describe me. Or perhaps it's just because I've been being insensitve, and all around me they are giving signals of disapproval that I completely miss.

If there are people around who are giving El Greko those kinds of signals I'm sorry for them.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Art Thieme
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 06:32 PM

Just a couple of points

In the 1960s we had folk clubs (pubs with entertainment) all over Chicago. Every night of the week there was a well-attended HOOT (open stage) somewhere where those of us who were learning the folksong craft could go and work out. It was extremely valuable to have a place where we could BE BAD without too many hard words from others. For singing our 3 allowed songs we got a couple of drinks and a meal (usually). It felt like real pay. One could stay fed and a bit spiffed going to these. It was at these hootenannys that I learned that 3 songs, filled out with folk tales---tall tales---jokes could be made to last at least a half hour. (Everyone else only got ten minutes.) By the yime anyone figured out what I was doing, I was decent enough to actually get hired around town.----------- Maybe the singer/songwriters ought to work out enough to build their skills first rather than sell themselves to a venue operator who is too kind-hearted or P.C. or un-schooled enough to tell them the truth----or even just to recognize the truth.

But we've had several threads of late about songs and stuff that is "shite". Nobody, these days, seeems to have a decent shite detector or so it seems. But some folks like shite. Once, one's nose used to be enough. Now, in these dumbed down days, it might be too much to expect aspiring performers to recognize when they really aren't very good yet,

Art Thieme


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Amos
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 06:38 PM

"'an another think --- songs is about feelinks, isn't it?? Well there y'are!! Hive got feelinks, too!! I speaks Henglish an' got feelinks, an' wot more could I ever need, is wot I wann know??!! 'ere's one Hive been workin' on, needs a bot o' polish, but p'r'aps you'll like it anyway, I hope -- heh heh -- lessee...'ow does it start then...hmmm...."


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Joybell
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 07:13 PM

I think that a lot of problems could be solved by giving performers a set time for their act. In folk clubs it could be the same for everyone if you really wanted to be fair. I well remember frequently sitting through "3 songs" that each went for 10 minutes. Telling performers they can do x number of songs is a recipe for disaster, I reckon. It can become a real power trip. I always ask for a set time for myself and stick to it.
                           Joy-who-hates-to-leave-the-stage-too.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 07:15 PM

Shambles

"The writer (and usually the performer) of original songs does have a hard time. They can be accused of pushing their creations upon people but of course if they don't sing their song - no one else will. "

Yea man, right on -- now I've written a few - oh hell, if anybody wants them - they can look 'em up in the "Songs you've posted" thread - although some of them have allegedly been submitted by others than me to the Mudcat Songbook, just waiting on the next update run.... :-)

And I have so few songs that I want people to know about. Most of my output is uter crap - tear it up and throw it away level crap. If I TRY to write a song, it always seems sort of forced - even to me - the ones that I keep are the ones that have grabbed me by the throat and never let me go until I put then on paper - then I have peace and can forget them. I don't really care if others don't "get" them - not any more - I'm too old and cynical now.

And if you use a tune everybody knows, you are decried for lack of being "original", but if you make up some weird sort of original wailing crap, many others don't like it... unless you are a Pop singer that a Record Compnay has "invested" in.

One thing about those old "Tin Pan Alley" songs, they usually had "a tune you could whistle" ... :-)

Now "Rap", - we don't need no stinking tunes!

Art
"Now, in these dumbed down days, it might be too much to expect aspiring performers to recognize when they really aren't very good yet,"

Right on!

Robin


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 07:20 PM

No, McG of H, nobody has ever made such comments to me about me - well, not to my face anyway. But I often hear "generic" moans about songwriters; about their insufferable introspection sometimes; or about them "taking over" the folk scene to the detriment of traditional song and music; etc etc. So I want to get a sense of the "wrong" things a songwriter can do - and by extension, the areas where he/she must pay attention, over and above the quality of the songs themselves.
And the answers so far are fascinating - some very good points are made. I will summarise tomorrow, but meanwhile keep going...
Harvey, if you read this, it might give us some hints for the course at La Jeuss in the summer.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 07:23 PM

Yes, Joybell,

I'm more of an instrumentalist rather than a singer, I do enjoy the buzz, buit only from large groups, small groups freeze me with nerves.

Set time, rather than a number of pieces. If that's just one song, fine. If the audience is full of "friends", then popular demand may generate an encore...

There's a Brisbane "folk venue" which only accepts "original" songs and instrumentals.

The problem is that I like familar stuff, and would be bored with just "all new stuff" - from an audience point of view.

RObin


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 07:32 PM

I wasn't implying you'd thump them El Greko, just that they'd be be lacking in the ability to recognise good stuff.

One thing is that a song needs to be sung-in, generally, and that normally means sung a good few times in public, somit's best to spread trhta roud a bit.

And it's advisable to sandwich a new song in between songs you've already sung-in, and if possible after you've sung one people know and like hearing you sing (if they know you), so they trust you when you sing something they haven't heard before, and give the song a chance.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 07:34 PM

I wasn't implying you'd thump them El Greko, just that they'd be lacking in the ability to recognise good stuff.

One thing is that a song needs to be sung-in, generally, and that normally means sung a good few times in public, so it's best to spread that round a bit.

And it's advisable to sandwich a new song in between songs you've already sung-in, and if possible after you've sung one people know and like hearing you sing (if they know you), so they trust you when you sing something they haven't heard before, and give the song a chance.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 08:00 PM

As a Song Thief of Long Standing I have nothing against Song Writers at all, as long as their songs are worth singing and are available to Thieves like myself.If No One wrote any new songs, all we would be doing was to rehash the 'Old'songs. If we did not let the Song Writers do their thing, we would have missed out on Harvey A, Ralph Mc Tell and Uncle Tom Paxton and all. Sadly Too many song writers do
not have the talent of Harv, Ralph and Tom ,and only manage the occasional bearable song out of dozens.
From the point of view of this thread, and its instigator, I am at a severe dissadvantage as I regularly attend at least one of the Clubs where El Grecko turns up to try out his latest offering. And I hate him!! I dont mind writers, I dont mind guitarists, and I dont mind singers, but when they do all three so well - and are NICE people as well. I think its a bit much for us mere mortals.
I know a number of writers, and some of them deserve ALL the crap you can throw at them,but at least they are TRYING and every now and then they come out with a beaut. I often wonder how many songs Paul Simon never sang, or Tom Paxton or any of the other good'uns
So IF you are a writer, dont despair and if you are an audience, dont just switch off - Give em all a chance, even the guy who will only ever write the crap.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 08:24 PM

Tom Paxton told me, many years ago, that he wrote a song every day. I don't know that he still does that (kinda doubt it) but you can be sure the wrote a lot of songs he never sang for anyone..

Jerry


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Alaska Mike
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 09:01 PM

I sing mostly my own songs when I perform. Many of my songs have become quite popular with the festival audiences that I have played for over the years. Some of these listeners have paid their money to come to the festival for the express purpose of hearing me sing my songs. But not all of these gems started off as polished as they might be now.

