Sounds of Solidarity: Seedlings

Colleen with Graeme, Jill, Louis & Oliver / 06 May 2021

Part 2 of the ‘Sounds of Solidarity’ series, exploring and sharing learning from our remote songwriting experiments. For more information, read this introductory post by Alison Urie.

 

A month to write a group song with three or four others … remotely. How might this experiment work?! We can be sure it’ll be different every time, but here’s how our journey went.

Make haste slowly

Our group were a mix of song-writing novices and experts, musicians, and non-musicians. And we all bought energy to create something together.

‘Place’ was something that drew us together in our group song writing. But it was also the distance between us.

We were scattered – across Glasgow’s southside, in the east of Glasgow and further east in Edinburgh. Being under lockdown restrictions, we were unlikely to get together at all. Put that together with people’s study commitments, caring for children, life’s distractions, and full-time work; we struggled at first to find our rhythm!

However, we soon got the hang of working together with Zoom, Basecamp and WhatsApp to communicate. And a reliable phone call was always an option!

The initial seed

We started by talking about the theme ‘solidarity’. Here, we landed on the initial idea for our song – Cathkin Park in Glasgow, and former stadium of the Third Lanark FC ‘til the 1960s.

Cathkin Park is an evocative space. It echoes of big events and crowds coming together. Most of the remaining stands have now been reclaimed by trees. Third Lanark FC supporters continue to meet at the grounds and remove seedlings to prevent nature reclaiming all their stands. We talked about crowded places and how it feels to be in them. We imagined gigs, stadiums, playgrounds. And of the energy and discomfort of being so close to others in shared spaces.

Colleen 1

In-between these Zoom calls, Jill (our lead musician) posed us writing exercises to draw on these ideas. We responded on Basecamp, generating words that might become lyrics.

In one exercise, we completed three lines each of an acrostic poem – where the words ‘SHARED SPACES’ written vertically formed the first letter of each line. When an additional person (Graeme) joined the group, the poem was easily extended to ‘NEW SHARED SPACES’. This joint poem ended up forming the backbone of our song. Jill artfully weaved our lines together into lyrics, bouncing it back to us for more input.

Having a specific place like Cathkin Park in mind throughout the making of the song was helpful. It didn’t matter if some of us didn’t know the park or its history, there was something from our conversations we could all relate to – such as greenspaces, crowded events, or nostalgic places.

Soundscaping

While the lyrics were an imagined snapshot of a shared space, the sound of the song became an exploration of the space that inspired it.

We wanted the song to have a mystical, spatial and distant nature to it. This would echo the atmosphere of the park, the demise of Third Lanark, and a nod to others in our group we missed who hadn’t managed to participate yet.

We also wanted the sound to reflect the ebbs and swells of a singing crowd – like you might experience in a stadium where the stands are singing out-of-sync and the melody hasn’t hit you yet.

The verses provide an element of anticipation, like the excited hush of a waiting crowd. The choruses are the release of pent-up energy, like walking through the tunnel onto a pitch into a wall of noise.

With all this in mind, Jill and Louis bounced the melody and music between them, with feedback from the rest of us.

Colleen visited Cathkin Park to record some live sounds – simply using Voice Memos app. This visit happily coincided with a football match being played in earshot of Cathkin Park, the sounds that Louis then weaved through the mix (leaving in some treats for those with a keen ear!) Tiny bits of ‘bird’ audio provide some swells, and the ball hitting the fence becomes an auxiliary backbeat, like a piece of percussion.

And with some effort and magic …

.. three weeks on, we had our song; Seedlings.

In Vox, we say that everyone brings their expertise to the song-writing process. This could be experiences, musical skills, time, enthusiasm, writing skills, ideas or historical knowledge about parks. The beauty of working in groups is the dynamic and combination of what we bring is always different; it poses limitations, creativity, and (hopefully!) enjoyment in creating a unique song.

A batshit journey indeed. And we hope it evokes something about ‘shared spaces’ for you as you listen!

 

Read next: Sounds of Solidarity Part 3 – Importance of Delay 

Seems like the best kind of weather to be

Here together, huddled under the leaves.

Evening smells and growing things

tell us it’s time to welcome spring

 

Night sky’s becoming bright with collective sighs, not out of sight

Somewhere a rose contains all the springs

Pulses, acorns, new seeds

 

We’re following the unknown way

as we help each other through spaces we shared

We’re following the unknown way

as we help each other through this batshit journey

 

A sacred place where green fingers grew

Do you remember it? I do.

Even though there were no seedlings struggling each other for space then

Digging elbows and tempers instead

Fighting to sing the same songs

 

We’re following the unknown way

as we help each other through spaces we shared

We’re following the unknown way

as we help each other through this batshit journey

 

Read next: Sounds of Solidarity Part 3 – Importance of Delay 

 


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