Monday, April 3, 2006

The Scottish Collaboration

(Cuz, you know, you're not supposed to name it. Bad luck and stuff.)

First off, the new issue of Dappled Things is out, featuring one or two contributions by yours truly, and a poem by Mikaela. The songs we wrote last fall inspired her poem in this edition, while the poem I have there inspired her to write one of the songs in our current collaboration, which Mikaela has already been blogging about.

So after the huge success of our collaborative efforts in writing a trilogy of songs loosely inspired by Old Germanic poetry (success being defined as our having thoroughly enjoyed the whole project), Mikaela and I are now gettin' our Shakespeare on. The Scottish Play is really a perfect candidate for our collective attention: It's dark. It's tragic. It's overcast. It's psychological. And it's Scottish.

Anyway, we have four songs in mind this time: one between Macbeth and the 3 sisters; one between Macbeth and Lady M.; one vaguely inspired by the lament for the state of Scotland in the scene in England between Malcolm, Macduff, and Ross; and a fourth song, which Mikaela wrote, inspired by the aforementioned poem, in turn inspired by the aforeunmentioned play.

Lyrics for the first one were written weeks ago. But the Muse just didn't have a melody for poor Mikaela yet. Maybe it would have helped if I'd been able to get together sooner to work on it, because when we did, the music came fast and furious. And for the first time I realized that when I'd written the lyrics, I'd had in mind not just the rhythm of the words, but something approaching an actual melody. Or, at least something that felt like a memory of a melody. God bless Mikaela for her patience--and amazing talent, being able to take my vague descriptions and turn them into music I suddenly realized was exactly what I wanted: "So, like, start with rain. Well, but higher up. And faster. Not the gentle rain from that other song, but kind of frantic, ominous. Yeah, that's it. Maybe even an octave higher. Ok, now keep that going, but then a really low note ... like those pedal tones Arvo Pärt uses to ground a tune with deep roots. Yeah ... hey, that's like thunder, that makes sense. Ok, now a little bit lower for the next one ... then higher, then way down, and hold it there ... no lower, like ... yes, YES! Man, you know that would really sound great with [both, in unison:] a cello! I wish you knew a cellist ... Ok, now Macbeth speaks ... [a little later] now the witches, you'll notice, finish each other's rhymes, b/c they're really like one mind, so can you make it sound ... whoa, yeah, like that. Maybe even more chant-y, like more monotone ... yeah, no even to here ... oh wow, perfect! So here at the end, where Macbeth's lines use the witches' rhyme scheme, maybe he should sound more ... whoa, yeah, like that. Cool, ok, I think we're done."

I love music, and listen to a huge variety, but I don't think I've ever personally known a musician more talented than Mikaela--and in a very deep, intuitive way. I asked her what the time signature was for one of her songs, and she wasn't even sure; she just felt, thought, and started playing. It flows so freely from her fingers that some bits of composition here and there have been lost b/c she doesn't even write it down: it's all "up here". But even if she forgets the music, she remembers whatever it is that the music came from, so she's usually able to recompose something close or better.

Anyway, We have two complete songs now -- the first and last -- and now we're filling in the middle. Our remaining "homework" has her working on song 2 (the anti-love duet, or competing monologues between M and Lady M) and me writing lyrics for song 3, although we always allow ourselves to pursue inspiration for any song if it comes. And of course we each have had diversions. She's gotten into Portuguese Fado (as I may too, now, with my next paycheck), and I've got other poems to write and languages to study. But eventually I have no doubt we'll have a pretty cool-sounding ... er, quadrilogy that will have very much of the feel of Macbeth.

[Doh! I said it.]

1 comment:

Beth said...

Heaven knows I love ALL things Scottish and Macbeth is my favourite! I can't wait to hear it! I wish I played the cello!!