The Ecstacy and the Agony of Lyrics

Lyrics are like ecstacy and agony at the same time. Whether writing them or hearing them, they evoke. Maybe Facebook needs and “Evoke” button, because I’m not sure what the “Poke” button is supposed to be about LOL.

I’m carrying my notebook and electronic devices in a more creative way of late.  If I’ve learned anything in my life, I have learned that when I hear an inkling of a muse calling, I need to drop just about everything and follow it or it will leave for an undetermined length of time.  Even if it is an inconvenience, I should do it and not feel guilty or self-indulgent.  Amazingly, I always find a way to live on less sleep or whatever it takes.

Now to find a way to make sure more of my ideas find a way to completion.   The few completed songs I have to claim came in an epiphany moment–through a joke, a play on words, a conversation or online texting.  Other times, I’ll listen to a song and be intrigued or disturbed by a line or word choice and suddenly a germ of an idea pops into my mind.

The current lyric came this morning as I was pondered multiple songs I listened to right before falling asleep.  It’s another extended metaphor thing.  I hope it won’t come out forced or contrived.  It’s seeming pretty natural, getting the point across without forcing the related terminology.  I have enough lyrical lines and partial stanzas to make a song already…It’s now a matter of flowing the concepts, finishing empty spots.  I think I have a couple verses if I can string them right, most of the chorus and a bridge going here.  It’s also more prose oriented, with a rhythmic and rhyme scheme, then a line or two that finished the segment out of that pattern.  We’ll see what that does come melody time..

Thanks for reading…Pop a comment my way if you have a perspective on lyrics, the creative process, or life.   Enjoy!

Posted in Musical Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Coming on Christmas – A Cappella Bravery     circa 2011

A Cappella singing is a brave thing to do.  You can’t hide behind the acoustics and harmonics of an instrumental accompaniment.  To sing a cappella by yourself allows for a certain freedom, but is even more bare bones exposed.  To sing multiple parts in a recording that is a cappella requires the precision of an ensemble with the added skill of listening for the nuances and breath phrasing without the benefit of seeing other singers for visual cues.

When shedding out an interpretation of a new piece I plan to perform or record, I try to lay down recordings of my different phrases so I can get a better feel of what the audience is hearing in terms of tone, volume, over or under ornamentation, and most important to me, the connection to the lyric in as conversational a manner as possible.

“River” by Joni Mitchell has long been a song I relate to.  I tend to sing in a more calculated voice in comparison to Joni, who sounds more “fly by the seat of your pants” in her phrasing–not concerned with perfection of tone, pitch and inflection.  I have spent so long mastering my craft to be as “perfect” in the studio that I can easily over-think it.  This vocal practice session is an exercise in finding a balance between her way of singing and mine.  I love the vulnerability of the a cappella on this type of song so much that it’ll be hard to coordinate a piano without accidentally making the listener more aware of a rhythmic pulse.

I will be archiving posts to my Facebook here that were actually shared earlier this month as I started sharing a Live performances.  Not only had it been a reaching out to my former students who are adults, spreading the holiday spirit in music, but it has also become a bit of a personal project.

I have decided it’s time to do more recording and performing in 2013.  I do so much work in the studio for clients that time is a luxury.  My voice take more punishment than I would like on a daily basis as I use it to teach 8 hours of the day.  While I love the fun textures you can play with when your voice is under the weather, it isn’t recommended for overall vocal health.  This practice session was fun and frustrating at the same time, because I usually don’t have inherent air escapage.  I used it here to a stylistic advantage, but it takes every trick in your breath control bag.

I deleted the “Jingle Bells” intro the piano usually does and have been toying with doing some overlapping carols in vocal textures as an intro.  If the muse strikes and I can arrange vocal accompaniment lines, that might be an option.  I don’t want to take away the vulnerability… Let me know what you think about it, and where you would like to see it go…

Posted in Musical Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Vulnerability in the Creative Process A/K/A Make Lemonade


Little Drummer Boy Rough Demo

Circa 1993, Steve Adams and I were doing some creative sessions, and we decided to mess around with Christmas music.  He was noodling around with the little progression used as interlude between the verses on an actual Fender Rhodes.  We were using a “Sound On Sound” tape system (analog, baby!), and one of the harmonies wouldn’t line up with the original melody track.  I liked, however, and we kept at it, running with the idea of layered echoes as one of the harmonic threads.  The problem was that we could never tell which ones would cooperate.  After much frustration, it became a bit of a creative muse chasing game.  If something didn’t go as planned, we had to find a way to make it part of the arrangement.

