We started writing songs three or four months ago. None of us seem to remember how it started really. We have had a long-standing tradition in Eitim of Story Table where a table in our classroom transforms into a drop-in storytelling podcast of sorts. Eitim arrive with stories to tell and sign up on a guest list to get the floor. Eitim teachers are ready to transcribe those stories word-for-word (double and triple checked with the authors, of course). Later we type up the stories and Eitim revisit them, adding illustrations or having them read allowed. Some cohorts have gravitated towards more collaborative storytelling at Story Table or Circle. This year is certainly one of those years. Sharing a story with peers is even more compelling for Eitim 2017 when it means building a story together in real time like passing a baton in a relay.
This may be one of the origins of our song writing. These storytelling collaborations clearly shaped how we approach lyrics as a genre. When we sit down in a large or small group to write a song it usually goes like this:
What is the title of the song?
This is a song. It is called _______.
So, how does it start?
What comes next?
Is that the end? How does it end?
This tradition of prompting came suddenly and naturally, instead of “going around”–having a teacher dictate how different Eitim voices should contribute to the collective–different folks respond to the call, the wondering of both teachers and peers and their excitement to know how others will pick up where they have left off. What was particularly remarkable for teachers initially is how this process did not yield unstructured “stream of consciousness” word collages as one might imagine. Songs took on structured form, repetitions and variations of themes that often began to emerge as versus and choruses. This impressed the musicians we ended up working with, many of whom assumed that they might need to play around with the lyrics they got. What they received, however, were fully-formed songs with places for recurring melodies, moments for musical escalations or crescendos–they had shape and musical cues.
We started sending our lyrics to local bands and solo artists in April. They were friends and friends of friends and when we encountered folks who didn’t need much explanation before they started getting excited, we roped them in right away!
The seeming thematic randomness was what initially charmed the musicians who collaborated with us, but when they began writing the music, exploring melodies and rhythms and syncopation, the words met the music and created its own logics. To us, this doesn’t sound like “kids music,” but songs solidly within each artists own musical traditions and temperaments. And you can hear how much fun folks are having! This was a kind of intergenerational praxis that got everyone playing–in every sense of the word.
So, here is our very first Eitim EP, Ow! (free download from bandcamp)
AND here are some links to some of the musicians who we worked with–please support their other work too!
Lindsi Griggs & Jeremy Hopkins: