"The Cosmic Path to Melody and Lyric" came to me over several months of chatting with myself, into my recorder while commuting 600 miles a week from my home in the southern foothills of the Arkansaw Ozarks to my day job in NW Arkansaw. I believe creativity and the Muse are mysterious phenomenon well worth pondering. This book is sprinkled with memoir-like life experiences, research, opinion, theory and quotes from several songwriters whom I have encountered and befriended along my own Cosmic Journey. The following excerpts are from my book. I am very fortunate to have my friend and renowned artist, Jon Griffin, paint the beautiful cover, and send me illustrations to place here and there, throughout my book. It is self-published, design and layout by me and shamelessly self-promoted, because that’s where I am.
“I once heard Arlo Guthrie say that songwriting is like fishing. You catch one, you either keep it or throw it back. 'I’d hate to be fishing downstream from Bob Dylan!' he said. These words are all about fishing in that Cosmic stream- walking along the Cosmic Path.”
“This is my story, my opinion, my out of the box explanation as to why I write songs and stories along with a few quotes and paraphrased snippets of published research opinions gathered from here and there in cyberspace.”
“These words are not intended to be a 'how to' instructional manual. It is not a promise that the reader will become a songwriter or learn to write 'hits' or learn about crashing the gate and getting published. You may stumble onto a gem of wisdom or rhetoric that helps you along. It is my hope you will. It is my hope that you will open up and unlock your musical and lyrical creative side…if you have one. You are not going to read these words and come away any more talented in music and writing than when before you started reading. On the other hand, you aren't paying a thousand bucks to sit in a circle and study the craft of taking visual and audible stimuli to 'borrow from and write 'an original song'."
“In this attempt to explain what happens inside my head, and maybe yours, I exit the fundamental. In other words, these words do not dwell on any religion or belief system. That world exists in so many forms and schools of thought. Followers and students, preachers and teachers, all believe they are right and many will sacrifice everything, including their lives, to prove their faith.”
“I realize there are many methods of exploration and getting in touch with the supernatural and there are just as many metaphysical explanations for creativity. Honestly, I've never looked there for inspiration or clarification.”
“I can’t attribute my access to creativity to any metaphysical realm or particular God-based experience. I just know there exists a realm, a conduit of energy that I have tapped into. I am not walking this Cosmic path alone by any means. I am only one of plenty; just another grain of sand.
So, please do not 'read' anything into my words that will shape or alter your belief. Just realize that the mystery exists for all, regardless of belief in the concrete, or metaphysical and/or spiritual, and for the flat minded. Intuition is a tough topic to define. It Is.”
Table of Contents
Doors and Windows
1. Come on In Page 5
2. A Little About Me Page 8
3. Why Write? Page 24
4. The Song Factory-Workshops
and Teaching the Gift Page 32
5. The Gift Page 46
6. The Cosmic Path Page 56
7. A Few More Words Before
You Go Page 87
More from "The Cosmic Path to Melody and Lyric"
From chapter 1: Come on in
“Why am I am writing these words? I am curious. I like to talk about it. I am not a best-selling author or hit songwriter but my mind is always full of stories and melodies and over the years I have met so many songwriters and storytellers who like me, do it because it happens.
After hearing Arlo Guthrie talk about this stream of songs that he fishes from, I began to wonder where these things come from and set out on a quest to get as close as possible to some sort of an answer. It really isn't important unless you are one of those who is struggling, trying to find your niche, trying to discover if you need to be fishing in this stream or doing something else with your talent and time.”
From chapter 2: A Little About Me
“Dad used his airplane factory severance pay to buy a small farm in rural Oklahoma, where I grew up. My influences during these formidable years were Cowboys, Native Americans, Farmers, Rednecks and Hippies, and Musicians from these cultures. I felt connected but I never felt like I belonged to any of those loops. I still don’t. I'm out there and that's okay with me.”
