Despite what I suggested in my last post, not all my endeavours over the last few weeks have been related to the poetry book, at least not directly. Thinking about it, a lot of time has been spent doing music as well.
I've always been interested in music, since the first time I heard Pink Floyd. Prior to that, I had thought of music as being an occasionally pleasant noise in the background. I don't dance, so I can't appreciate a song just for its rhythmic basis, and I'm a big fan of poetry, so I like words to communicate something more than 'I'm happy because you love me' or 'I'm sad because you don't'. An awful lot of music I heard growing up fitted into one of these two camps. I thought of music as being like gardening - a lot of people clearly get pleasure from it, but it's not for me.
When I discovered Pink Floyd, I found that music could say something meaningful, something relevant. Song lyrics could be as creative as poetry. They could say as much. They could arguably say more, given their much wider audience. Hearing Floyd made me reconsider the point of music, its power to communicate. Suddenly, I realised there might be other artists that tried to say more than 'the moon in June'. And of course there were. Bob Dylan. Lou Reed. John Lennon. Paul Simon. There were some fantastic writers out there.
So I set about learning music. I wanted to be Roger Waters. Why should there be only one? And while my first faltering steps were embarrassing (virtual re-writings of Waters' songs) I persevered. I taught myself music. I came to understand its awesome power. Music is an incredible colloboration between maths and emotion. Everything about its structure is logical; everything about its expression is emotional. Music is the ultimate synergy of the head and the heart. It's a language, a science, an art, a religion. It symbolises everything that mankind have evolved to produce. Over the last twenty years, I have written about fifty songs.
Having said this, though, I still feel a bit of a fraud for including song lyrics in a poetry book. I think it's a bit cheap to have repeated choruses in a poem, even though there are lots of poets that do it, even though many poets like Blake and Shelley have called their poems songs, even though the earliest poems of all were sung and accompanied by a lyre.
So to make myself feel better about short-changing the reader, I have given in the book a link to some songs (poems) I have recorded. They can be heard here. And over the last few weeks, I have been recording some songs that I hadn't done previously. Some of the songs were recorded years ago. Some just last week. One hasn't even been finished yet. My friend Sheena Dean, who did the photographic project I was involved with (see here for details), has a wonderful voice and will be recording one of the songs that my vocal cords just weren't able to cope with.
Here's a photo of me with the keyboards on which I wrote several of my songs:
My lovely publishers were kind enough to send me a couple of free T-shirts with the book cover on them. It is very tempting to just sit on a bus with the T-shirt on, reading the book, and see if anyone notices my face on the cover of both. But that would probably be considered crass commercialism, even by me. When it comes to the book, I'm not sure whether I'm the product or the factory...