That’s the funny thing about creativity and taking a risk and being vulnerable.  Some great ideas come from allowing a perceived mistake or problem to become a tool to build something new and different…and sometimes better than the original plan.

Enjoy, and Merry Christmas to all the “Drummer Boyz” I’ve ever played with.  There have been quite a few, and each one adds something different to a session.

Posted in Musical Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Only Christmas Tree For Me – Original

The Only Christmas Tree for Me – Danielle Blanchard Original  Click Link for AUDIO
I have never found writing songs to be an easy thing.  I have piles of lyrics with no melody and almost as many unfinished lyrics.  The times when I’ve completed a song have usually come in a rush of mental activity, and I am smart enough to know that feeling and I follow it no matter what.  When this happens, I hear much of the lyrics in one swoop, so I pull over in my car, or whatever it takes.  During that initial muse session, I hear some or all of the melodic lines that fit, and then tweak as the rest of the sections of the song take shape.

I was in a particular period of my life that brought some of the highest happiness I have known, and later some very good vocal artistry through pain.  I was sitting talking about the upcoming holidays that year, and I mentioned those sweatshirt you see once in awhile of a wooden cross with a wreath on it, trying to fuse the secular with a reminder of original intent.  Somehow in that conversation I said “The Only Christmas Tree for Me is an Old Rugged Cross.”  BAM!  it began and I excused myself to go upstairs and be with my thoughts.

Gene Grier, a wonderful composer I worked and sang for from age 17, always loved evergreens, and his independent choral publishing company is EverGreen Morning Press. I have to think that Christmas trees being “Ever Green” helped me in the chorus to describe God’s love in his gift.

The song is just as much an Easter piece in that the metaphor represents Christ’s mission as an adult.  I have placed the lyrics below to listen along.  I have a rough demo with more instruments, and hope to find an archived recording session file of my nephew as a child singing this with such innocence and style.  I also hope to release this piece in the coming year if I can get the musicians lined up.

In the meantime, you’ll have to settle for me in a performance for the Baptist Women’s Convention where I had bronchitis and had to use every bit of vocal technique to breath and not cough during the one hour performance.  It’s not the quality I would normally make public, but if it touches you in any way, feel free to share the link with people I don’t know, and leave a comment, question or observation.  Blessings to all this CHRISTmas  🙂    Danielle

Please Do Not Copy Without Permission on how to credit the author

The only Christmas Tree for Me is an old rugged cross
A tree that until Christmas day could only stand for pain and loss
But on the day that Christ was born, there was a blessed plan
That he would one day climb that tree to save the souls of man.

And like the evergreen is his love for me
A never-changing, tall, triumphant tree
Ever pointing toward eternity–
The gift he wants to share with me.

And all the decorations sparkle bright
To remind us of that wondrous night
When a star from Heaven took its flight
To guide us to God’s son, our only light.

I look upon the cross and see a pillar of God’s power
A tower of his endless strength, guiding every hour
And branching from that trunk I see two strong and loving arms
Stretched far and wide, I run inside, to shield me from life’s harms

And like the evergreen is his love for me
A never-changing, tall, triumphant tree
Ever pointing toward eternity–
The gift he wants to share with me.

And all the decorations sparkle bright
To remind us of that wondrous night
When a star from Heaven took its flight
To guide us to God’s son, our only light.

On the day of his nativity
His destiny was Calvary
His one sole purpose was to give
So that you and I can live forever.

The only Christmas Tree for Me is an old rugged cross
A tree that until Christmas day could only stand for pain and loss
But on the day that Christ was born, there was a blessed plan
That he would one day climb that tree to save the souls of man.

Copyright Danielle R. Blanchard, 2000


Posted in Musical Musings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

40 minutes worth of fun work. Who says our youth can’t pay attention? 🙂

Expectations can be a tricky thing to juggle.  There are expectations we place on an event or situation.  There are certainly expectations put upon us by our life and career responsibilities and work/social cultures.  Then there are the expectations we place on ourselves.  Knowledge is power, but worrying about what other people think too much can zap the power source of creativity.  I admit that I sometimes have worried about creativity so much that it can’t exist.