“I sat there paying little attention, eating homemade jelly and biscuits. The deacon’s broad face was patched with dark blue coal bruise stains- coal tattoos. His glazed greyish eyes were crazy looking and spaced far apart. There was a depression on one side of his forehead about a half inch deep and the size of a quarter. Dad later told me this was from a mining accident. Well, before I finished my biscuit the men laid hands on Grandma Daisy’s head and shoulders and began praying, then swaying, then singing in prayer. She had her eyes closed and swayed a little too. Now they had my attention! My eyes were wide open and had to be as big as saucers as mumbles, moans and finally very strange words, unintelligible to me, came whistling and whispering and yelling out from these two Christian Soldiers. Grandma Daisy seemed to roll with it, eyes still shut, lips still silent. It didn’t last too long.
I was scared. Not terrified, scared. I remember in these prayers, the men asked God to protect Grandma Daisy from my Dad’s religion. I remember Grandma’s eyes opened and she said, 'Enough!' They stopped. She told them, 'I don’t dare judge what he believes. He’s my son and I am just glad he believes!' They left. Grandma told me not to be afraid. 'I’ve been a believer all of my life. I ain’t never talked in tongues and God bless me, before I die, I hope I never do. It ain’t my gift.'
In the Christian world definition of 'gifts', I know now, Grandma Daisy’s gift was love."
From Chapter 3: Why Write
“Self-analysis, self-awareness, awareness and interest, curiosity about the thoughts and lives of others, of all life, and the “out of the box” attempts to explain to myself, why, when I look up into the stars, I don’t just see stars, I see infinity and mystery and home.”
Why write? A million-dollar question to a maybe one-dollar answer. I ask this question to a lot of folks. I am a freelance music writer. For many years, I can say I put the “free” in “freelance”. Sometimes I review recordings and I interview music folks. I have gotten some cool music in the mail, and some not so cool, in my opinion. This simply means diversity is alive and well. I get this. The simple reality is, spending time with your mind and your instrument, writing songs and stories is a great escape, and getting paid for it is a wonderful alternative to digging a ditch or standing on an assembly line or driving a truck or being an attorney. Music news makes it seems like a cushy lifestyle. It is for some.
“Why do I write? It just happens and it happens often, so I obey this happening and I write. Not for profit, not for ego, I write because it happens… I am not alone by any means. Not alone.
I read the following on a social media songwriting group page. 'I feel like the world needs me to write songs'.
This person feels like the world needs for them to write songs. This statement made me feel like this person really believes the world must have their music. Is this why you write? Do you feel like the world is waiting for you to crank out a song? Do you really feel like you must produce or the world can’t go on? If you feel like this, go for it. But you are probably just a little narcissistic. Just a little. Maybe even just a little more than is healthy, and that is your business.”
“It started with a drive down the interstate, phone in hand, set to the voice recorder app, a little troubled in mind, hour and a half commute through the southern Arkansaw Ozarks, trying to figure out all this music, all these musicians who take themselves so seriously, and putting down these thoughts to ponder over later. 'Later' came around and I’m looking at several thousand words in my voice notes. Not an easy read either. Siri does not understand Southern. I realized that a lot of my conversation with folks is about words and tunes. I encounter, regularly, folks who tell me they wish they could write or play an instrument. I wondered, why don’t they? It’s like an exchange I had with a friend about fishing. I said, 'I like to fish, I just don’t have the time.' He said, 'No you don’t or you’d find the time.' Okay. Reckon so.
When I went back over some of these words, I began to see some sense, some history, some fun.”
"My experience tells me there is so much more to our existence than the physical quest for daily survival. There is that other side, the Cosmic side. Time, space, mind time, mind space. I love this place, so here I am.”
