bad music

Bad Music Makes Perfect Sense

I now understand why there is so much bad music in the world. It’s because writing songs is so exhilarating. It’s so damn exhilarating a person is stripped of her critical faculties. I sincerely hope this state of perspective-free fascination with the fruits of my labor is temporary.

On the second morning of my songwriting retreat I write a second verse to “Lucky Penny.” I’m the proud parent of part of a song. I am agog. I am aglow. I play the two verses over and over and over again on the patio. The neighbors must be growing weary of the sound, but I can’t get enough, and the immense pleasure has nothing to do with quality, which may or may not be present in this song fragment. I actually don’t know. My pleasure has a lot to do with the act of self-expression, which is scintillating. It has a lot to do with crossing the abyss between thinking about doing something and doing something. When I tell people about my creative odyssey to become a songwriter, some of them respond that I already am a creative person. But writing a song feels strange and wondrous in a way that writing an essay or a profile or a record review doesn’t, and not just because music was my first crush, or because a song is at least potentially more visceral and intimate than a newspaper article. The thrill, I think, is in doing something new.

The previous night, my first in the rock house, the temperature dropped. I needed to light a fire in the big wood stove in the kitchen, which heats the main living area. Lighting fires is not a highlight of my skill set. I grew up in Los Angeles, where fireplaces are decorative and heat is something you escape in a swimming pool. In Boston, if the wood is dry and the kinding abundant and stars align, I can get a decent blaze going in our fireplace. But stoves are a different animal, and I wasn’t making it happen, even though the instructions were clear and supplies were plentiful and the owner said it was a piece of cake. The truth is I’m a little frightened of fire. I was uneasy trying to light one by myself in an unfamiliar house. It’s weird when you want to do something and at the same time are scared to do it. It took many tries and most of the evening to get the fire hot and steady, but once I did everything changed. The house warmed. The breakfast room where I was writing grew ambient. I felt all cocky and self-sufficient.

By any reasonable measure of human potential, the satisfaction I got from lighting the stove was as disproportionate as the euphoria that comes from writing a verse, most likely a bad one. It doesn’t matter. I’m a firestarter. I’m a firecracker. I think that’s what it takes.

Lucky Penny

You’re a firecracker

If it’s now or never

What a silly conversation

Find another station

Turn it up

Filed under: I am trying to write some songs Tagged: ,

One Comment

  1. jules
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    a moment of genius among many fucking smart moments: “crossing the abyss between thinking about doing something and doing something”

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