Songwriting merges the composition of music with the creation of words or lyrics. Songs are ancient phenomena, tied innately to human behavior. They are in part a natural extension of speech and physical movement, in part a creative endeavor, and in today's world, often a commercial venture. Though usually modest in size, songs have exerted a powerful influence on, and been an indispensable reflection of, our collective emotional and actual lives. How songs come into being is somewhat ethereal, and only recently have educators and practitioners begun to treat songwriting as a scholarly discipline. This course frames the art and act of songwriting in historical context, offering a combination of background information and hands-on practice.
The class has two main components. First, through survey and analysis, we will examine the wide literature of songs throughout history: its traditions, its mechanisms, and its connections to human society and culture. Next, students will create their own songs, applying the principles and techniques learned through study of the repertoire. We will examine the process of songwriting, from inception through execution to completion, by closely observing and keeping journals of our own work, and by welcoming guest artists to the class to discuss their songwriting processes and experiences. Topics to be discussed include melody, rhythm, style, instrumentation, song forms, singing, dancing, and rhyming, among many others. All genres are welcome, and both traditional and non-traditional approaches are encouraged. A basic knowledge of music and some musical skill, vocal or instrumental, are highly recommended.