From Chapter 4-The Song Factory, Workshops and Teaching the Gift
“Was this trend in songwriting workshops initially contrived by someone who, in their quest to keep from trading their “craft” for a spatula, formulated a way to 'teach the gift', by presenting a 'class'? These things are very popular and I’m not intending to sound bitter, but in a way, I feel like the presenting songwriter must produce. They must give the student their money’s worth, so in some cases they suggest a melody, and say, 'let’s just change it here and there, now it’s yours!', and then a lyric and say, 'let’s just change it here and there, now it’s yours!', and you walk away feeling like a songwriter. A student may present a melody they love and they are instructed to make it their own. They walk away feeling like a songwriter. Until they get sued. That can happen. Rarely, but it can happen. “When it comes to musical, as opposed to lyrical, similarity, it's just as difficult to decipher what constitutes copyright infringement or theft. Most big artists have been approached at least once by unknown writers claiming one of their hits is a rip-off. This is why many record labels won't accept unsolicited demos, in case the composer comes back later claiming their work has been copied.
What is usually debated in court, with the help of musicologists, is how much originality was injected into the original piece of music by the creator – and how much of it has been copied. But how do you define originality?”
“Cite the inspiration. Find the source and honor the writer. If you can’t find the source, then it’s cool to say something like, 'I got the idea for this song somewhere in history, just popped into my head and came right back out with my personality all over it.' Just don’t claim originality. One can 'teach' songwriting but can one really learn the gift? Am I cynical about teaching and learning 'the gift'? Absolutely. I declare bullshit.
'Good songwriters borrow, great songwriters steal.' Have you heard that one? Several folks lay claim to this overused and abused line of language but I say it’s a copout.”
From Chapter 5:-The Gift “Don’t be deterred because your ‘creative gene’ is thought to also be a ‘crazy gene’. Be crazy and go for it.”
“When it comes to creativity and the intellectual Cosmos, it is easy to become confused, stifled and discouraged. It is far more beneficial to simply accept that the cosmic area that lies beyond the physical, the metaphysical or spiritual realm, if you will, is real and far easier to 'Be', than it is to understand or to explain. You can get there from here, but there are no shortcuts that I know of.”
“I am one of those who have a constant stream of creativity. When that stream gets blocked, dammed, damned, restricted, the “water” builds up and goes over the banks and gets everything soaked! The stifled creative mind can explode and destroy your psyche, alter your reality and mess up your world.”
“This creativity can be a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that I am never bored…
It can be a curse in that I have learned about the disappointment of trying to break through the gates and enter the mainstream, closely guarded world of 'create for success' or 'doo-dah for dollars'. I have seen the desperation and hunger in the eyes of those… this 'gift', can take over your rational mind… It can lead you into a dark labyrinth and side track you for the rest of your life. It can also lead you into a bright beautiful and colorful existence.”
From Chapter 6 : The Cosmic Path “For example, there exists several factions of Islam, several factions of Judaism, and over 200 recognized Christian religions, all claiming to have the truth, and many ready to kill and die for their belief, so, seek to see and believe as you will. It will all come out in the wash. Just hope whoever you turn to doesn’t use too much bleach.”
“To see, you must first open your eyes. Once the eyes are open, then distractions and clogs, blocks and dams are disrupted. Droplets of thoughts begin to seep through and wash away clutter. These trickles can become a stream. Or not. That is up to you.”
Stream of consciousness-
“ Observation- In the last segment, I touched on the definition of creativity in the hope that you can move forward with what you already realize or what you may have just discovered about yourself. Your wide-awake consciousness, awareness, thought stream and activity stream, typically moves forward…”
From Chapter 7- A Few More Words Before You Go
“Are you a morning person? Then be a morning person.
Trying to change your inherent habits will frustrate your
subconscious and that deep well is where your gift lies.”
“Never, never, never, stoop to the low-level assumption that the ‘world needs your songs’ so much that you do shop for other’s tunes to take and remake and seek commercial success. Never do that. It is not ethical and sooner or later the Karmic Law of the Universe will catch you.”
“I have learned, use it or lose it. Seek it. Enjoy it and if you are so inclined, share it. If not, then hold your head up, enjoy what you experience and look elsewhere.
You are gifted.”