April 18, 2008

Today I took a bit of time out from composing the song cycle I’d begun earlier this month, as well as from proof-reading the Cormorant reprint of The P-Town Murders. (Note the title revision from P’Town, which I’m told is not technically correct, though most P’Towners will tell you that’s how they write it.)

The reason for the diversion started last night when I watched a documentary called A Skin Too Few, about the sad, short life of singer-songwriter Nick Drake. When Drake died at the age of 26 in 1974 after recording only three albums, he was still largely unknown. Since then he’s come to be considered one of the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years. Brad Pitt narrated a BBC radio documentary about him. Volkswagon used a clip of the title track from his last album Pink Moon in one of their commercials. In 2000 his second album, Bryter Layter, was voted number 1 by The Guardian on its list of ‘Alternative top 100 albums ever’.

(The best I can do to describe his sound is to say he’s a cross between Kate Bush and Radiohead, massaged by John Cale, but that only comes close to scratching the surface. He’s haunting, intense and very intimate. You can hear him for yourself on his Official Website: http://www.brytermusic.com/.)

This morning, just before waking, I dreamed I was playing one of Nick’s songs on the piano. (I don’t know any of them, apart from what I heard last night, so I doubt it was really one of his.) His mother showed me a piece of paper with words on it, things she had wanted to say to him before he died. I was overwhelmed by their beauty. When I woke, I had the beginnings of a song in my head. I got up quickly, wrote it down in a daze and spent the rest of the afternoon scratching out an accompaniment.

It’s fairly simple, overtly lyrical, and in strophic style—none of which are my hallmarks. The song’s title, ‘So Many Souls’, is taken from the chorus:

"She said, Don’t you know there are so many souls
just looking for the light? And a little bit of bright
is better than none at all…"

My literary mind wanted to call it ‘A Bit of Bright’, not to be too obvious, but the Muses insist that it’s called So Many Souls, so that is how it will be, though I’ve subtitled it A Bit of Bright in brackets and dedicated the number to Nick and his mother Molly.

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