I believe that it is fair to criticize original songs when the songwriter is performing them. Many of these songs are still in the stage where they can be improved upon with a few minor adjustments. I have always been willing to hear what people have to say. Consiquently, I have been able to improve my songs by cutting out some of the verses of an epic, or adding a short bridge, or changing a word or phrase that was confusing.

I have produced 3 CD's of my original compositions. All 3 of my recordings have sold well enough to be profitable. In addition, I have received music publishing contracts for six of my original songs. Other performers have sung my songs on stage and recorded them on their CD's. There are no greater compliments that a songwriter can obtain.

Because of the success I have had, my confidence in my songwriting ability is quite high. But I still agonize over each new song that I write. I still get nervous the first few times I perform a new composition. I still wonder if folks will enjoy it, want to hear it again or even learn the song for themselves. And I am still crushed when someone in the audience says anything critical of it.

So to answer your questions El Greko:
QUESTION 1: No I don't think we judge songwriters any more harshly than we judge singers or instrumentalists. It's just that there are so damn many things to judge when a songwriter plays and sings his own song.

QUESTION 2: My advise to songwriters is to write the best songs you can and be willing to work hard to keep improving them until they reach a level of quality that your audience enjoys.

Best wishes,
Mike


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Jerry Rasmussen
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 09:50 PM

Seems like most of the comments support the title.

Jerry


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Russ
Date: 18 Dec 03 - 09:58 PM

The Question:
Do we judge songwriters more harshly than other folk singers/ musicians and if so, why?

The key word is "we"? Who is El Greko referring to?

Well, I am a boomer and an aging folkie. I assume that my experiences are pretty typical and my current thinking about songwriters is in no way unique. So by "we" I am mean people in my cohort with similar musical autobiographies.

I have noticed that the older I get, the less open minded I become about music. My musical preferences have narrowed and sharpened. Once upon a time I listened to anything, liked everything, and felt that homemade music in general was pretty cool. No more. I am now quite clear on what I like and what I don't like. Same with my friends.

I have also noticed that as I get older I tend to prefer music that has some degree of familiarity. As a Norman Blake album once proclaimed with it's title, "Just give me something I'm used to." Ditto my friends.

In short, I have become an old fart, we have become old farts. We make exactly the same complaints about new music and musicians that my parents made about the music and musicians I liked so many years ago.

We old farts always give ourselves away when we get specific with our criticisms and start giving examples of songwriting being done "right" -- Dylan, Paxton, etc. Old farts holding up fellow farts as paragons of songwriterly virtue.

I wouldn't go so far to claim that we've ALL become old farts, but the chorus of whines I hear about new music and musicians and songwriters suggests that we're heading in that direction.

Russ (old fart and proud of it)


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Shambles
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 02:29 AM

I still don't really understand why if we are generally prepared to tolerate mediocre performers (of any material) - and we seem to - why even songwriters are so hard on the writer/performers of posibly mediocre oringinal songs. Unless this is a ready-made defence for them against the charge of pushing original material?

We accept that performers who may be mediocre now, can flower in time to be a fine perfomer but do not appear to offer the same to the songwriter, even when we know that some songs themselves can slowly grow upon the listener or perhaps can develop more of a relevance in time.

True the pushy and over-confident attitudes of some aspiring songwriters for their 'babies' can be a turn-off but this fault is hardly confined to performers of original material.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,clanger
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 04:13 AM

I have heard just as many instrumentalists at sessions take the floor with truely dire self penned tunes.
I think it's down to an audience either being familliar with a style or impressed by abillity.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,MC Fat
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 05:44 AM

The difference between a singer songwriter and a puppy is that after so long the puppy stops whining !!


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Santa
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 06:07 AM

Mike: "I believe that it is fair to criticize original songs when the songwriter is performing them."

That's unkind - you should wait until he finishes.

Russ: I'm not sure (as an old fart) that my tastes have as quite as much narrowed as changed - I used to love singer-songwriters and dislike traditional, now I like the traditional and am not so find of singer-songwriters. Blanket generalisation there...but not being a teenager, teenage angst doesn't have the same attraction and I'm not about to change the world politically.   I don't think that I'm listening to less music, though possibly deeper rather than wider.

I'm not sure about the thread title. A plague of songwriters? There doeesn't seem to be a painful excess of them around, so no. A plague on Songwriters, well, maybe, when the mood is on, but I suppose they've got to learn their trade somewhere. One good new song will forgive a lot of numb bums.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 06:31 AM

I used 'Old Fart' names like McTell and Paxton because I knew people would know these names,and could have used a lot of names of younger writers who would be total unknowns to most of you.I know a lot of young writers wh are writing great stuff and young writers who one day MIGHT write great stuff. I also know Older writers who write a lot
of songs that sink without trace.
A good song will get into the main stream of 'known' songs IF it gets a reasonable amount of exposure, a bad song will get nowhere, no matter how hard the writer pushes it so long as n0o one else takes it up.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,SM at Work
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 07:19 AM

Ok someone tell me, What happens now if a completely unknown singer/ songwriter walks into a session, plays an absolute blinder, and has the audience eating out of their hand?

SM


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 07:24 AM

I'll ask, can I have a copy... please?


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Das Lied Politzei
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 08:23 AM

"zere shall be ein song kommittee ins alles klubs und vee shall say
vitch songs are to be sung bevor ze nacht"
(Extract from the Royal and Ancient Rule Book for Folkclubs"


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Santa
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 08:44 AM

SM: dunno about a session, but from experience at last year's Fylde festival I'd say that I'd rush up to my club organiser and say "You gotta book.....". And as I wasn't the only one, we're having Cloudstreet in the New Year, and Meg has already sung Jenny Greenteeth at the Clarence.

Does that answer your question?

Quality will out, but something about kissing a lot of frogs before you find your prince comes to mind.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Songwriters Revolutionary Front.
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 09:03 AM

Mien Gott! We thought dieser fascist committees had alles been eliminated and der Rule Buch geburned!

So you slipped through the net.....maybe next time you vill not be so lucky....Volk Polizei Mann

SRF


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Islamic Folk Jihad
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 10:19 AM

Kill them all and let Woody Allah Mohammed Guthrie sort them out.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 10:49 AM

Hmm Jihad, wasn't Woody a songwriter?

I've often joked that there are singer-songwriters and there are singer-songwhiners. Songwriters are an important part of the modern tradition.   The whiners need to hear the criticism even more to become songwriters.

The jokes about "folk police" are getting stale. Every genre has critics and fans, maybe folk musicians are just too sensitive. (I guess they should be!!!!) To NOT talk about what we like and dislike is a diservice to those who wish to perpetuate the music. I don't think any of us miss the real point of all this - to ENJOY the music.

Over the past year I have marveled at some incredibly talented songwriters as well as those who are performing traditional music. The future is secure.

