From the craft of songwriting to the craft of sociology

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about my interest in sociological craft and increasing preoccupation with the idea of creating a forum (probably as part of this website) within which accomplished sociologists could reflect on the processes underlying their work. Hopefully in ways which would be helpful to PhDs/ECRs as well as addressing broader disciplinary questions about the purpose and nature of sociological work.

Part of the idea for this stemmed from a favourite website of mine, Songwriters on Process, which discusses the craft of songwriting in a reflective way with a diverse range of songwriters:

Songwriters on Process is dedicated to the creative process of songwriters. It’s the stories behind the songs, from beginning to end.  The site features in-depth interviews with songwriters in which they dissect their process.  What is their creative process when they literally sit down to write a song? What do they do when they get writer’s block? What quirks or superstitions do they have? How disciplined are they? Who are their literary inspirations?  How do they get inspired? Do they compose on computer or pen and paper? These are just some of the topics we discuss.

http://www.writersonprocess.com/about-benjamin-opipari-phd.html

And this is the sort of questions it addresses, taken from an interview with Brian Fallon:

Do you make daily writing a part of your routine?

No, that’s where I split the balance between being whimsical and being disciplined.  I can’t do it every day.  I like to write in bulk.  I’ll write five or ten songs in a month, then take a month off.  At the end of that month, I start to feel like I need something to come out.  I feel like it’s going to happen, so I do things to inspire myself. I used to just pick up the guitar and that would be it.  And if I picked up the guitar and nothing came and I couldn’t think of any words, I was out of luck. But now I’ve started to work with things like Garage Band, and I’m doing things like finding all these soul loops and cutting them out.

I learned how to play the piano and the organ and was like, “Wait a second, I can inspire myself through drum beats, or really anything.” I used to have random scattered papers with ideas all over the place.  Now I also have these little mp3 files  that are 30 seconds long and full of craziness.  I can go back to them at anytime when I feel something happening, so I peel through them and flesh out the ones I like.

That’s probably also a good way to prevent writer’s block.

That’s why I started doing it.  I had a really bad case of writer’s block a year ago.  It was really hard because I never had nothing to write about.  I decided that was never going to happen again, so anything I thought about, any idea, I’d write it down, take a picture of it. Mess with a little drum loop to make it interesting.  Even if it was a little interesting and could never be used in any of my outlets, I would do it anyway.

Do you keep a notebook handy to write down things you see and hear?  

Not really.  That’s never been the case for me.  I know a lot of people do that, but it’s hard for me to do. Sometimes I’ll be on the subway and listen to people talk.  And I’m always like, “How is anybody getting anything out of this?  This is nothing.  It’s all about coffee and business meetings!”  I read a biography of Tom Waits once, and he writes about anything.  I mean, how do you sit there and listen to someone talk and write it down?  What are you fleshing out?  There’s nothing there! But apparently there is.


Categories: Higher Education, Sociological Craft

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