Mary Rose Cook

Making music

What about this? The music starts and, after a little while, you hear static and then the click of the radio being switched off. Someone begins speaking to someone else in the room and, thus, a play begins, only to be interrupted by one of the characters opening a window and the music resuming from a car parked outside. Or this? Past loves are characters who have left Neighbours: “I just bumped into Karl Kennedy and he said that Sophie had rung from Brisbane and she’s going out with a drug dealer” etc.

I play guitar all the time, but some weeks, even some months, I just can’t write music. But then, out of nowhere, my fingers are in some configuration, and I pick some pattern and it sounds good. I record it into Ableton Live and start messing around. Maybe I try to sing sad (always sad) melodies over what I have recorded, or maybe I tinker with my keyboard or doss around making crazy effects to add to the guitar. And things get easier after that because one riff suggests another.

So, after that, I usually end up with a few consecutive sections of song. This is the first draft. I might then send an mp3 to my Dad to get his opinion, or just start adding sections or layers that sound good. I might keep the original vocal melodies or rip them out and try again. I might start doing some drums, one of the few musical things I can do when I’m not feeling inspired.

Once the song is finished, I write out the nonsensical ramblings that I sang when working out the vocal melodies, take my meter and syllable counts from there and then write some real lyrics.

By this point, the original idea is usually lost. If I’ve kept it in the song, it is by sheer chance because the music is so hard to find that the idea must be discarded at the first sign of its incompatibility with the song. So, the lyrical idea doesn’t so much drape over as balance on top of the music.

Or, to put it another way, the wine never shapes the glass.