I've also heard some really bad music this year. Part of the problem we all face is that technology has advanced to the point where everyone can record a relatively decent quality CD.   When I started doing my radio show in 1980 I would receive a couple of dozen recordings each YEAR. I now receive about a dozen a WEEK.

To get back to the original question, there is no real plague. Everything we see and hear, good and bad, is a sign that the music is loved by more and more people. It is healthy.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Rain Dog
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 10:52 AM

I have never quite understood some peoples attitude towards 'singer songwriters' In the rock / pop world the term is also used in a sneering sort of way. What are people saying ? Do they think there are too many songs in the world and that we should call a halt to all songwriting ? Why stop there ? Let's go back in time and cull a few of those old ones too while we are it. Instead of stepping out one fine morning those people should have stayed at home and looked after their families. And what is it with all these anti war songs ? Surely we can just pick one which can stand for all the wars we have had and all the wars we are going to have.

We should just come up with about 10 songs. That should just about cover everything I think


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Das Lied Politzei
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 10:59 AM

Arrest zat "Songwriters revolutionary front" und they shall write out, ein hundert copies, of "I took a song to a folk club, but nobody asked for the words"


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Jim Knowledge
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 11:25 AM

I `ad that Woody Allah Mo`ammed Guthrie in my cab once. `ed just done a song about "`alls of Marble" somewhere out in the desert. It were`nt arf good but it went on a bit.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,The Benn Agency
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 11:55 AM

Of course there is not a plague of songwriters. To think otherwise is to believe there are a chosen few and only they shall be heard. Let anyone who has composed songs or music for that matter do their stuff and give them full rein. Audience reaction will tell the tale in the long run and a natural filtering process will let those that are good enough to rise to the top. This applies to most produced things in life. The bigger problem; who is prepared and qualified to sit in judgement of the composers and how best to offer criticism and advise them?


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 11:57 AM

Who is prepared and qualified to judge?   All of us.   This isn't a contest.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,The Benn Agency
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 12:05 PM

Ron,
    Your answer to the second part of the question would be welcome.
    If we are not the "mutt`t nuts" ourselves we must be very
    tactful, do you not agree?


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: breezy
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 12:13 PM

SM

Good input and george sego - c - very sound advice

When I hear someone I dont know sing a blinder I invite them to become residents at the club I organise.

I ask if they mind me trying their songs

Then people come to hear a named guest and also hear and meet the new kid on the block

I make a point to invite the guests to listen to the resident.

Those guests who heard George Papavgeris at my club this year were Roy Bailey, Vin Garbutt, Andy Irvine, Cyril Tawney, Steve Tilston , Martin Carthy and Harvey Andrews. Each one complimented George on his songs and some are now performing them.

I make them an M C

I get a joint gig at Sharps and then I fly to Vancouver the night of the gig

I visit other clubs and sing his songs.

Thats what I do, but then I think the songs are of a high calibre, interesting and melodic with chalenging choruses, but not all share my taste in song.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 01:33 PM

Guest - I have never heard the expression "mutt`t nuts" so I'm not sure what you are saying.

Actually, I was answering the second part of your question.

My point is that music, film and art in general should be enjoyed by everyone. An artist needs to filter the feedback they get from a variety of sources.   Their peers can help them on one level, but certainly the audience gives their opinion as well. Most importantly, who is the artist writing for?    Hopefully themselves, but they should also try to answer what the purpose in writing the song is all about.

I'm also not sure what you mean by "tactful".   I feel the open and honest approach is best. One would assume the artist would be able to accept all criticism.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Guest, Questioner
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 01:35 PM

I have a question of those who run music venues in the US.

Does a rule that requires performers to stick with original material allow you to avoid having to pay generic royality fees for copyrighted material? My understanding is that that the sponsor is responsible for such fees if there is a live performance of registered material.

If the answer to this is yes, then that would help explain ratio between singer-songwriters and performers of the material of others. (I realize that this also involves the question of distinguishing between material in the public domain and not, and I hope I haven't opened the door to thread creep away from how my question impacts opportunities for singer-songwriters.)


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,The Benn Agency
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 03:24 PM

Ron,
    The "mutt`s nuts" suggests the subject is regardrd as being   
    one at the top of his/her art or profession.
    What I am saying is that it is a bit strong for someone who is
    neither a good songwriter nor performer to denigrate a tryer
    when they themselves could not do half as well.
    As for tact it takes a great deal of thoughtful words to get the
    message across without seeming downright destructive and at the
    same time offering positive advise, especially if the critic is
    not well versed in the art of folk music.
    From what I have seen of your contributions to various items I
    cannot imagine you would ever be tactless enough to say to
    someone,
    "I`m Ron, I thought your song was lousy, the sentiments were
    sloppy, the tune was dull and your singing left much to be
    desired. Now don`t come back till you`ve cured everything"


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 03:40 PM

In response to Guest/Questioner in the post before last:

I'm pretty sure that individuals and bands perform "cover" material all the time, all over the US, without royalties being paid to the composers/publishers. This may not be strictly legal, but I know it's common practice everywhere I know about, including the most highly visible music venues in New Orleans.

I believe that it is the musicians, not the club owners, who are responsible for all the good and bad original material, because royalties represent such a major portion of potential income from music. If you hope to make a living at music, your best bet is to perform (and eventually, hopefully, to record and/or have others record) your original songs.

Technically, you aren't allowed to sing "Happy Birthday" without paying a few cents to Sir Paul McCartney -- or is it Michael Jackson? I've sung it many times over the years and haven't paid once; do you think I'm risking incarceration?


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 04:06 PM

I see your point guest, and you are right - I would not give a message like that. The example you gave may be tactless, but I would also say that it isn't very constructive criticism. I might tell someone that the sentiments in their song were sloppy or cliche, and the tune really didn't attract my attention, and the vocal range was a bit limited. I would then offer some suggestions that would make the song more interesting to me.

I do disagree with your suggestion that "it is a bit strong for someone who is neither a good songwriter nor performer to denigrate a tryer when they themselves could not do half as well."   I can't hit a curve ball as good as Mike Piazza, but I know enough about the game to complain when he isn't making an effort. I can't act, but I do know when I see an actor walking through a part in a film.   I may not be able to play guitar, but I know when the instrument is out of tune. I might not be able to write a poem, but I know when one touche me.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and the artist should always consider the reaction and the source. Music is owned by all of us, not just the writer of the song.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 05:47 PM

Many years ago "electronic music" required lots of expensive equipment to produce - an early example being the Dr Who TV theme. Then talented people like Walter Carlos (Switched On Bach) were able to get their hands on some equipment. Nowadays, every teenager has a sound card and S/W in his PC. Have "standards" improved or declined? Back in the 1950-60's, nearly every teenager who wnated got his hands on an electric guitar, and look at what happend to "Real Music" - Is The Beatle's Music shite? - no wait - that's another thread!... :-)

A certain notorius Aussie put together a brilliant TV series on Music in Australia which was shown on SBS. He even got an Award for it.

