In the spring of 2014, twenty Sisters High School students participated in a writing and visual arts section of the fieldwork provided by the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. For six weeks, these students spent multiple afternoons writing poetry by Whychus Creek and creating art inspired by their surroundings. Their poetry was eventually turned into music. The final product is a CD that contains the Songs of Whychus Creek and is enhanced by student-created art. The UDWC thanks the Roundhouse Foundation for their support of this project, and Brent Allan for spending many hours in his studio recording and editing with the students.
Change the World with Music
Music, as a form of artistic expression, has the advantage of attracting attention and influencing opinion. It can help in healing, in breaking down barriers and borders, in reconciling, and it can also educate. Music can help to promote and protect other human rights (civil, political, economic or social) as well as the environment – air, land, water and natural life.
There are many amazing examples of music being used as a tool for social change around the world.
Your inspiration can come from the environment around you, maybe something harsh like a graffitied wall which is full of color or a bird soaring high in the sky. It could be the rushing sounds of water or the music of wind in the trees.
You can translate what you see into rhythmic patterns and layer up the sounds to create a composition if you enjoy playing an instrument.
It’s exciting to see how a project develops from a simple pattern to a piece of music. Work with friends to add the words to the music using the tips below.
Start with the title. Create a phrase of one to six words that sums up the heart of your song’s message. Try using an image or action word in your title to give it energy and interest.
Make a list of questions suggested by the title. Start by asking yourself what you want to say about your title and what you think your listeners might want to know. Make list of questions. Your list might include: What does the title mean? How do you feel about it? What happened to cause this? What do you think or hope will happen next? You’ll need three to four questions.
Choose a song structure. Currently, the most popular structure is: Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Bridge / Chorus.
Answer one question in the chorus and one in each verse. Select the question you want to answer in your chorus. Look for images and action words to bring your answers to life. It’s fun to collect images for inspiration and to take turns writing words that come time mind on a large piece of paper. Use different colors and create a huge collage of inspiration. What emotion are you describing? How does it make your body feel? Is it warm or cold? Dark or light? If you get too poetic, add a line that makes a clear statement so listeners don’t get lost.
Find the melody in your lyric. Choose the lines you like best for your chorus. Say them out loud. Now say them again with LOTS of emotion. Exaggerate the emotion in the lines. Notice the natural rhythm and melody of your speech when you say the lines with lots of feeling. This is the beginning of your chorus melody. Play with it until it feels comfortable.
Who is the musician in your group? It’s not required, you can create a “voice-only” song. But if you have a musician or two, begin to add chords to your chorus melody. Try a simple, repeated chord pattern. Play with the melody and chords until you find something you like. Record a rough vocal – even if it’s only on your iPhone. Just be sure you get it down so you don’t forget it.
Choose a question to answer in your first verse. Make it one that will draw the listener into the situation. Go through Steps 4 – 6 with you verse lyric and melody.
Connect your verse and chorus. After you have a verse and chorus create a transition between them. You may need to raise or lower your verse melody or change the last line to get to your chorus smoothly. TIP: Chorus melodies are usually in a higher note range than verses. When we get emotional our voices tend to rise. The chorus is the more emotional part of your song so it’s higher, while verses add information about the situation.
Build your second verse and bridge. Choose another of your questions to answer in Verse 2. Proceed through Steps 4 – 6. Your second chorus will have the same melody and lyric as your first chorus. You are now almost finished with your song. You just need to add a bridge. The bridge section adds a peak emotional moment to your song, a realization, or an “aha!” moment. Try two or three lyric lines that give the listener the best insight you can, or sum up what you hope will be the outcome. The melody should be different from both verse and chorus. Try using a chord you haven’t used before or changing the phrase lengths or motion of the melody. A bridge isn’t a requirement but it can add a lot of strength to your song.
It’s almost time to share! Record your song. A simple piano/vocal or guitar/vocal can often be the most effective emotional statement of your song. Try singing it as if you are speaking it to someone. Record for short periods then take a break. Keep the song and the emotion fresh!
We cannot wait to hear what you have created. If you have posted your song/music online, please CONTACT us so we can enjoy it too. We might even feature you in an upcoming chapter of Kate Buffett and the Deep Blue Sea.