My eyes get tired, and the bit of brain involved with the visual, it gets tired too… but it takes a while. I’m talking four or five days in Florence. By the fourth day I’ve reached saturation. But given a change of material, I can start again… take me away from the Renaissance and drop me into the contemporary conceptual and I’m fresh again. Show me more!
My ears aren’t match fit. They’re not really brilliantly sharp any more. But the bit between my ears and my brain, that’s not up to the job either. Never mind four days, after four hours I’m flagging. I find this really interesting. Finer points are lost… I can’t hear the slightly flat note later in the session, I can’t hear that slur… I lose the acuity I had at the beginning of the session, and rely on Dan to pick these things up and tell me. I am finding while I’m doing this project I have to be careful what I listen to. I am listening so closely, concentrating so hard on my own voice, sounds and being exacting about timing, and pitch… listening, making those sounds, blending and combining them… I go so far, then need to stop. A little silence, a little walk in the fresh air listening to the sounds of the town… a reboot of my ears and my brain.
In the middle of March I have three days on the trot in the studio, rehearsing, playing, recording, listening… and I have to do so actively, not passively. I have to be critical, make decisions, think visually, but with my ears. Synaesthesia… a blending of the senses… a symbolic representation of one sense by another? I am not synaesthetic… but appreciate this might be what I’m aiming for… I’m aiming for these songs to be visual… I see these women, they appear before me as I sing and as I listen.
When I choose how these songs are filled with instrumentation or not, my yes or no decision depends entirely on the visual. Is this the sound that represents this woman, this emotion, this scene? If not, it doesn’t get in.
Not many people get this… sometimes when I ask for input/critique/feedback from the songwriters’ circle, suggestions are made in terms of what will make the song better, what will make it sound good. I’m not necessarily overly worried about whether it sounds good, but whether it feels right. For instance, I could make a case for a song to be sung completely out of tune, and it might be completely right for it to be so. That is the correct visual for that song, that woman… But it doesn’t make for a “good song”. I’m looking for my own truth.
This is the tightrope I walk along with this project. My primary goal is that people take chunks of these songs away with them, that they hum them in the supermarket two days later… either remembering where it came from, or being frustrated they can’t remember, or actually totally unaware… and what they hum might enter the ears and brain of someone else, another step removed. I want these invisible women to be seen and heard and remembered in as many ways as possible. To do that, the songs have to have a hook, they have to have something redeemable… so no totally flat singing, but my imperfect voice that hits most of the notes is fine… I’m not looking for perfection, reality is fine. Dan won’t be digitally correcting my notes, if I can’t get there, I don’t sing it, or it is recorded as best I can. He does however, get the best from me by telling me I can do better, and making me sing it again. and again. and again.
The songs have to have a meaningful lyric, something to evoke empathy, sympathy. There has to be somewhere an emotional response to the work, visual or aural.
But…it doesn’t have to be to a recognisable formula… it doesn’t have to be good… it just has to feel right…whether you hear the song or see it. If you have a picture of the woman, or recognise her, that’s great.