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  #16  
Old 02-27-2018, 10:27 PM
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BoneDigger BoneDigger is offline
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I don't think my reading really influences my song writing. I tend to think that is more influenced by my love for music and the fact that I listen to a LOT of music. But, when I do read, it's usually pop horror, like Stephen King and Dean Koontz.
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  #17  
Old 02-28-2018, 04:10 AM
JonPR JonPR is offline
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I read songbooks.
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  #18  
Old 02-28-2018, 10:58 AM
DukeX DukeX is offline
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Originally Posted by BoneDigger View Post
I don't think my reading really influences my song writing. I tend to think that is more influenced by my love for music and the fact that I listen to a LOT of music. But, when I do read, it's usually pop horror, like Stephen King and Dean Koontz.
I also enjoy King, Koontz, and also Clive Barker.

I don't read for the specific purpose of other writers inspiring my writing. I read because I enjoy reading. I do, however, think we are naturally influenced by everything, whether we realize it or not.

Inspiration (the Muse) comes to me generously. And I do not think it is generated solely by the self. I think it is universal and I simply tap into it.
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Old 03-01-2018, 11:36 PM
jseth jseth is offline
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I don't exactly read to find inspiration, but I often find inspiration after immersing myself in a book...

I tend to read more off-the-wall poets and writers - like Charles Bukowski and William Kotzwinkle. I don't writer ANYTHING like Chuck, but he has such bizarre imagery that it tweaks something in my head and heart...
I read a lot of Bill Kotzwinle's work back in the 70's and 80's and it still influences me, whenever I get into a bit of a bind with a story line in a song...

I read a lot of fiction, some biographical stuff... I like to read. A lot of reading, for me, is something akin to the way I will listen to much jazz music (especially the more "out" pieces) - I just let it wash all over me without really truing to figure anything out, just to feel the tune and the performance, try to grok what the players are saying through their instruments and interaction...

Then maybe later I go back and say, "Now WHAT exactly were they doing there?".

I guess I just love words, love the language, love the differences between languages... probably more my undoing at time!
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  #20  
Old 03-02-2018, 10:46 AM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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Well anything can be inspiring. I agree with Pitar so much on the mysteries of the muses, that I then disagree that reading can hurt that. I also hold with the idea that if one "clocks in" wearing one's work clothes, then you're ready when the muse shows up.

I say that even though what comes out from "working on" something directly is often not as good as those things that start as a sideways inspiration (coming as if from "the muses"). Frost's "Stopping by a Woods..." is an example. He wrote that after working all night on a longer poem that is now less-often remembered. Frost might have been working a double-shift, but he was clocked in and had his work clothes on.

I'm partial to poetry for song-writing inspiration in that it's really sort of the same game, and my current project involves combining words (mostly poetry) with various original music. You can even dump any of that stand and deliver what this poem means schoolroom history when reading poetry for songwriting inspiration and get something from it. You be mystified or totally "wrong" about what a poem means and get something from it. Sometimes a line or two can spark off an idea.

For prose, Vonnegut is surprisingly good for this too. He's often aphoristic, and expressing oneself that way works well in a song. And then I'm also probably one of many who've enjoyed making up melodies to the songs in Vonnegut's "Cats Cradle."

I'll also say history and biography can work, particularly if you like to try story songs or songs in characters.
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  #21  
Old 03-02-2018, 11:15 AM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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Originally Posted by DukeX View Post
Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other soundís the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


I think Robert left the 6'8" nun back at the barn.

This poem may seem simple (a Frost trademark), but there is much going on here, both poetically and thematically.
What I thought was weird when re-reading this poem I thought I knew well was that there's very little visual in it, even if he starts out saying he thinks he might watch the woods fill up with snow, it's all sound images after that. Even the snow is described as the sound of one layer sweeping over a base layer. As an example for inspiration: you could set your song in complete darkness, or use some other sense other than sight for your description or image.

Here's Frost's poem as I set it to music last year:

Stopping by a Woods on a Snowy Evening

Then there was a modern times parody that I tossed off after working on the Frost, even using a similar, though major key this time, chord progression.

Here's what I wrote about how reading Frost inspired the follow-up:

Stopping by a Woods with Bad Cellphone Service

Inspiration idea there could be take a older poem, incident, or story and reset it in modern dress, either for humor or just because it's a good tale worth stealing. Of course no good writer ever steals plots--well, there was that Shakespeare guy, but still....
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Last edited by FrankHudson; 03-02-2018 at 11:20 AM. Reason: fixed link
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  #22  
Old 03-03-2018, 12:02 PM
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Thanks, Frank! Your ideas and insights are very interesting, and I enjoyed your "Woods" set to music.
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  #23  
Old 03-03-2018, 01:59 PM
KarlK KarlK is offline
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Originally Posted by rmoretti49 View Post
Leonard Cohen has been widely admired as a songwriter, perhaps especially in his later years. The fact that he was also an award-winning poet must certainly have influenced his songwriting. Though many people like to cite Bob Dylan as a poet (Nobel Prize!), I actually think Cohen's songs and poetry are more accessible.

