don’t really know what i’m up to

So I spent a few hours this morning wondering what to do with these songs I had recorded during part of Lent and decided to quickly weave them into an album of sorts called ‘A Bad Dad?’
It’s mostly based around the songs written during the time of the Japanese tsunami and  wrestling with how a perfectly loving  Dad would let something like Haiti or Japan happen if he is also powerful enough to stop it?

There hasn’t been much crafting or thoughts in these songs, it always was more my spur of the moment reactions to stuff, perhaps they are flippant and selfish plus I know they aren’t easy listening but I’ve an impulse to put them out there for whatever reason…..it scares me putting them out there, because basically I’m still too much of a slave to what people think and don’t want people thinking I’m a crazy backsliding depressive who can’t sing . If they do think so I’ll probably point them in the direction of Psalm 88 or Lamentations.

Anyway, here it is if you would like to listen.
You can download it as well for free, not sure how I set up individual tracks. My only tip is that its probably best heard with headphones on because I mixed them down with headphones rather than stereo speakers etc. It will sound a bit worse out of a hi-fi.

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a bend in the river?

I walked home from Belfast through Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon park and along the Lagan coming to rest just before the M1 bridge. I read the 88th Psalm and tried to take stock of my life, or have a moment of calm.
The lamenting song writing project has hit the buffers a bit for different reasons. These range from doubts of the value of doing them to feeling lonely while writing  to hating my voice and the sound quality to being forced to deal with that strangest of feelings, joyfulness.
Because all among all the sadness, (and there is a lot of sadness out there from car bombs being left under cars to unexpected deaths to great ‘natural’ disasters) there are things that are just joyful. Take two of our best friends having a little baby girl, a little two day old girl clinging to her mummy. Or unexpected engagements from other friends and family members. It’s very hard not to be joyful….and yet there is so much sadness that clings around and haunts the place.

This is the longest build up to Easter I can remember both metaphorically and literally. I still need to lament and be in the desert but I also want to go home, to leave the exile of sitting feeding pigs in a shit hole. For a moment  the walk home along the Lagan didn’t feel so clautrophobic and the view widened out to something bigger.

thoughts about writing/recording songs about suffering

Thinking out loud again.

When I started out trying to sing the exile over Lent the idea was to try and be honest and purge the crap, to lament  the state of the world around me and in me and  give myself a challenge because I need borders in place to make things.
I thought I would treat them like Psalm’s or prayers mostly on a personal level but by going through the process maybe it would connect or resonate with other people going through the same sort of thing. Perhaps there would be enough ‘good’ songs at the end to make a small CD or something.

Then a couple of unexpected tragic events happened which shook me a bit and brought me into uneasy territory.  Watching the images from Japan of the wave come in and sweep all before it and then learning on Monday about the tragic death of young man who was loved by so many friends has made me want to lament and ask questions of God. So some of the things I was thinking about the goodness and character of God that day, or wondering if there was a God found their way into the song from that day.

But then that is what brought me into uneasy territory because you never want to think that you’re using tragic events for your own gain or to try and impress other people. Sorrow is sorrow is sorrow and the people involved in the hurt are the main people to be concerned about. At the same time though other peoples sorrow makes you ask questions of yourself and your faith because it could just as easily be you or me getting a terrible early morning phone call and you can’t help wondering ‘What am I going to when/if this happens to me/us?’

For instance on the morning that the earthquake smashed into Japan I went straight into my room and quickly recorded a song. My initial thought was ‘How many have died?’ and the first reports seemed a bit light So a song came out of that.But a few days later when the full scale of the tragedy was unfolding the tune of the song seemed a little bit jaunty or something even though I liked the tune. My feelings at the time where true, but when recorded in song and played back a few weeks later out of context it might seem distasteful

Then there is the thought of would it ever be right to try and sell songs or art that have found their beginning in tragic events or other peoples sorrow, even your own? If at the end of trying to record a song/music/sound every day of Lent there was four decent songs would it be right to put them on CD’s and say ‘Hey guys, I  recorded this over Lent if you would like to by it’

I don’t think so, it would leave a bitter taste in my mouth. I find the idea of taking a song , turning it into a shiny attractive thing that people would want to buy a hard thought to get my head around especially if the songs have been brought on by suffering.

The idea of selling the songs to raise money for something like the earthquake in Japan doesn’t really sit well with me either because

a) people might feel guilted into the songs as they think it’s a worthy cause or something.
b)you might be trying to raise money yourself using  other people’s grief and suffering

Yet by giving the songs away for free you run the risk  that people think  the songs cost you nothing to make or that you  didn’t do work making them. The truth is that every song you record or write (no matter how bad it sounds!)does take time to make.

Because we live in the digital age which allows us to zip around the internet from one song to another we have  lost the sense of the work that goes into writing a song and think that an artist came up with and recorded a music as quickly as we found it on Google.

The very least time I could write a song and have it ready for listening would be about 10mins.
For that you would basically have to pick a guitar without thinking,  play straight away and sing the song straight out of your mouth – 3mins.
Then you would need to listen to the song through and mix it first time and burn to CD – 5 mins.
Take CD to computer and upload to web site straight away – 2 mins.

Of course that nevers happens. I reckon that you’re looking at least 10 times that amount of work for even a basic out of tune song.
So  a very very rough guestimate 100mins for one of my out of tune songs.
That’s  makes it about £10 if you where being paid £6 per hour for time.

It reminds me of those very bad 5min talks I used to do for the kids in church. It might have only been a bad 5min talk but it was sometimes hours in the making because its takes a lot of time to take a big idea and try to whittle it down so that a 5 yr old can understand.

Or its like an iceberg with only a small part  of the whole visible to the naked eye.

serious things and music. pride as well

Although I like to mostly scan in badly drawn ink drawings and put them online there are lots of serious things floating about in my head. The problem I find is trying to express them or get them out, to talk about them at the right time with the right people. Do you know what I mean?

Maybe not.

I’ve been trying to record a song a day during Lent. The idea was to try express some of the serious stuff, to go through a time of getting the bad crap stuff out in the open and record 40 bits of ‘music‘ before Easter.

But it’s a hard thing to be honest and it’s maybe not even a desirable thing when it comes to music. An honest song doesn’t equal a good song.

Then again maybe what we think of as a song or music, or have come to expect as music is the thing that is wrong?

We listen to music with prejudiced ears, ears that have come to expect certain norms. That we can make out the lyrics, that a song isn’t too long or isn’t too short. That it has a certain structure or the person singing it isn’t out of tune. Perhaps thats me trying to cover my bases or something, I don’t know.

And we’re a bit intolerant (well I am at any rate) of music that doesn’t press the pleasure buttons in our ears.

I guess the reason I’m thinking about it is because I never quite feel comfortable with the music I write and record. There is a certain sense in which I feel ashamed of it or something. And the reason for that is something which I’ve always struggled with (and probably will always struggle with) namely worrying what other people think about me or are saying about me behind my back.

There is no method of mental torture that quite goes for me than thinking that people are bad mouthing me behind my back. I hate the thought that someone only listens to the music or likes my drawings out of kindness or because they’re being nice.

And the strange thing is the more someone loves me (like my wife or family) the more inclined I am to feel ashamed about my music and hide it away. The honesty that radiates from your loved ones (because you can read them like a book even if they say nothing) is something that can really hurt you or them. So I hide my music from H___, my brothers and sisters. I can’t sing in front of them with nerves.