Friday, May 29, 2015

The Lamp Post: Conquest Edition

The Lamp Post is the official newsletter recounting various updates, news, and information about Rich Tuttle and his music.

Hi folks! Here's a bit of what's been going on.

I had an exciting and interesting opportunity over Memorial Day weekend. Back in February I came into contact with folks at ConQuesT, a sci-fi/fantasy convention that's been going on in Kansas City for nearly 50 years. They were looking for some ideas for panels and I pitched a Hobbit concert. Through that I was able to set up a show at the convention and they also asked if I wanted to participate on a panel discussing the Hobbit movies. I've never attended a con before so I wasn't really sure what to expect. While there was plenty of geeky pop-culture stuff going on and folks dressed up in costumes, this convention was obviously geared toward literature. One of their guests of honor was the Game of Thrones author, George R.R. Martin.

Friday night I played an abridged set of my Hobbit songs for a group of folks who graciously chose to spend their 8 o'clock hour with me. I was extremely grateful for their attendance, knowing that they could have chosen to attend one of the other panels going on at the same time. It was a great group and you could tell they were all Hobbit enthusiasts.

Then Saturday afternoon I participated as a panelist in a discussion about the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy. It was a pretty informal event but the folks on board were all pretty knowledgeable and the conversation seemed to flow pretty effortlessly. I wound up being an opposition voice on the panel as everyone more or less gave the films a passing grade where I had it failing the test.

They had someone snapping pictures during the concert and they were able to get a couple of me that weren't too awkward. Sometimes I get this weird singer face going on where if frozen at any moment makes me look like a pain-ridden raging lunatic. So props to the photographer. It's like they captured these pictures just before that awkward moment, I mean, like a split second before. You can tell I'm on the cusp of full blown facial distortion...

Pre-awkward is still awkward...amiright?

I didn't have a whole lot of time to explore the convention outside of my panels. I didn't get to see George R.R. Martin but I did get to sit on his throne.

And maybe best of all, I got to meet R2D2!

Songwriting Ruminations
One of the things that always pains me when planning a set for a time-limited show like the one at Conquest, is having to decide which songs to cut. One of the unique aspects of songwriting through each chapter of a book is that, while the songs are able to stand alone, together they tell a bigger story. More often than not, in songwriting the story told is only contained within the boundaries of that one particular song. From one angle, a story told over many songs is basically a concept album. Nothing really new being ruminated over here. But from another angle, it sort of slips and wriggles away from being merely a concept album and falls into something older. These songs are quite tightly tied to particular events in a book, there is a blending of originality between both author and songwriter. Quite literally, this is a bardic tradition. I have a few thoughts concerning this tradition but I'm afraid it will have to wait for a future article. For now, back to the idea of many songs telling one story.

To have written a group of songs that actually build upon each other, and in some ways depends upon each other to tell a larger tale, is quite a thrilling endeavor for a songwriter. When the story is told over the course of 19 songs it allows you to linger and play and craft in ways you cannot when telling a story in one song. Certain themes introduced in one song can be found, like echos in later songs.

For instance the theme of Hope is tangled all throughout. It is introduced in one line in the first song, built upon as the theme for an entire verse in the third song, stands unmentioned in the background in the sixth, subtly threatened in the ninth, gains traction in the tenth, leaps as the climactic theme of the eleventh song, and then slowly starts to settle in the remainder as certain things hoped for are achieved. All the while, Hope is never really the main theme. It's just there like a decorative border on a tapestry. You don't notice it until you notice it. In this way, there is a certain dynamic, or depth, that cannot be achieved in just one song. And like I said, it's not just Hope; the same could be said of a theme like the Returning King, or the battle of Comfort vs Courage, or Eucatastrophe; which is that sudden joyous salvific turn of events. And that's just a few of the obvious ones I see. I'm not saying this form of storytelling through song is better, but it is different.

The difference might be thought of like this; Imagine a church with one stained glass window depicting a scene, perhaps the Crucifixion. When we view that window, we are receiving that story. Now imagine a church full of stained glass windows; one depicting Creation, another the prophets of old foretelling the coming of a King, another the Incarnation, others showing the miracles and deed Christ did on earth, and then the Crucifixion, followed by the Resurrection. Now each of these windows tells a self contained story, but together they all tell a larger tale, they are likely using certain themes and colors from window to window in order to tie them together in some way. You notice the parallels between the dove on the Ark and the dove deciding on the baptized Christ and it deepens the impact of the story on a certain level. Maybe not spiritually, but simply aesthetically. Or maybe in a way that would only impact you alone in a way the artist could never have imagined.

The great thing about creating and crafting songs, and perhaps this is true for any art like window-making, is that the music and the lyrics begin to take a life of their own. It's might be the nearest thing to real magic. The artist, like a wizard, takes a bit of this and a bit of that and throws it in a cauldron, brooding over it, and (at least for the poet) always trying to say the right thing in the right way, and then suddenly the thing is accomplished. The spell has been cast and now the results are out of your control. It's like a growing plant. You put the seed in the ground and water it, but it grows in its own time and way. With these songs, I would find myself discovering a little witty flourish and realize I didn't do it on purpose, or some strong poetic parallel between a few lines or between one song and another and it strikes me that I had no such intention to craft it in that way. And so this effect is given that much more depth when you take 19 songs to tell a story instead of just one. So in some ways song #19, sung alone and disconnected from the previous 18, becomes an entirely different song when sung with all the others.

That's not to say it cannot stand alone. My goal was to write 19 stand alone songs. Songs that could be sung at the drop of a hat, in any order, complete in and of themselves, and for what it's worth I'm satisfied that I accomplished it. But there's no denying that the songs are stronger when sung together.

And that's one reason I'm excited about the concept of a House Concert. It affords me the opportunity to tell the whole story and allows the best occasion for the songs to shine. Plus getting together with friends with something to munch on is always fun.

Hobbit House Concerts
Ahem...speaking of which...If you would like to host a house concert, know someone who might, or even just have questions about it, check out this page for all the information: Host a Hobbit House Concert!

Stay Tuned!
Recording the final eight Hobbit songs has already begun but is still a ways away from being finished. We've rearranged our house a bit and now my recording studio is upstairs. Things are nearly ready so after a few final touches I'll be back in full swing.

As always, you can stay up to date here on the blog and especially through my Facebook Page.

Thanks for your support!

No comments:

Post a Comment