I’ve played guitar and keyboard for many years. I’m quite experienced and confident in my playing, but my performances at local coffee shops have consisted entirely of playing “covers,” and it’s getting a bit embarrassing that I haven’t yet written my own songs (even though I do my own arrangements of the songs I sing). As I’ve forced myself to actually start writing songs with lyrics, I’ve become fascinated with the process. This interview with James Taylor offers lots of food for thought.
At this point, I’ve written two songs with lyrics. I do like the result, but it has taken dozens of hours to get these tunes to a point where I find them acceptable. I don’t know whether there is any way to speed up the process. It does feel, though, that I’m a the beginning of a compelling adventure.
Last week, I composed a short tune I call “Catharsis.” It’s based on a sound I’ve always enjoyed–essentially a cycle of major chords, each of which is stacked with a major chord one whole step higher. I played the tune on an amazingly affordable ($600) Yamaha P-105 keyboard with good quality weighted keys–It has become one of my favorite instruments recently. Mixdown of the Fender jazz bass and a bit of percussion was done on Logic Pro X.
The first five notes of Margaritaville are well known. You know, da-da-da-DA-da . . . Farrell Morris was the marimba player who played those notes (and a lot of others) on the iconic recording sung by Jimmy Buffett. I had the opportunity to get to know Farrell, but it was because he was a sculptor as well as a Nashville musician. He and his wife Bobbe traveled to art fairs to sell his works, including the annual Shaw Art Fair on the street where I live (Flora Place). I met them both about 15 years ago, liked Farrell’s work and bought a sculpture (see photo).
I thought of Farrell today when moving his sculpture to another part of the house. I looked him up on Google and was sad to read that he had been battling cancer and died in 2012. The first time we met, he played a djembe we handed to him, and it was amazing to watch what he did with it. With merely two hands, he struck, stretched, tapped and palmed the skin of the drum to make amazing sounds–in fact, it sounded like multiple instruments. Beautiful rhythms of a veteran percussionist. He was truly a gentleman too. He loved life and loved art. He and his wife returned to STL several times. I spent quite a bit of time visiting with them between customers. They were a wonderful couple. I remember on their last trip here, maybe 12 years ago, Farrell was not playing music anymore because of arthritis that affected his hands. My assumption was that this must have been devastating, but he seemed to be taking things in stride. After all, he was already had a long successful career as a Nashville musician, with hundreds of recordings on his discography, including many musicians who were household names.
This has been my brief tribute to Farrell Morris. Maybe you’ll think of him too when you next hear the first few notes of Margaritaville.
This musician had some fun with an unsuspecting fast food worker. Delightful moment:
Does Terror Management Theory (TMT) push creativity to a head in later life. I recently ran across an article that suggests exactly this in Adult Personality Development: Volume 2: Applications, by Lawrence S. Wrightsman, Mar 15, 1994. Here’s the relevant excerpt:
Creativity can undergo a resurgence in the later years of life, and especially in life’s last years (Simonton, 1990, p. 630). Sometimes during the late 60s and 70s an increase in output appears (Simonton, 1988). This secondary peak In output may be a manifestation of an Eriksonian final-stage contemplation of death and review of one’s life accomplishments.
Does any empirical evidence exist for the existence of such a “swan song” phenomenon? Simonton (1989) examined 1,919 compositions by 172 classical music composers, assessed each of numerous aesthetic qualities, and determined how many years before the composers’ death the piece was composed. A clear pattern emerged:
As the composers approached their final years, when death was raising a fist to knock on the door, they began to produce compositions that are more brief, that have simpler and more restrained melodic lines, and yet that score high in aesthetic significance according to musicologists and that eventually become popular mainstays of the classical repertoire. It is as if when the composers see the end approaching fast on the horizon, warning that their last artistic temperaments dwell among their current works in progress, they put their utmost into every creation, yielding truly noteworthy products. (Simonton, 1990, p. 630).