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I am a nut for form. I try to exercise craft in every aspect of the song. It's such a small form, really, that it warrants attention at a fine level of detail. Words, melody, harmonic movement, rhythm, are all equally important. Through co-writing with the ruthless lyric editor Lisa Aschmann, I have been learning the skill of whittling a line away until it's clearly missing something and you have to put back some of what you stole. This is like how you tune a guitar or piano string; make sure you're flat and all the excess tension stored from the uneven friction of the string moving over the nut has been discharged (with a good thwap) and then gradually tuning up to pitch. I've learned to get similarly ruthless about beats; I will add or shave beats to a song at this point on a case-by-case basis, regardless of whether that results in an 11/16 followed by a five-bar phrase or whatever. If you have matched the word rhythm well the listener will not detect this as complexity. The musicians will have to work their butts off but that's good for us.

The song form as a whole forms a resonant structure, where the meaning of each chord may lie in its mirroring or opposition to a chord three verses before or after. This kind of architexturing may seem abstract or academic. I'm convinced it's not; that people's ears are far more intelligent than their conscious awareness. Every one of these details is audible to the listener on some level of awareness. After years of training myself to construct songs this way, I'm now finally getting to the point where my composer's ear is doing this for me beneath my level of awareness. I will look back over lines I've written and see all sorts of internal rhyme, assonance, alliteration and stuff that I did not consciously put in. Then I'll usually smooth it out some, but the elements are already there.


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