Documentary Songwriters are part-composers and part-journalists. They transform people’s stories into songs that express feeling and meaning in a way that only music can.
Their mission is to help people collaborate, to help them create, and to increase the number and diversity of beautiful songs on the planet.
- Musical beauty lies in the rhythms and words of spoken stories.
- Creativity can flourish when people collaborate.
- Creating with guidance and companionship is far easier and more fruitful than striving alone.
- To increase connections among people through experiences in musical collaboration.
- To craft a song from the unique beauty of a person’s spoken words.
- To expand the possibilities of song, beyond the constraints of commercial music.
The Work Itself:
The first stage is arranging contact: Through organizations or friendships, a documentary songwriter finds a person who has a personal story to tell. The documentary songwriter listens to the story and turns it into visual text by typing it verbatim into a laptop computer. In some cases, the documentary songwriter explores her own autoethnography and tells her own story aloud to a fellow songwriter.
The second stage involves musical composition: The documentary songwriter guides the storyteller — or “story source” in shaping the spoken text into lyrics. She compassionately supports the story source in singing an exploratory melody. Drawing on music theory and knowledge of song forms, she finds chords for the melody and designs an accompaniment on her instrument.
The third stage involves performing and recording. The documentary songwriter and the story source collaboratively refine the song and make a live recording. She publishes the original song by uploading the recording, the lyrics, and her commentary to the site documentarysongwriter.org. Additionally, there may be followup arranging with a band or in a recording studio for release on iTunes or Spotify.
Collaboration is Key
To be creative does not necessarily mean striving alone, searching for inspiration. Partnerships–even ones that last a few hours– can be as brilliant as solo efforts. And much more enjoyable. Documentary Songwriting uses collaboration to create a song from a personal story. It uses conversation for inspiration. It builds on the rhythms of speech and the contents of experience to create new music.
Creating something as partners or in a group can fill a room with energy. It may be the most energizing thing that people can experience together. What can short-circuit this energy, however, is feeling uncreative or fretting over finding an idea. The documentary songwriting method tosses these worries out the window. It takes personal stories — spoken words — and uses them as inspiration. It carries people through the creative process and lets them experience their own creative power.