The closest Amadeus and I come to arguing is when we’re writing a song. It’s stupid, I know. We aren’t professionals-we’re doing it for fun, and most of the time it really is fun. I love the flowiness of the whole process, the way we work together. I’ll be deep into a writing project, he’ll be deep into playing his guitar and sometimes the stars align and things will merge. We mentally float toward each other–our separate projects are put aside and we start collaborating. Before you know it, we’re sitting beside each other on the sofa, singing something that hadn’t existed an hour before.
But I’m persnickety about words and he’s persnickety about music theory and I wanna jam things in and he wants to yank things out and I wanna sing it this way and he wants to play it that way and we have moments of testiness that we never experience at any other time. I’ve come to believe that some of the world’s most beautiful love songs had to have been written by people who wanted to beat the holy shit out of each other. I imagine Ashford and Simpson glaring at each other while penning “You’re All I Need to Get By,” Dozier and Holland getting into fistfights while writing “How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You.”
Amadeus: “You just need to take the word ‘moonlight’ out of there.”
Me: But it’s important to the theme. It’s painting a picture.
Amadeus: You can’t cram all those syllables into it. It won’t work with the tune.
Me: Sure it will.
Amadeus: No it won’t.
Me: Uh huh. Here. Let me sing it for you. (sings)
Amadeus: (Winces) No it won’t.
They’re tiny little road blocks, and as time goes by, we’re learning give and take, how to listen to the other’s musical point of view. Sometimes I win my case, sometimes he wins his, but usually within a few minutes a little lightning bolt will hit one of us. We reach a compromise, make a change or two and all is right with the world.
My husband popped out of his mother’s womb with, I think, a viola in his hands, and he’s been involved in music professionally since dinosaurs roamed the earth. I have to defer to his knowledge a lot of the time, and I want to hug him each time he defers to mine. He taught music for more than twenty years, and he understands more about these things than I ever will. Solo, he’s written some sweet, stirring songs, but when we write together we’re two sides of a coin. He’s logic, I’m emotion, he’s technical, I’m all about the feeling of the thing. He’s rhythm, I’m…I don’t know–a ceiling fan. But wonderful things sometimes happen when the left side of his brain and the right side of mine link up and click together like space modules.
Amadeus is also much more subdued about our songwriting than I am. Don’t get me wrong– he loves it as much as I do. We’ve written several tunes he’s proud of. He’s just a lot more realistic about our limitations than I am, and deals with things in a more mature manner.
Example: A musician pal of his just moved back to town. They’ve played together for decades, and once recorded a CD together. He came over a few weeks ago, and played us a new tune he’d been working on. Amadeus picked up on it within about three seconds, heaved out his upright bass and began playing along. He began making a few suggestions, and creativity started bubbling. I tell you, I can’t keep the smile off of my face when this type of thing starts happening. My brain chemistry goes into some weird mode that feels like a combination of starlight and queso dip.
As I sat listening, words began twinkling in my head. I grabbed my laptop and started writing. They looked at what I’d typed, and they liked it a lot. Encouraged, I went on, and before too long, an entire song had popped out. Amadeus and his friend were looking at me as though I were some freak alien songwriting machine, but for some reason, that tune just happened to make lyrics appear in my head. We set about tweaking and rearranging, moving words and sounds until we’d finished. It was lovely. “Why don’t we start meeting once a week?” the friend suggested, “You know–just to see what happens.”
After he left, I jumped up and down like a popcorn kernel. “Wasn’t that fun???” I squealed. “Wasn’t that amazing???” “A songwriting night! Wow! Won’t that be great???”
Amadeus does not jump up and down. He does not squeal. He has dignity. He is a bass player, and he is cool.
“Mmm hmm. We’ll see.”
We’ll see? What the–
I have to look at it from his point of view. He’s been involved with enough musicians to populate a small country. He’s hauled more amps than Mötley Crüe’s roadies. He’s played more gigs than…You get the idea. Obviously, he looks at music much more pragmatically than I do.
So far, our musician friend has performed that new song twice, and Amadeus accompanied him on bass both times. The friend very sweetly told the audience that the three of us had written it together. I sat in the audience, snapping pics on my camera phone like a new mom, beaming at the baby we’d brought into the world. To those two guys, it’s just another kid. To me, it’s a little wonder.