I ask myself,
What purpose is the “creative action” serving?
Where does it come from? What is its origin?
And what is actually happening when it occurs?
Can I be clear & honest about this?
Folk songs are songs about folk – people.
Everyday reflections of the human experience.
I am one among many, many folk, dead, alive, & yet to be born.
And the person I am is always changing.
In a lifetime, many different selves inhabit the transforming body, in the same way that different tenants come to live in & then leave an apartment building that is in constant reconstruction, repair, & renovation.
Writing & singing songs is a way for me to process an ever-changing life. It is a kind of diary.
Each song is born out of a need to express experience.
And every song dies. The words & sounds of a song may feel true in the moment of its creation, but when a change occurs (in me or in the world around me), they may no longer reflect the new state or view.
They are subjective, and pertain to a specific time & space.
My songs are the songs of dead & dying selves – people whom I once was & am no longer, or will not be tomorrow.
Because the songs I sing come from personal experience, they are limited.
Often I feel restricted by their limitations – by their aesthetic.
I ask myself, Who is singing? The one who is making these songs is not all of “me” (which seems to just be space)… It’s a particular personality that’s living in this space…
When I open myself to music at large, or better yet, to
I feel I open the doors to freedom,
where anything is possible & will be accepted.
A folk song lives within a structure.
It’s the house that gives shelter to my personal experience,
but this house is not spacious enough to shelter ALL POSSIBLE EXPERIENCE.
The danger of singing my own diary is limiting myself – closing doors to life’s infinite possibilities. And identifying with the songs – the thoughts & feelings they convey, the quality of voice with which they are expressed, their particular sonority, mood or emotional state.
I am aware of these dangers! More than once I told myself to give up the guitar & la-la-la-ing. But the need came back! When a change occurs naturally, I will accept it. But up until now, my songs have served me & others, so I have no reason to stop something that is coming naturally.
In the act of creation, song-making & singing offers me is a way of understanding, making sense, & digesting my own life. It is a place to deposit sensory, emotional, & mental information.
When I sing for others, I open the doors to my intimate life, let it out of my mouth. When a song is new, it has a necessity. It needs to be sung. And there is something risky about it also. Because there is not yet distance between the singer & the feeling. The singer is exposing herself as she is in that moment. Dead songs don’t carry risk.
Why share songs? There is a possibility of reaching someone.
Perhaps the reflections of one person may resonate with another.
Perhaps the function of folk songs is to affirm that we are not alone.
If we listen to each other & listen to ourselves, maybe we can come to some understanding.
Empathy – to put oneself in the shoes of another.
The personal is just a standpoint.
But we can always change where we are standing.
And we will have a different view.
I believe the person & the (art)work of the person are inseparable.
How we live becomes who we are.
What is created through us reflects where we are inside.
There are many inner voices.
A song is a space for these voices to be heard.
May 31, 2011
Katherine Sheng Morrison