Yesterday I spent the day working on learning Joni Mitchell's "Cactus Tree" by ear, working on transcribing the lyrics line by line (an exercise I find really helps with learning the melody and phrasing- feel free to reach out if you want to chat about this!), and also dissecting the harmonic rhythms of the guitar. I made up my own method of notating these patterns with a combination of counting beats and solfege notation about what guitar tones were prominent behind the melody. Just a reminder that music doesn't really exist on the page, and you don't need to understand musical notation to learn- or write!- melodies and songs.
As I became absorbed in the lyrical rhythms of Joni's poetry, I got inspired to do some of my own writing in her free flowing style. I wrote a couple of pages in poetic phrase and did a few edits to create the poem below. Thanks for allowing me to share it with you, and as always feel free to share back.
I hope you are all finding ways to dive more deeply into your creativity during this time, and enjoying the beauty of Spring.
Dull ache in the back of my shoulders-
connected to a dreaming heart
Choose solitude, these days
Loose promises, fair plays
Bright yellow flowers bloom
like stars beyond the ether
or the kind things that we said
in the blacker void of fear
Chase those silver linings
looking for the sun
Sweet singing of the blues
I wonder at the dream-
The way I resorted to anger, and mean-
Ultimately, clean the wound
write it on the lines
between your house
This is a song about secrets. The secrets we keep from ourselves and others that have a way of coming to the surface when we connect deeply- with ourselves, our hearts, each other. I recently had the experience of being hit by a sleeper wave of sorrow as I explore old wounds for the first time. At first I protected my heart with anger. I'm not proud of that but it's true. A friend suggested- maybe the other side of that anger is pain. But when I let myself feel deep sorrow, I discovered that on the other side of sadness is joy. A sweet, gentle, unexpected joy as my heart thanked me for listening to her purely, without the masks of anger, false bravado, distraction, escape.
Of course, I've experienced this transformation from sadness to joy for years through songwriting and music. The art of taking an emotion and translating it into song, and then feeling the pure joy of creativity and musical expression no matter what the original source of feeling, has long been the driving force of my life, my heart, my path.
It was nice to experience it through pure emotion though, without creating a song around my experience. Just feeling. I realized- Oh! That's why Sad Songs make us Happy!
I hope you enjoy this share. Don't hesitate to reach out with your stories, songs, and creative musings.
This year I had the opportunity to be part of a monthly songwriting group. We had the prompt of a phrase every month and the encouragement and inspiration of a monthly gathering to help us work on and finish our songs. At the gathering we'd laugh, eat soup and bread, sit in circle, and share our songs together.
I'm a bit of a lone wolf and love creating alone in my living room. I wasn't sure how I'd feel about creating with community this way.
I loved it. I couldn't get enough. It was awesome to see how everyone interpreted the prompts differently and wonderful to get to know the group over the course of the year. Here's the last prompt of 2020- "So Many Miles". Enjoy!
This one came to me this morning fresh out of a dream. Imagining percussive colorful piano chords accompanying the words and syllables. Perhaps a work in progress!
Sweet Forgiveness/ If Not That
Sweet forgiveness springs from the core
I find myself at your door
Knock, knock, knock
I leave a single flower
No sense in trying to crash through
That just leaves me black and blue
Feeling better now, cold winter days
Grateful that it finally rained
The fire finally contained
New green must spring from ash
And what is there to celebrate
If not that ?
- Alison Harris
A new arrangement of a song I wrote some years back. This one has lots of dream and ocean imagery in it. Playing with my new harmony looper too, which is SO fun. Enjoy! Let me know what you think.
A poem for the coming winter. Creative writing Muse called me today and I felt refreshed after heeding her call. To be honest, I felt a little guilty for napping and writing poetry in the middle of the day. But the way I felt when the deed was done assured me that following my dream into writing and creation was unquestionably the right action. Bliss and Balance.
"anger thwarts lover’s play
cull drought, summer rain
light touch placed upon the skin
so many miles traced within
not quite seeing eye to eye
lover’s balm, open palm
time and phrases coincide
2 hearts slightly misaligned
different rhythms, measured strides
add uneven rhyme for song
sing perhaps still side by side
stories hidden in the blinds"
What I love most is the process of creation, of exploration. The magic alchemy of taking a tiny seed of an idea and nurturing it into something tangible with the sheer power of hearts, minds, and bodies. The way the energy of it transforms as we go, growing and changing as we first expand the idea, and then whittle it down into final form.
What I love most is how the process of creation transforms us- our hearts, bodies, and minds. When we write a song, I believe that the physical expression of it resonates into every cell, shifting the energetic signature of our very being.
It’s a powerful experience, something to be celebrated!
For many years, I shared my art through live performance, on stages from Bellingham to Joshua Tree.
Now, I’m sharing here, with you, from my heart to yours.
If you are called to this journey of musical exploration, if you desire to strengthen and share your voice, I would love to connect with you.
Today I’m sharing a song written in a song writing circle that offered monthly song prompts in the form of a phrase that had to be included somewhere in the lyrics. This prompt was “On The Wind”.
When I was first invited into the group, I felt nervous about writing from an external prompt, worried that I wouldn’t be able to connect with an idea that didn’t come directly from my own heart and experience.
Ultimately the process of writing and sharing from prompts in a group over the course of a year reminded me that although the range of human experience is vast, we are all connected by the common thread of human emotion.
When we open our hearts and share these emotions with each other through art, it’s easy to connect. Compassion and community are the result.
I hope you enjoy the music, and I’d love to hear back from you.
One thing I absolutely LOVE about music is it's healing force. In fact, over the past few years I've recognized that this is the element of music that has been most important in my life. Music can contain any emotion, from joy to sorrow. When we make music, we connect deeply with our souls and - I believe- collective consciousness. The act of singing sends a heart-felt message to every cell of our bodies, essentially saying- "Everything is going to be ok". I learned "Have a Little Faith In Me" by John Hiatt to remind myself that even the greatest dreams are possible, even in the face of hard times and challenges. Whenever my soul needs that reminder, I can sing this song. It brings me great comfort, and I hope it does the same for you.
What song do you sing or listen to to remind yourself to have faith in joy and love in the face of challenges and hard times?
If you are looking for support in your musical journey, please check out my Sing / Write / Create program- a powerful program designed to give you all the tools you need to share your unique musical voice with freedom, strength, and joy.