He showed one night his "contribution" to the ABC TV late night all night Music Program called "Rage". He was getting annoyed at the amount of crap he thought they were showing. He said, "My DOG could make a better video clip than some of that crap"!!!!

So he strapped a camera to the head of his little beagle sized friend and let him wander around the beach. Then he got hold of a free music looping program, and pumped out - in his words - "some crap" and hacked it together and sent it off to "Rage" - they played it at 3 am in the morning! He thought it was a great joke!

Of course the guy IS talented musically....    isn't he?

Robin


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 05:52 PM

I make this post seperately to make it stand out like dog's balls.

When an unknown song writer offers a contribution to "an established singer with a voice" that they respect - it is always turned down (with very few exceptions).

Robin


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,The Benn Agency
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 06:52 PM

Ron,
    I have in mind those people who really are making an effort and
    doing as well as they can but, at the time, are just not up to
    scratch. There, but for the grace of God go we perhaps in our
    chosen fields. I feel everybody surely would benefit from
    some neighbourly advise and sympathy.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Shambles
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 07:18 PM

I have heard just as many instrumentalists at sessions take the floor with truely dire self penned tunes.

I have written many tunes but do not generally play them at sessions because the whole idea is for folk to play together - rather than for individuals to perform. As for them being thought of as "dire" that is of course a matter of opinion but I hope it is not being suggested that they are "dire" simply because they are original tunes?

But there is a trick - that can apply to songs also. You just play the tune. At sessions folk often ask when they like a tune and may wish to learn a new one - one that they do not recognise. The assumption is that it will be a traditional tune so you DON'T correct them and proudly claim ownership. If you do this, I have found that they tend to lose interest at his point - but I have no idea why this should be the case. You just come up with a name like 'Charlie's Favourite' or 'The Dead Dog Jig' and leave it at that.

You just carry on playing it at subsequent sessions as you would any other traditional tune, you will find more and more people will just pick it up. Should or when it becomes a session favourite you can then proudly claim ownership - but of course then everyone will know that it is a traditional tune and that they have always played it and that you are a liar!

It's a hard old life...........


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 07:31 PM

Actually in my experience the normal practice in sessions is for the question of who wrote the song only to come up after it's been sung. "Whose song is that?", or (for recidivist somg writers) "Is that one of yours?" The question normally only comes up if someone likes it.

I suppose, if someone says "That's a bloody awful sing", the thing to do is to say "Well, it's not one of the best Bob Dylan/John Lennon/Ewan MacColl wrote, I grant you, but I thought I'd sing it anyway..."


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 08:19 PM

Shambles is right!!!

Now I know! I shall never publicly create anything again - I will send all my crap off to file it for Copyright - then deny ownership until they become famous then I will sue evrybody...

you just can't win ya know...

Perhaps now I'll just go back to the "Is Life Shite?" thread....

Robin


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 08:36 PM

Guest - I think that when I give criticism I take into account the level of expertise of the individual and I think most people do the same. Still, I think it is important to be honest with people. I've seen people who write one song and their family and friends give them rave reviews. The next thing you know the person is spending money to record the song, and frankly they aren't ready for it. It is wonderful to have the ability to write a song but it is another to perpetuate feelings that the person is the next Bob Dylan or Joni Mitchell.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: harvey andrews
Date: 19 Dec 03 - 09:31 PM

Okay,El Greko, sticking my head above the parapet...I think it all comes down to what you write and perform before an audience.
The traditional songs, known and loved, generally tell a story..so tell your audience a story.
If your telling a story about yourself it should be a story about the audience to.They should be able to say "yes, I feel like that, but I couldn't say it like that. I'm glad somebody has."
If it's a story about you, written for you, think very hard before you expose it to others. Maybe it's best just kept to yourself.
A song can be about your experience, but the audience should be able to relate that experience to themselves. The old songs have a universality that new songs can have to.
I suppose what I'm saying is a song should be an externalisation, not an internalisation. It's the internal looking songwriters that get the reputation for whining that Paxton, McTell and many others never do.
And try not to write love/relationship songs unless you absolutely have to.. everyone else does that, and almost certainly better and more cynically, because those songs earn the money. Traditional songs deal with the reality of life in general as have the very best of the songwriters.(And yes, they tell love stories, but usually someone else's). Stan Rogers is a shining example of what I mean. The lives he wrote about then are being lived now by the farmers and fishermen and those songs will last down the generations for their unvarnished truth.I see the job of the songwriter in the modern folk world to be that of Anon..a chronicler of the times and passions, anxieties, hopes and fears of the generation they represent, so a body of work can be seen to belong to a time and a place that the "pop" songs of the time cannot replicate.
They can be uncomfortable too. Truth is never easy to live with. But the audience should not feel uncomfortable because the writer is nakedly exposing a truth about the writer, they should feel uncomfortable because the writer is exposing a truth about their lives and the society they live in.
And they can laugh too!
A writer can make a very telling point with humour, and I find so many of the young songwriters I hear are seriously lacking a funny bone. Paxton, from song one, could be funny one moment and have you in tears the next... a difficult art but attainable...see Garbutt.

To distill my thoughts..a songwriter in our field should try to express the truth as he/she sees it about life..not necessarily their own. As an exercise in writing..take on a character...become someone else..get inside someone else's skin..leave your problems aside and be empathetic to others...it's "others" who sit before you when you sing your songs and your songs should mean something to all of them if you've done them right.
If your song is about you then it must connect somehow with everyone else. El Greko's song about the day his father took him to the fair is a superb example of a writer using his experience to communicate something others can immediately identify with. It's a very fine song and as I should add about all the above...in my honest opinion!


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: George Seto - af221@chebucto.ns.ca
Date: 20 Dec 03 - 09:42 AM

So, does anyone have more advice? We probably could do with more of that.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Stage Manager
Date: 20 Dec 03 - 05:13 PM

That's pretty definitive. At this stage I just feel like stating the bleeding obvious. Without songwriters there would be no songs; traditional, contemporary, pop, classical, anything. If there were no songwriters (past or present) there would be no folk clubs.   

Similarly I find this apparent division between "traditional" and "contemporary" songs completely illogical. I've always understood a tradition as being something that doesn't stand still. It evolves as 'ancestral memory' handed down from generation to generation. OK some songs may stand as reference points, but I've always considered there is an absolute need for new songwriters to nourish and carry the tradition forward, otherwise it atrophies and dies. If I may quote Harvey: "I see the job of the songwriter in the modern folk world to be that of Anon..a chronicler of the times and passions, anxieties, hopes and fears of the generation they represent, so a body of work can be seen to belong to a time and a place that the "pop" songs of the time cannot replicate."         

Over my lifetime I have heard superb contemporary songs performed with passion by, amongst others, contributors to this discussion, and I am very aware the effect they have had on the audiences they sing to. I've been in them.

Maybe aspiring singer songwriters should look more closely at those who set the standards for their generation. These are the standards against which they are judged. The same can be said for aspiring writers, actors, dancers, musicians, opera singers. I can't see that folk singer/songwriters are any different. They have to relate to and perform for their respective audiences, not for themselves.   

