I listened to a radio show (Radio Noon CBC Montreal) last week that asked the question: “Did the pandemic affect your creativity?” It is hard to measure something like that, for me, especially this year as I retired in June, so there is some overlap between the two. Some of the things are quantifiable, however.
I haven’t sat still (aside from going nowhere except walking the dogs and grocery shopping and a weekly foray to the city to get a meal from Mariposa or visit the Avian vet). Every day I read literature, and I work at my music which is something I love to do more than almost anything it seems. It doesn’t feel like work at all.
In 2020 I wrote 33 songs (29 of them after the first lockdown). These are complete songs. “Keepers”. I have recorded all of them as well. Some to be released soon. I also remastered two of my previous albums and will be re-releasing them on Bandcamp this month. Including the 33 new songs and the 23 remasters I have a total of 111 pieces that I have either recorded, re-recorded or re-mastered in 2020.
I took the liberty of this found time to organize all my music. I have written music and songs for all of my adult life and they exist in one form or another outside of my head as sheet music, manuscript or words and chords, as a demo or a video or whatever. I decided to digitize them in one format for iPad and put them into two ring binders in alphabetical order. I put my 2020 songs in another binder so I can have a Chronological order as well…. I wish I had dated things before, We were taught to put the date on everything in Grade School. I never saw the point at the time….. The total number of pieces I have is over 200. so, if 2020’s 33 songs represents one year, it is roughly one sixth of my overall output over one 64th of my lifetime. Is this attributable to found time or my biological clock ticking down? I don’t know, but I suspect both.
Some of my music that I rediscovered I had to re-learn from sketchy chord charts or no chords at all, but some I had included a detail of a particular voicing or a riff that sets the song apart. As I re-discovered and re-learned my music spanning 40 years, I made an audio recording of the work. Some songs were written but missing a line, or there was a harmony that wasn’t quite right. I had two songs where one line or one word bugged me. I always thought I could do better, so I had abandoned the song. I finished them this year. The three R’s of my retirement: Revive, revise, record. Fortunately the fourth R is reject which I usually do at the time. If I like the song, I keep it. If not, if it is too derivative or too schmaltzy or too offensive or trite I get rid of it and don’t count it among my works.
During this time I also learned or re-learned songs I love. Recorded several by Elvis Costello, Sixties faves and more Lightfoot. I also finally revisited and memorized ‘Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk and have been practicing Jazz standards I once knew that I have not had the time to keep “on the desktop” of my conscious self. It is remarkable how a little nudge of memory can bring new life to old material.
My original “plan” for 2020 and my retirement was to:
-release a new album called “I’m A Caboose”
-start a folk choir for people who love to sing but lack the opportunity.
-organize tours of House Concerts.
-gigs with Tarantula Dreams and Tumbleweed
I had also intended to do some part-time teaching. Well, the best laid plans……
It seems that when life gives you lemons…… chuck them and write a song.