Monday, August 13, 2007

Acrobatic songwriting: Spinning, spinning, spinning

This is our weekend morning ritual: Will and I rise and eat breakfast first thing while Rob drinks coffee and strums his guitar. Owen is not one for ritual yet so he may or may not be sleeping. Soon Will joins Rob with his own mini guitar and they play and sing a round of “Going down to Okeelee,” the one and only song of the Okeelee Blues Band, which features Will and his daddy. (The word “Okeelee”is a Will invention.)

Yesterday, a while after breakfast, Will decided to “write” his own song, as he does on occasion. Here’s the scene. Will’s italics, Rob’s regular, I’m the scribe, Owen’s the sleeper:

Excuse me mommy and daddy, I have a new song, but I don’t know how it goes. Ally and Puff know how it goes but they went to the show.*
(This prompts Rob to start asking Will about the last song he “wrote,” one we forgot to write down. They soon remember it together):

Horsey, horsey what can you do?
Pig, pig what can you do?
(There were more animal refrains, but they stop here and get back to the present song.)

This is a spinning song. It goes, ‘spinning, spinning, spinning,’ but I don’t know the rest of it. Ally and Puff know the rest of it but they’re not here…Now they’re back. They’re ringing the doorbell. They might have to sing the spinning song. It just goes ‘spinning, spinning, spinning.’ It’s a booky.

It’s a boogie? A song you can boogie to?

No, a booky.

You mean it’s a bouzouki song?


(And yes, bouzouki is a word. Rob recently acquired a hybrid banjo-bouzouki from the late, great Columbus luthier Mac McCormick, but he and Will just call it a bouzouki to keep things simple.)

Rob goes to get his bouzouki so he can accompany Will. Will becomes conductor. And his “songwriting” becomes much like gymnastics or jazzercise.

Go fast. (Rob complies with a fast-paced tune.) You have to kick while you do it too (kicking one foot in the air.) Then you have to fall (falling to the floor). Then you have to spin balls up like this (picking a small cloth ball and throwing it up with a back spin on it).
First you have to go slow, then in the faster part you sing it loud. In the slower part you don’t sing.

So Rob plays at a mellow pace while Will does more acrobatics.

Now it’s the fast part. (Rob obeys with some speedier pickin’ and Will starts running around with the ball.) You got to play basketball.

Sing it Will. I’m curious how it goes.

Spinning, spinning, spinning. Watch me spin. (Now he’s spinning dangerously close to the fireplace and we’re inserting “Be carefuls”.)

It needs some more lyrics than that. Maybe something about ‘spinning can make you dizzy.’

Spinning, spinning, spinning. I’m dizzy.

I’m afraid you’re going to be like daddy – lyric challenged – where you have a little idea but then you can’t develop it.

(Now will starts spinning in a sort of yoga “cat” position, hands and feet all on the floor as he moves around in a circle. And I am loving this developing three-dimensional song. It’s the kind of whole-body “singing” we should probably do more often with kids.)

*Ally and Puff are two of Will’s three primary imaginary friends. See August 2 Silly Will post for more on them. I need to get myself a couple of invisible friends to pin the blame on when I get writer’s block.

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