Over thirty odd years, I've worked with all sorts of performing artists from all over the world in Opera Houses and at folk festivals. For what it's worth those at the top of their particular metier seem to me to have similar things in common. They are continually watching and absorbing, they are completely dedicated to every aspect of their craft, and are never ever satisfied with the standard of their own work. If the audience doesn't respond the way they'd hoped, they blame nobody else but themselves.

Whingers? they appeared occasionally. By and large whinge once and you might be lucky enough to get laughed at. Whinge twice and you don't get asked again. There's always someone else around who is a bit better than you are, probably because they've worked that bit harder at what you both do.   


SM


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Dec 03 - 05:24 PM

"Tradition" is about a process. Songs grow out of "the tradition", and they pass into it as well. Or rather into them, because there a whole lot of traditions, and new ones coming up as well.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 20 Dec 03 - 05:45 PM

One of my English Tutors, when desperately trying to explain Poetry to us thick headed First years, said the key to good poetry was:

"Don't tell me - SHOW ME!"

in other words - Poetry (and songs for the purpose of this discussion) shouldn't just waffle on - it should catch you up.

Robin


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Stage Manager
Date: 20 Dec 03 - 06:06 PM

I certainly agree that the word tradition is vastly overworked and seems to mean different things to different people.

As an example of how I arrive at my understanding I offer the words of Mary Jane Lamond, A Cape Breton Singer spoken in an interview on a Carolina based radio station. The song she was referring to was sung in Scots Gaelic on the occassion of her visit to the Isle of Harris.

"These women were coming over to meet me and sing some songs. As they approached they started to sing a very common milling song in Cape Breton, When they sang it, the way that they sang it, they had the same verses and virtually the same words, I had this strange sensation came over me as I suddenly realised the tenacity of the tradition. Those people in Cape Breton and those women in Scotland with no contact, have kept that song the same for over two-hundred years."

Also to understand this aspect of "tradition" it is necessary to ask why this interview was taking place in the Carolinas. Willy Ruff investigating the origins of gospel music in the black churches of the Carolinas ended up in the Western Isles

"Ruff began researching at the Sterling Library at Yale, one of the world's greatest collections of books and papers. He found records detailing how Highlanders had settled in North Carolina in the 1700s. He found evidence of slaves in North Carolina who could speak only Gaelic, and discovered the story of how a group of Hebrideans, on landing at Cape Fear, heard a Gaelic voice in the dialect of their village. When they rounded the corner they saw a black man speaking the language and assumed they too would turn that colour because of the sun."

To cut a long story short

"A chance meeting with James Craig, a piper with the Royal Scots, put Ruff in touch with congregations in Lewis and Donald Morrison, a leader of singing.

" When I finally met Donald, we sat down and I played him music. It was like a wonderful blind test. First I played him some psalms by white congregations, and then by a black one. He then leapt to his feet and shouted: 'That's us!'
When I heard Donald and his congregation sing in Stornoway I was in no doubt there was a connection."

Warwick Edwards, a reader in the music department of Glasgow University, added: "Psalm singing from the Western Isles is certainly known in America. Whether you can link that up with gospel music is another matter. However one should never underestimate the longevity of these deep-down traditions. They cross oceans and people should be encouraged to investigate this further." His conclusion was the slaves had learnt it from their Scottish slave masters.

Opinion on this differs. Some think the African slaves learnt it from their white counterparts also sent from various parts of the Highlands. But that's another issue.

I see "tradition" as a sort of cultural store house, as I suggest a form of Ancestral Memory. New songs "in the tradition" would be built on this knowledge, poosibly with the assumption that most of the audience would be a party to this 'knowledge' or common history.

OK so I'm a hopless romantic, but I find it almost uncanny on occasions.

SM


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 20 Dec 03 - 06:19 PM

"Don't tell me - SHOW ME!"

Absolutely. My writing teacher said,

"Which is more effective:

A) John was angry

B) John slammed the door, stormed across the room and kicked the dog."

Give people the "facts" and let them conclude for themselves that John was angry; that's much more powerful than telling your reader/listener John was angry - plus you are crediting them with the intelligence to think for themselves, rather than spoon-feeding them.

The other two bits of advice I remember from this teacher (I believe he was quoting other people, but don't know who):

"Write in the white hot heat of passion; edit in cold blood."

"Murder your darlings."

Here's a link to a column written by one of my fave songwriters - Peter Berryman: Songwriting suggestions, reprinted from an article in Sing Out! ( ©1993 )

It's got brilliant advice for songwriters; here's a brief excerpt:
Make every word count: "She went over to the store and got a newspaper" and "Jean hitched north to Don's Bait and stole a Wall Street Journal" both have thirteen syllables.

Cheers,

YY


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Dec 03 - 07:36 PM

All depends on the kinds of song. In some types of song (A) can be much more powwerful than (B). For example:

And up and spoke the first forester,
And an angry man was he.
" If this be Johnny O'Braideslea,
He shall be hung by me."


There are no hard and fast rules.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 20 Dec 03 - 07:51 PM

YorkshireYankee
"Write in the white hot heat of passion; edit in cold blood."

My tutor also said "Poetry is Emotion recollected in Tranquility"

Robin


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 20 Dec 03 - 08:22 PM

To follow up what I said there, I remember storyteller Dan Keding saying that, when telling a story, the most effectve way is often to leave out the details. So instead of "A tall man in a brown coat and spectacles walked slowly through a pine forest ...", you say "There was a man, and he was walking in a wood..." The listener puts in the details you kleve out, they put in the man who is in their head.

That can work in songs too. Sometimes.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Shambles
Date: 21 Dec 03 - 01:48 PM

It certainly works for Radio drama for example where there is no other information than what you hear. As songs are often only heard (on radio or CD for example) it may well be good idea to leave more than a few blanks in songs for the listener to fill in.

The BBC did a radio version of Lord of The Rings that worked because your mind filled in most of the details. Peter Jackson's recent film on the other hand filled in all of the visual blanks - but still managed to totally grip the audience.

So the opposite can be achieved but this example tends to suggest that you would need to be at the very highest level of your craft, in order to pull-off the latter.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: YorkshireYankee
Date: 21 Dec 03 - 09:05 PM

McG of H,

I take your point... I think it depends (at least partly) on how important the details are to the song.

If the important thing is that there was a man walking in the wood and what he looked like/what he was wearing doesn't really matter - great!

The thing about "Jean hitched north to Don's Bait and stole a Wall Street Journal" (although it's made up as an example, so we don't have it in the context of a song) is that it gives you the kind of context that might well be useful during the rest of the song. It's not just that those words tell us what happened - they do double-duty: giving us a certain amount of insight into the character and place in question while also telling us what happened; saves having to tell us separately that (for example) Jean didn't have a lot of money to spare, etc.

