Samuel Stolpe is a wonderful, old friend from Utah who is now living with his beautiful wife in DC. I consider Sam a person in my life who has helped me cause a little bit of a stir when it comes to intelligent thinking and speaking, meaning he’s such a thoughtful person and incredibly intelligent, but, also, he is the person who introduced me to Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead; I’ve been hooked ever since. Sam has collaborated on a song with me today.
Writing: Sometimes not thinking can be the best way to get things out and not get bogged down. It was late when we started this, and I was exhausted. Pretty much the only initially conscious thing I did with these lyrics was decide on using repetition. I love repetition: it’s interesting and can be powerful, though I’m not sure how it comes across here yet.
On an interpretive note: Though Sam sent me a rough track of this guitar part a while ago, I didn’t have time to look over it and work on lyrics or a melody, so, as I mentioned, we did it all tonight. I wrote the lyrics very quickly, while nearly falling asleep, too, so I feel they were a little stream of consciousness, admittedly.
(I always thought songwriters wrote every single word as they went with purpose and with deep intention as they created. Maybe the “good” writers do, but this isn’t to say I wrote this carelessly and without meaning or direction. Many times I find my songs need to be completed first and then their intention takes shape afterwards (Gloria – day 3 – was formed in this same way whereas no. 23, Z for Zacharia, was the total opposite of this – the story was shaped as we went). My subconscious surely had a hand in what was going on by me shutting off the judgements of my conscious mind. Every song for me has a deliberateness all its own that might come at different times. Personally, songwriting is more than the beauty of the timbre of the instruments, but the timbres of the words I’m choosing and how they create a rhythm and a color sonically, too. One other point: these songs, particularly this one, are written in such a short time frame, they don’t go through an editing and perfecting process again and again over weeks or months, though I might do in the future. I think of it as that extended project I’m writing for my AP English class or something: learning as I create to produce at a higher quality within less time.)
We had to add one line to the chorus, so I had Sam read it to decipher what going on. It was uncanny what he pulled from it without any prompting from me at all, as I have recently been very thoughtful over these very theories with which he concluded. I have asked him to say a little bit about his experience writing this song:
Emily and I started working on this a while back via the godsend iphone must-have app four-track. She pulled together the rest of the song with the lyrics here in D.C., which felt so perfect with the mood I was trying for with the guitar… it reminds me of the idea that our experience is fundamentally unshareable, as close as someone else might desire to be, it’s impossible to really fully connect. Not that this is intended as some kind of ode to solipsism; I like to think that there are connections that we don’t realize.
Did you ever see that old Ingmar Bergman movie Through a Glass, Darkly? This song reminds me of it… “For now we see through a glass darkly, but then face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Cor. 13:12
These lyrics have communicated, at least to Sam and me, the idea that relationships with people, though some may be connections of a varied kind, in reality, are still just individual experiences.
(In an attempted explanation of his theory: most of the deeper aspects of connections with people occur without our conscious minds being aware they are happening which suggests we are totally independent from other people, not actually needing the validation we think we need; that it’s not other people that are creating our need for closeness: it’s us. What if we got rid of this need and simply experienced other people for who they really are, not what we need them to be for us? This “glass darkly” idea- like when you look through a window at night with the lights off as opposed to the lights on: you don’t see your own reflection but what is truly beyond the glass.)
Sam and I talked for a long time after finishing the song about feeling the want to be “needed” and “appreciated” within a connection with another person and that connection is only a reflection of our own self; in a basic sense: selfishness. It is an exercise of “being awake” that is most valuable, we concluded, and that will help us see beyond the reflection of ourselves we so often put onto others and help us truly see, without bias, insecurity, selfishness, or judgement the person to whom we are communicating. We also addressed the idea of “recognition”- meeting someone for the first time and it’s like you’ve known them before. It’s all very interesting and frustrating at the same time… it’s also a bit difficult to describe all we talked about here, but it gives you a general over-view. It was wonderful and amazingly appropriate timing.
Recording: Sam played guitar and wrote all the music. I wrote lyrics and melody (though Sam helped with chorus!) We recorded guitar and vocals simultaneously. I love recording songs like this! I would say that if I’m going to record and write these in one day, I want to have myself start thinking about the way I’m singing things and planning phrasing out more deliberately. I would have liked to have a few tiny things in the vocals change and disappear stylistically in this song in particular. (This is just me being picky.) I will be more conscious about this just as an exercise in consciousness.
I hope your Valentine’s Day has been very restful…It is 2:41 am, and I sometimes type these in near pass-out tiredness, so typos are everywhere and often! But more importantly, I’m so glad you listen and come here. Thank you!