I simply mean to underscore what has been said by others in this thread about poetry. Perhaps the advantage of reading poetry is not simply its inspirational quality. Maybe it can also help us to see the world as a poet does, and describe it similarly.
One of Cohen's many remarkable songs is "Dance Me to the End of Love," made all the more remarkable by using 4 of the only 5 single words in English that rhyme with love -- of, above, glove, and dove -- in ways that are neither trite, vacuously sentimental, nor weak. (The fifth word, of course, is "shove," which I bet he tried to make work!)

And the other rhymes, both internal and at line end, are also pretty good too!

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love


Oh, let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love


Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love


Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love


Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love


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Last edited by KarlK; 03-03-2018 at 02:10 PM.
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  #24  
Old 03-03-2018, 04:32 PM
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I read a bunch of different things and I think reading has value, in that it can give some insight into how others perceive the world . And give ideas for song theme perhaps

But I don't think that reading has a direct influence on the songs I write .

Because as some have mentioned "the muse" comes from within.


But then there is also the question as to whether one writes more from developing the music first, or the lyrics first, and might that have something to do with how much influence reading might have ?
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  #25  
Old 03-03-2018, 09:06 PM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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Originally Posted by DukeX View Post
Thanks, Frank! Your ideas and insights are very interesting, and I enjoyed your "Woods" set to music.
Thanks for listening. The hardest thing in realizing the recording was coming up with the jingle bells percussion in the background because I couldn't help but reference Frost's "He gives his harness bells a shake" line.
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  #26  
Old 03-03-2018, 09:29 PM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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Leonard Cohen isn't just an example of a writer with books that one can read and grab ideas from, but he's also an example a songwriter using books to set off song ideas.

By now his "Hallelujah" has become a something of standard, but pulling some of the more salacious parts of the biblical story of David into the songs overall musing on what love, power and worship mean is an example of book to song transition.

One of my personal favorite early Cohen songs is the "Story of Isaac" where a biblical story again supplies the plot, but he adds a different narrator to tell the story and frames it into a metaphor for war. Great theft in that the narrator change makes it fresh, not just a swipe, and the use of the story within his final, more abstract, moral regarding warfare (while controversial, and a change in tone) adds his own touch.

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  #27  
Old 03-03-2018, 10:09 PM
Brent Hahn Brent Hahn is offline
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Sometimes I have conversations with people and simply catalogue what they say. But mostly, I eavesdrop. Restaurants and diners and especially bars are good for that. People will say stuff you could never think up.

Here's a fairly new one that happened almost entirely due to eavesdropping:



And this one came out of two conversations with the same female friend, one about her traumatizing new job and the other about her breakup. She was speaking in the first person, which the song doesn't, but otherwise she practically dictated it to me word for word.

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  #28  
Old 03-08-2018, 12:36 PM
jaymarsch jaymarsch is online now
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One good example of a song written from a sentence in a book is Mary Chapin Carpenter's When Halley Came to Jackson. She was reading a memoir by Eudora Welty who mentioned that when she was an infant in Mississippi in 1910, her father held her up to the window when Halley's comet came by. Mary wrote a whole story song inspired by that sentence.



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Last edited by jaymarsch; 03-08-2018 at 01:01 PM.
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  #29  
Old 03-08-2018, 11:43 PM
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Forgot to mention that I recently read Jimmy Webb's autobiography, "The Cake Out In The Rain"... as well as his songwriting tome from the 90's, "Tunesmith".

I did get a couple ideas from the second book, but mostly about "how to" proceed. He also recommended a rhyming dictionary, after talking about 4 or 5 of them... and I can't remember now which one it was that I was wanting to get!

For me, a HUGE part of writing new songs is BEING AVAILABLE whenever the Muse shows up... she used to show up a lot when I was younger, and I'd drop everything and pay attention, start writing...

Now, I'm in my 60's, and I have to remind myself to take every advantage of the old girl when she rolls around...
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there were no long drawn out good-byes.
There was some pain and some anger,
just beneath the surface,
but her words never matched the look in her eyes.
there was no love..."

(Untitled)
(J.S.Sherman
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  #30  
Old 03-12-2018, 02:27 AM
jessupe jessupe is offline
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I think most people actually have "imagination" but are "embarrassed" to demonstrate it.

it's kinda like dancing or playing music or maybe even public speaking, it's a form of "putting" yourself "out there"

there are many great authors, one of my favorites as far as demonstrating a very vivid imagination is Haruki Murakami, his book "Kafka on the shore" is really quite a masterpiece of strange imagination, if it helps with song writing? but it's a very cool yet strange book with a somehow different "feel" from many western authors, he write many interesting books.
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