In your example above, I'd suggest that although we are indeed told the forester was angry, we are also shown how angry he is by his words/intention to hang this man. But you're right, we probably don't need to know what kind of coat he was wearing when he said it.

The other thing about "John was angry" vs "John slammed the door, etc" is that it takes less time to say, and time is certainly of the essence in a song. The important thing is not to waste words - whether it's describing things that don't really need describing, or using words so efficiently that one line will tell you as much as 2 (or 3 or 4) less well-written lines would.

A good song (like good poetry) is very dense/distilled - packs a great deal of meaning into not that many words. Brings to mind Hemingway's comment about a short story being like an iceberg...

Cheers,

YY


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: harvey andrews
Date: 22 Dec 03 - 03:07 AM

Yes, I agree with that. I think the art of song lyric is learning to say the most in the least.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,A Scribbler
Date: 22 Dec 03 - 07:30 AM

Coming at this from a rather different angle I find this thread fascinating. I write prose, occasionally get things published and belong to a Writers Circle. Much of what has been said here is reassuringly familiar, particularly the "Show not Tell" themes. As songwriters you may be interested to learn that we regularly hold evenings when everyone brings along a song in order to discuss why they consider a particular lyric to be effective.

A recurring comment is that good songwriters, like poets, have the knack of condensing action into short highly effective phrases, often containing striking images that the listener can associate with.   We generally feel that in any writing, the intended emotional impact should stem directly from the narrative or images presented to the reader.   Emotion explicitly stated by the writer should be avoided.

It also appears that prose writers have a distinct advantage over songwriters. We hold regular manuscript evenings where we read our work to the group. This gives us the opportunity of receiving constructive criticism from our peers. We can then re-write, ruthlessly edit, or 'tweek' our work in the light of this criticism, prior to submitting it for publication.

We are also encouraged to write for a specific market. As a group we tend to feel that 'writing for oneself' an indulgence that inevitably leads to bad practice through lack of discipline. We write to be read so we need to understand our target audience.   Does the same not apply to songwriters?

I find the phrase "Writing is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration" a useful maxim. Another common experience amongst our group is to write something, edit it, re-edit it, polish it, then leave it in a draw for 6 months and forget it. If after this time you take it out and it still looks reasonable, you might, just possibly, have something worth working on.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters? The Summary
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 22 Dec 03 - 07:48 AM

Thanks to all who contributed to this thread, I think it has been a most useful discussion. I certainly gained quite a bit out of it. I promised to summarise the lessons at the end, so here goes:

A) Do we judge singer/songwriters more harshly?
Overall, it was felt that the criticism levelled at songwriters is fair, just and constructive. Though it may be a little coloured by the fact that as we become "old farts" ourselves, we tend to favour familiarity and depth in musical experience over breadth. One must also remember that for singer/songwriters there is a "double whammy" of being judged in both roles. And quite rightly too.
A very important point to be made is that in the folk club world particularly the audience is looking for participation - new original songs go against the grain therefore (until they are "sung-in").
But the most important reason why the "apparent" increased criticism of songwriters is in fact fair, is that original material is not yet sifted through the filters of audiences and time (while the other material sung by songers is in fact distilled over the years). So there is a higher degree of mediocrity in original material - and that mediocrity is reflected in the criticism.

B) OK, so what advice would we give to songwriters, to help them create material that would be more acceptable, and to reduce the "mediocrity factor" just referred to above?

For the Lyrics:
Consider FOR WHOM ARE YOU WRITING the song. TELL A STORY, and preferably one THAT YOUR AUDIENCE CAN RELATE TO. Avoid personal stories, LOOK OUTSIDE YOURSELF. BE "Anon" - BE A CHRONICLER. Remember that YOU CAN MAKE SERIOUS POINTS USING HUMOUR. And above all, DON'T WASTE WORDS, SAY THE MOST IN THE LEAST.

For the Music:
CATCHY TUNES WILL ALWAYS BE MORE ACCEPTABLE THAN TRICKY ONES. FIND A "HOOK", something that the audience will remember and could WHISTLE later. And remember - MUSIC SERVES THE LYRICS, not the other way round.

For the Performance:
KNOW THE SONG, and DON'T APOLOGISE FOR MISTAKES. SHOW ENTHUSIASM for the song. USE HUMOUR IN THE INTRO. DON'T OUTSTAY YOUR WELCOME. SANDWICH BRAND NEW SONGS BETWEEN FAMILIAR ONES, DON'T TIRE YOUR AUDIENCE. STRIVE TO IMPROVE AS A PERFORMER.

For the Attitude:
KNOW THYSELF, avoid self-delusion. BE PATIENT and LISTEN TO CRITICISM; use the comments to improve your material, DON'T BE PRECIOUS about your song, everybody has an interest in its being as good as possible. JUDGE AUDIENCE REACTION and abide by it. And above all DON'T WHINE!

Here endeth the lesson. Thanks again to everyone.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Shambles
Date: 22 Dec 03 - 07:39 PM

Overall, it was felt that the criticism levelled at songwriters is fair, just and constructive.

I wouldn't entirely agree with the above. I think we were trying very hard in the thread to understand the criticism and to find ways of deflecting it. Or of not doing anything to encourage and justify some of it. I certainly don't think that this criticism it is very often fair or constructive.

I do detect a certain prejudice from some people - for reasons that I still don't understand - mainly towards original material in the folk field and especially toward material from writers that may not be very well known.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 22 Dec 03 - 07:44 PM

How about: "Overall, it was felt that when criticism levelled at songwriters is fair, just and constructive it is useful."


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Morris-ey
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 09:54 AM

What I don't want to hear by way of introduction is "this is a song I wrote to capture my feelings about... the war, losing my virginity, my cat being stuck up a tree, nuclear power, my divorce, the death of my cat who fell from the tree whist the fire brigade were trying to save it, the brave endeavours of the fire service who gallantly, but unsuccessfully tried to rescue my cat, my favourite colour...".

Just sing the damn song and the audience will probably give you a clue as to its merits.

What I also can't abide is singers who tell you the history of any song... "I collected this from a Copper Family album, Bill Caddick wrote Unicorns whilst hallucinating, from exhaustion, in the Magic Lantern Bus travelling to Newcastle - (No he did not!)


Just sing the damn song!


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,KB
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 10:03 AM

Morris-ey - surely it helps to have a bit of context in an introduction, whether its a new song or an old one? Its much easier to listen to & understand a song if you've had a few clues beforehand. Mind you, 10 minute intros are excepted from this comment....


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Morris-ey
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 10:20 AM

Context. No, I don't think it does.. or rather a song should need no explanation. I don't recall Sinatra, or the Beatles, or Tom Jones, or Maria Callas, or Hildegard de Bingen doing other than singing the damn song.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 10:42 AM

I have to disagree with you Morris-ey. An introduction to a song is a welcome addition to most performances. If I want to hear a "damn song" I will listen to the "damn record". I enjoy hearing more in a concert.

