The Awful Purdies and the Family Folk Machine together in concert
Saturday, June 3, on the Arts Fest Main Stage at 1 p.m.
rain location: Senior Center
Reflections on Songwriting Workshops
Here are some reflections by Family Folk Machine members about the songwriting workshops:
Songwriting is hard! and fun!
Many ideas can create messiness but also great results!
Simplicity can be a beautiful thing.
Listen, listen, listen.
The Awful Purdies did a tremendous job of encourage brainstorming while keeping our group moving and avoiding “judging” along the way. I appreciated all aspects of the process and was so pleased with our results.
Songwriting is easier than I thought!
Ego has no part in collaboration.
Some people in our group that didn’t think they had anything to contribute wrote some really neat stuff.
Asking lots of questions was helpful, like “What do I want the listener to feel?”
Trust the tendency for the story, the poetry, and the music to emerge.
Listen closely to others’ vision.
We appreciate the Awful Purdies’ creativity, musicality, and performance art.
When the Awful Purdies provided a possible tune for some rough lyrics we were working with, it triggered impulses for refining the lyrics into more usable forms.
It is possible for a committee to write a good song!
You can start with music or lyrics and still arrive at a song.
Free discussion and exchange of thoughts and ideas that may not immediately seem relevant can prove to be useful in the long run.
It was fun getting to know other people in a group.
Be flexible with how an idea can be used–don’t latch on too strongly to one way at the beginning of the process, because ideas can evolve organically and end up working better in a new spot as the process develops.
You can write a song about basically anything.
Songwriting involves a lot of talking.
This was a fabulous and new experience.
I learned how easily a song can come together.
Working in groups can be tough!
Storytelling becomes songwriting.
Writing lyrics requires thinking about rhyme and repetition.
It was helpful to hear about the Awful Purdies’ experiences of working on songs.
Inspiration can come from many sources and may start with any part of a song.
A couple of words can plant a seed that grows into a song.
Working with the people who make up the Awful Purdies was a joy! Thanks to each of you!
I’d starve if I tried songwriting as a career.
Harmony adds so many emotions.
It is helpful to write alone but have the group to bounce ideas off of.
This is the first time I have done something like this, and I felt it was a great process. Words are important, but music adds the emotions.
I like mixing young voices with older ones.
I learned that I am not very imaginative with poetry.
Collaboration is a process and is sometimes difficult.
It’s fun having words put to music.
Every idea has value, and it’s important to view ideas from different perspectives.
I admire the Awful Purdies, and it was fun to work with you!
Guidance is good in songwriting: having a leader who is focusing the group and moderating the discussion leads to more equal participation.
Some of us are better singers than songwriters.
It was good to start from a more specific place than “write a song.” Have the stories as source material was crucial.
In January and February of 2017, the Awful Purdies led four songwriting workshops with the Family Folk Machine. FFM members brought words, phrases, and ideas from the Story Circles to the first workshop, and the Awful Purdies led us in an activity called Displayed Thinking. Everyone wrote their favorite Story Circle ideas on oversized sticky notes, and the Awful Purdies grouped them into five overarching categories: Nature, Generations, Music and Creativity, Pets, and Peace and Protest. These five categories became our songwriting groups.
During the second half of that first workshop and through the remaining workshops, we worked in our groups. I participated in the Music group for the first two sessions, and we started out by looking at the ideas we had on our sticky notes and filling them in with more details we remembered from the Story Circles and other related thoughts. We discussed what we wanted to communicate with our song and broke into small groups to work out verses based on a few themes we had chosen. There were flashes of inspiration as someone presented a catchy idea that became the foundation of our chorus.
Some of the other groups split into sub-groups: the Nature group produced four songs, and the Generations and Peace & Protest groups each split into two subgroups that worked on separate songs. We ended up with ten songs from the group songwriting sessions; we learned these songs as a choir and had a wonderful performance on April 30, 2017. It was a great experience to perform songs written by FFM members.
The Family Folk Machine held a Story Circle open to the public on September 25, 2016, at the Senior Center. After singing the “Iowa Waltz” together, we split into three circles. Each group included children and adults from several different stages of life, and each group included FFM members and some people who were not from the FFM. We started with a written prompt that everyone had had a few minutes to think about: Describe a treasured possession and how you acquired it. After everyone had a chance to share about their treasured possession, the groups moved on to other prompts like “Describe a person who has been important in your life” or “Describe a place that has special meaning for you.”
After sharing for about an hour, we gathered again for refreshments. After the Story Circles, participants remarked on how nice it was to get to know one another a bit better. It was remarkable how these simple questions brought up things from people’s lives that people wouldn’t have normal had occasion to share with each other.
We will conduct a Story Circle with the Senior Center’s Lyrics Alive group on October 24 and with the Voices of Experience choir on November 3.
Opening Event: A Lecture/Performance by the Awful Purdies
On Sunday, August 28, the Awful Purdies presented the first event in the Wasn’t That a Time? collaboration. At the Johnson County Historical Society museum in Coralville, to a packed house, the band performed and spoke to the Family Folk Machine and community members. They told us about their collaboration with Working Group Theatre on the play “All Recipes Are Home” and how they conducted Story Circles with farmers and food workers in order to create songs for the play. We heard several songs from that project as examples, and it was helpful to hear a song knowing what its inspiration had been.
The Awful Purdies showed that they are not only excellent musicians but also excellent teachers. They performed several songs that were not from the “All Recipes Are Home” project and explained the inspiration behind those songs as well, which left the FFM with lots of ideas for where to look for song seeds. The Awful Purdies presented the choir with some details about how to make Story Circles work and how to encourage sharing in a group setting. Story Circles can bring out a sort of “collective consciousness”–themes and phrases emerge and sometimes converge. If lots of people are saying the same thing, it must have a lot of pull.
The Awful Purdies led the audience in a quick reflection about the place of music in our lives, which we’re using on this site as our first story-submission prompt. Even in such a large group of people, listening to the band read the audience members’ one-word (or phrase) responses to the question “What does music mean in your life?” created an electric sense of shared intimacy in the room. Here are some of the responses: joy, outburst, flight, direct line to the heart, belonging, community, key to the mystery of the universe, time, comfort, vibration, happiness, lifestyle, friendship, air, sustaining, expression, togethering, my soul, resounding, memory, life, soothing, peaceful, emotion, healing, connection to Divine, integrity–holds together, satisfying, transforming, heritage, out of bounds, humanity, unconscious connections between people.