In preparation for our compositional ventures in the archives we were guided into the world of songwriting by Alasdair Roberts. He started the day with explaining his own approach to the archives and how he includes them in his songwriting process. You can find his own post about the archives further down this blog or you can have a look at his own website if you would like to get more information on his ideas.
This was the first meeting where we openly discussed our own ideas and expectations for the project. These could be quite diverse, as came to light in our following discussion on tradition and traditional music. The fruits of this conversation can be found on a different part of this website but it was an interesting start to the day and made us realise that the final result of the project could potentially be very diverse.
Right, half of the meeting having passed oh so quickly already it was finally time to get started on that long awaited songwriting. After brainstorming a bit for ideas Charlotte suggested that we do some songwriting exercises to get our creative minds working. We first did a very spontaneous one where we took the tune of ‘Mile Marbhaisg’ (of which Capercaillie has recorded an excellent rendition) and sung it round the table, each adding a new line. Keeping to the tradition of waulking songs we all joined in at the chorus and stayed loyal to one theme, being ‘travelling through Scotland’. Here was the structure we used:
The weather’s murk and dreary-o
And I’m far away from home
This resulted in a song about an unfortunate character who not only criss-crossed haphazardly through Scotland but also made it to Spain. It wasn’t anything that could be recorded on our eventual album but it was a good start, and a lot of fun.
Next up was a venture into ballads. Here we all rewrote a verse of Burns’ ‘My Love is like a Red, Red Rose’. Again, the results proved to be very different from each other (I seem to remember mine being something dark and post-modernist). We chose Robbie’s, which described an ill-fated fiddle, to all write complementing verses to. The result, a delightful song about a fiddle being a musician’s best friend, can be found here. The recording is a bit rough, but it’s perfectly audible:
And that was it! We didn’t all go home but stayed at base camp, 22 Walker Street, for a project meeting. All in all, a very interesting and helpful day! Thanks Alasdair and Charlie.