I did not get to see live performances from the artists you mentioned other than Sinatra, and yes, I do remember him introducing the songs. I also remember seeing films of the Beatles and yes, they did introduce songs.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Santa
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 10:51 AM

Context can be interesting in itself, whether the song can be sung without it or not. It all helps to space an evening out.

To pick up on one of the points above, John Kirkpatrick said recently about one of the songs he sings: if the words don't quite fit the music, change the music. I don't think he meant it as a general rule for songwriting though - ideally the two should flow as one. Perhaps the songwriters in the thread could comment on this: is it better to maintain a common musical accompaniment throughout a song (verse on verse) or does some variation actually help make a song stand out?


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,The Benn Agency
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 11:13 AM

Santa,
      In response to your question the answer from my point of view is definitely yes. There are a number of songs where a slight change to the melody, an introduced complete change of melody or the introduction of a part of the song in a minor key has the effect of bringing home the lyric and accentuating the point.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 01:47 PM

I think that's rather a good introduction Morris-ey gave there. Only thing, after an introduction like that you'd just have to sing a completely unrelated song.

Generally thinking I tend to be in favour of a minimal introduction. Then if somebody asks you "What the hell was that about?", you can tell them. And if it's a good song, they will.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 02:11 PM

I agree with McGrath, minimal is best. Just as with a song, use only the necessary words to tell the story or pass on the intent of the piece. Too often songwriters become wordy and over complicated. Put down the thesaurus and just tell the story!

One of the reasons I enjoy folk music is because of the history involved. While a song may tell the tale, it is often necessary to set the song in context for a full appreciation. Sometimes the "trivia" behind the song can also add to the performance.

Since this is the Christmas season, I have always loved the song "O Little Town of Bethlehem".   To share the story of Phillip Brooks, the church in Philadelphia, and the fact that the song is "only" about 140 years old gives the audience a new presepective and a deeper appreciation of such a chestnut.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: harvey andrews
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 06:37 PM

I think it's all about how the introduction is done. I too quail when a too earnest writer starts "This song is about my feelings about...." But when I have the pleasure of listening to a Garbutt or a Paxton the intros are an integral part of my evening's entertainment.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 07:18 PM

Vin Garbutt has that incredible way of doing an introduction that takes you on a surreal trip that gets you choking with laughter - and then swinging into a song that is powerful and deadly serious.

Introductions are a whole different artform from singing, or songwriting, and I think there are fewer people who can do it right.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,perplexed
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 08:50 PM

Geez, just when I was getting to feel kind of good about finally having written some songs of my own, I read this thread and wonder if I shouldn't just throw in the towel. It's not that I haven't received a great deal of praise and compliments from audience members/listeners and other players/performers alike. When other performers ask if I mind if they play one of the songs I've written and audience members start asking for the lyrics to my songs and inquire about buying a cd containing my material, it sort of makes me think I must be doing something right.

I think I've intuitively aspired to do much of what El Greko posted above in his lesson to songwriters though I've had no actual formal training in anything musical. I've tried to incorporate many of the points he listed except for the idea of being too wordy. Many of the songs written by others that I love performing have just that quality to them. I don't believe that the authors of those songs had any such restrictions to contend with when writing and therefore did not allow this particular criticism posted here by many to get in the way of their expression. Bert Williams' version of "Some Little Bug" comes to mind as an example of wordy humor at it's best. Arlo's "Alice's Restaurant" is certainly wordy and long but a wonderful story full of good humor. Willie McTell's "Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues" is another great story. It's both wordy and long as is his song "Kill It Kid" but they work, at least, they sound fine to my ear.

If I had to level any kind of critique at some of the songs I've heard written by other singer/songwriters of late it would be the unfortunate tendency of some to use too few words and couple the sparse lyrics with repetitive lines or catch phrases at a pace that is far toooo sloooooow. Put it all together and you get the all too common folk/folk-rock/rock ballad. Add to the above a not very memorable melody or message, as many examples I've heard contain, and you get a recipe for yawns.

I think some of the points of view being posted here about writers are justified others seem to come from a particular type of listener that experiences music in only certain environments. Saying that a good folk song should be something that folks would want sing along with is being rather one dimensional in your ideas about what is what isn't a good folk song. Sing along ability can be an attribute to a good folksong but as someone already pointed out, there are no hard and fast rules to any of this.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 23 Dec 03 - 10:12 PM

Perplexed, I can see that you are.

"Saying that a good folk song should be something that folks would want sing along with is being rather one dimensional in your ideas about what is what isn't a good folk song."

No it isn't, but it is discussing what MOST people see in a folk song. I also think you misinterpret "sing along" with "others singing". A folk song is USUALLY something that is owned by everyone, not just the writer. The song becomes part of the audience, not just a personal song that is closely attached to the songweriter.

I am not suggesting that we don't need introspective songs, and there are plenty of great songs in other genres.   I think we are focusing this discussion on what MOST people define as folk music, although admittedly it is a very loose definition.

"If I had to level any kind of critique at some of the songs I've heard written by other singer/songwriters of late it would be unfortunate tendency of some to use too few words... "

You miss the point, or perhaps I wasn't descriptive enough. (That is why I'm not a songwriter!!!) The songs you mentioned are far from "wordy". I wasn't suggesting that songs be "dumbed down" or striped of artistic license.   I was trying to say that words should be used carefully and effectively. "Alice's Restaurant", the one on the LP, is perfect. Remember though that the song we are all familiar with was something that Arlo worked on and cut it down to approximately 20 minutes. It was actually much longer. I've heard a tape of a different version that Arlo did that is almost impossible to follow. He worked the song into the masterpiece it became. His father, and Bob Dylan, are perfect examples of musicians who are NOT wordy, but musicians who use the words effectively.

There are many songwriters that fail to convey their message because they get so wrapped up in cramming as much symbolism and imagery as possible into the song. You end up hearing the tune and wondering what the hell it was all about.   

Here is a great example of putting together a great lyric - "Earth Angel".   It was a seemingly dumb little tune from the 1950's, but if you examine it, the song speaks volumes.   The simple title "Earth Angel" - what a great mix of heaven and earth. Great irony. Great message. Catchy tune. It is no wonder that it became popular.

Perplexed, you also took everything that was said in this forum too literally. You must be a songwriter, you seem very sensitive!!!!   :) I think we were all giving our OWN suggestions. Art is subjective. There are no hard and fast rules.   If there were such rules, we would have no problem with creating only good songs. You can talk to 10 different SUCCESSFUL songwriters and each will have a different approach.   

Don't give up... from what you say you are doing something very right. I would love to hear some of your music.

Okay, I've become too "wordy" for this forum. Sorry!