     I have limited experience in the art of chasing & repousse.  I have done a few projects, guided and unguided, in the past.  I recently took a workshop with Dan Neville, and I have done beginning experiments in leaves, turtles, butterflies, etc. with Bob Krautheim.   Despite my lack of expertise in this specific area, I embarked on a demo at the Ann Arbor Art Fair for Michigan Silversmiths Guild.   Why did I choose this demo?  I needed something that was easy to set up and I really wanted  audience participation built in.   I thank Bob Krautheim for working with me to make and temper some inexpensive tools for the kids to use.  I prepared 20 pieces of copper approx. 2″x2″ and glued several line art designs to choose from.  I used some untempered steel blocks with leather underneath so we could have 3 at a time working.
     During the 3 hour demo session, I had numerous people stop in for a few moments to watch and ask questions. A few adults took a tool and hammer in their hands and at least experienced the metal move for a few strikes, a line or a curve.  Most of them were too reserved.  My anxiety went down 10 minutes after I began, as I explained to them that I am no expert and can be very clutsy, but I am enjoying my attempts.  That made a difference for a few.
     The children were varying degrees of a lot more willingness to touch and try.  One girl was very frustrated by finding a way to hold, strike and move the chisel to connect her strikes.  We alternated me holding and moving while she struck, and then switched until she got the hang of trying to keep a continuous line while lightly hammering. The smile on her face when she finally felt some success was powerful.  She left with her piece partially done, but with a cement nail as a starter kit to finishing it at home.  Another 7 year old girl (see picture) stayed at the table for 40 minutes until she had fully traced her design.  We cut out around it and drilled a hole for a jump ring for a necklace.  Her dad promised to help her file the edges a bit more.  I have little doubt that she will do more designs, since her dad does large structure metal work and can help with tools.  One of the grandmothers even took notes on the gauge of metal and where she could buy some to try at a later time as a family activity.
     The experience flew by and was a blessing.  I was lifted up as an educator, and will vow to transfer as many observations from this experience as possible to my teaching of choir, voice, piano, computers, and public speaking this school year.  Back to expectations.  Expecting nothing is as bad as expecting too much.  DO expect to learn, but don’t predict what you will learn and when you will learn it.
     Lessons learned from my demo:  Teachers will find a way to change, learn and grow on the spot to help their students…You don’t have to be an expert to offer a valuable learning or creative experience…and the biggest lesson:  Enjoy the process.
Posted on by daniellesings | Leave a comment

Casting – Bologna Sandwich Method

I took a workshop from Tom Madden, head of the Metals Department at the College for Creative Studies.  It was entitled “Pewter, the Other White Metal.”  We learned a bit of history and properties of pewter.  We learned about the low melt temperature of this metal, and ended the sessions experimenting with carving and open casting in cuttlefish and another Kaiser Lee board.   None of mine turned out great that day, but it was a good experience.  I would be more interested in fabricating larger pewter items if I had the studio space and budget to dedi

Pewter bass guitar

The 'Hersheys" kiss shape is the filled sprue that gets sawn off and filed.

cate tools to work with pewter so I don’t risk contaminating my expensive silver.

During this workshop several years back, we saw a sample of what Tom called the bologna sandwich casting method.  I was intrigued and saw lots of possibilities for narrow medallion type castings with handwritten engravings, but we didn’t actually see him do one.   Still, I sketched the set up for future brave experimentation.  I also mentioned it to my metalsmithing friends and metors, Mary Kernahan and Lesley DiPiazza as a future workshop subject.  Lesley said she’d look into it through Tom Madden.

Fast forward to summer 2011 during the Ann Arbor Art Fair, where I was exhibiting some of my wares with the Michigan Silversmiths Guild.  Lesley DiPiazza was doing a demo (something I did the previous year before being talked into exhibiting) of the bologna sandwich.  Next to her was Paul Mergen, an expert in metals, who was demonstrating forging.   As her demo progressed, it came out that Paul was the actual person who showed the method to Tom, and that he had learned it from Fred Fenster.

Playing around with the method at casting bootcamp was fun, and I plan to play around some more.  While I still want to mess around with handwritten logos on a charm (trial and error to find right depth, and must be drawn in reverse), my basic outline shape turned out pretty good.  They say it gets a smoother finish after the first few uses, so this has potential.

What you need is 2 thicker pieces of wood or MDF, then 2 thick layers of hardboard.  The inner thickness of our medallion will have the cut out shape of your object and a sprue cut out to pour into.

Posted in Adventures in Metalsmithing | Leave a comment

Casting Metalsmith Bootcamp Notes

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Picture a nice day in August 2011. With little sleep the night before, I was able to concentrate quite well by sheer desire.  I’ve made a low temperature 2-part rubber mold and a higher temperature see-through silicone rubber mold (RTV) … Continue reading

More Galleries | Leave a comment