Ron


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: harvey andrews
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 06:33 AM

Perplexed, Ron's right. By wordy i think we mean the cramming of words in a line so they just run into each other and have not smoothness! I don't think we mean how many words or verses a song has. Harry Chapin wrote long songs with great word economy.As to repeating phrases over and over, it seems that's the way pop songs have gone recently. The lyrics were of primary importance in the 60's and 70's but seem to have been devalued as time has gone on and the choreography has became more important than the song which is now a mere prop for movement, fashion and looks. Maybe the Xmas number 1 here in the Uk heralds a bit of a sea change? Or is that too much to hope for.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 07:13 AM

"There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
And every single one of them is right!"
(In the Neolithic Age - Kipling)

The UK Xmas Number One> Isn't that "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" (but not John Lennon's version)?

Here's the BBC World Service "World's Top Ten". Interesting - most are from the Indian sub-continent, but the first place is the Wolf Tones with "A Nation Once Again". Some strange voting there.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Rain Dog
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 07:16 AM

Regarding introductions / explanations

I have noticed in various interviews etc, that a lot of songwriters are not always that keen on giving an answer to the question ' Just what is that song about ?' One of the interesting things about songs is how they can take on a life of their own. Somebody sits down to write a song maybe based on some incident in their own life or from events in the real world.They write it and then they perform it and maybe record it. Then anytime after that we hear it, we like it , it strikes a chord etc. We do not have to know what it was originally about unless we would like an explantion for a particular line or phrase. Song lyrics can appear pretty vague on the printed page but combined with the music and singing they can take on a 'meaning' for the listener.

If I can give one example , the song Hurt by Trent Reznor. I think I read somewhere that this song was written about heroin addiction. But then when you hear Johnny Cash's version ( and more importantly see the video ) the meaning of the song changes, it becomes about someone looking back over their life and actions or inactions.

The beauty of song.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Hugh Jampton
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 07:40 AM


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Hugh Jampton
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 07:42 AM

I thought the UK Christmas No1 was "Its a Mad World"!


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 07:43 AM

And how about Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale" - now, what on earth was that one about? Though it became a hit anyway, so it flies in the face of the "tell a story that others will relate to" rule.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Rain Dog
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 07:50 AM

Exactly El Greko

Rules are made to be broken


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Jim Knowledge
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 08:09 AM

I `ad that Richard `arris in my cab once. `e was singing a song,
somethink about leaving a cake out in the rain. I asked `im if he wanted to go to `is publisher. `e said nah, get me down to TESCO`S, mums coming round this afternoon and she `ates wet cake.
I still `aven`t worked ut what is was all about.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 09:25 AM

El Greko - who said anything about "RULES"??   As many of us have TRIED to say, there are no hard and fast rules. There are also different standards for different genres. I THINK that the comments being made here are very generic OPINIONS. I do think that the comments taken on a whole give you an IDEA what SOME of the fans of this style of music appreciate.

Of course that song was popular, as are numerous other songs in various genres. It is not to say that we won't appreciate a Procol Harum, a rap song, or even a song in a foreign tongue.   Just don't make an assumption that just because someone writes a song that everyone must like it. If the majority of us seem to appreciate songs that "tell a story that others will relate to", just accept that a group of people have given an opinion.   I wouldn't wear my Red Sox cap in Yankee Stadium and expect that others would appreciate my choice.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 09:40 AM

Rain Dog - if someone asks a songwriter "what was that song about", the songwriter should not even answer the question. That is insulting to the write and just plain dumb. The song should speak for itself, and even if the meaning is clouded or could have several interpretations, then THAT is how the conversation should start.

I find it more interesting to learn HOW and WHEN the song was developed. Sometimes the answer is obvious, but often the story behind the writing of the song gives more insight.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: harvey andrews
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 09:48 AM

El Greko, I made my contribution based upon the interests of this group. Of course there are as many types of song as their are types of plays, novels, movies etc. Stephen King and Charlotte Bronte both wrote books, but the object itself is about all they have in common.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 11:01 AM

I stand corrected - I drifted off my own thread! Of course, different things work for different genres, and the Procol Harum example was not appropriate.
And I was wrong too in using the word "rule" - I meant "guideline", or "useful advice".
I do stand by my summary further up, by the way - and certainly by the rule (sorry, good practice) of telling a story that others can relate to. I am just traditional in that way, I guess; I was simply playing devil's advocate with my unfortunate PH example.
I'll go and do one hundred "kyrie eleison" in the corner. Now where did I put the dunce's cap...


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Shambles
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 12:01 PM

Do we just have to accept that - a possibly good song from a not well known-writer will be given a harder time than a possibly mediocre song from a well-known writer?


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Hugh Jampton
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 12:08 PM

WFDU-Ron
         If a listener to a song has taken the time to attend carefully to what has been written and sung and still has occasion to ask what the song was about, it seems to me that the writer should answer the question and provide the listener with an explanation. There are some writers who become so tangled in symbolism and metaphores that allsense is lost.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 12:25 PM

"What's that song about?" normally means "What's the story behind that song?", which is always a good question to ask and answer.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Hugh Jampton
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 12:30 PM

The Shambles,
             You can bet your life on it!


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: WFDU - Ron Olesko
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 12:55 PM

Hugh - you make a good point. I would still pose the question less directly and try to find out what the circumstances surrounding the creation for the song. That would probably open up the conversation more than a direct(and sometime rude) "what was that song about"?

I've had converstation I've told the songwriter what the song meant for me - images or feelings that it invoked.

On the other hand, if the songwriter was LOOKING for honest feedback, I would tell the truth - I had no clue as to what that song was about.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: harvey andrews
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 01:03 PM

I think the need to ask what the song was about coincided with the ingestion before writing of certain substances...a scenario very common from the late sixties on. personally I've never touched the stuff...(when it was sex and drugs and folk n roll I passed on the drugs and did double sex)...therefore I'm rarely asked what my songs are about.
......Man.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: GUEST,Rain Dog
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 01:05 PM

Take an old song , well I hope it is an old song

A Buxom Lass as sung on the latest cd by Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman.

Now is that a song about cutting grass or is it not ? And did anyone ask the writer what it meant or did they not ? And do those city dwellers who do not even have a garden know what it is about or not.

And as I said earlier, if he had stayed in instead of going out it would have been one less song for us all.

Songs with footnotes. Songs with sung footnotes. That is what is required methinks

Happy christmas to you all


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: George Papavgeris
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 02:21 PM

There are always the songs with double meanings to confuse the - inexperienced - listener. In my early folk days, still learning English language and culture, for some months I believed the Bonny Black Hare was about a long-eared creature...And the Game of Cards simply an innocuous story of a girl beating a young man at whist or something like that...
OK, I was also young and innocent those days. Still am, in certain ways...
Have a good Christmas everyone. Or Solstice. Or Hannukah. Or just a relaxing holiday.


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: The Fooles Troupe
Date: 24 Dec 03 - 08:03 PM

Whiter Shade of Pale
American Pie
MacArthue Park
et. al.

are all in the Category of "Abstract Art"... :-)

Robin


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Subject: RE: A Plague of Songwriters?
From: Snuffy
Date: 25 Dec 03 - 05:22 AM

On BBC Radio 2 a few years ago:

Interviewer: What does American Pie mean, Don?

Don Maclean: It means I never have to work again.


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