Week #42 Family Picture

This week I finished a lyric-writing class, a Coursera course featuring the renowned lyric-writing expert Pat Pattison, a professor at Berklee College of Music.

Although I’ve taken other songwriting classes in the past, this course focused specifically on lyrics and since I’ve heard Professor Pattison quoted in other classes and workshops several times, I thought it would be helpful to learn from the author of “Writing Better Lyrics.”

His approach was much different than anything I’d previously learned, with videos (the course was all videos and reading so there wasn’t any actual interaction with him) focusing on things like a development engine, stable and unstable phrasing, prosody, length of lines, and lots of other new vocabulary.

The final project was writing a song, which I thought I’d share this week.

The chorus was an idea I had a couple of years ago but I struggled with the verses so I thought I’d try applying some of the concepts to this song. Did I succeed? I don’t know but here’s the song:

We dressed in our best clothes
I wore floral print and panty hose
Stood on the lawn where the bougainvillea grows
And we smiled

Varying line lengths to give the verse an “unstable” feeling.

I’m looking at our family picture
So much has changed since you’ve been gone
Each time we take a family picture
There’s still a space where you belong

The chorus switches to stable, with the lines similar lengths.

As seasons pass and children grow
There are so many that you’ve never known
We capture chapters so our story is told
For a while

First and second verse have the same format so I went back to unstable for the second verse. They don’t necessarily have the same number of syllables in each line though and am not sure if that’s important.

I’m looking at our family picture
So much has changed since you’ve been gone
I’m missing you in our family picture
There’s still a space where you belong

The second chorus – typically choruses should be the same but I did change one line here because I wanted to get that message in but not necessarily include it in every chorus.

Someday there will be a time when nobody will recognize us

The bridge. It’s super short and the recording didn’t come out like I envisioned it but it moves into the last chorus.

They’ll be looking at our family picture
So much has changed since we’ve been gone
Each time they take a family picture
There’ll be a space where we belong
A space where we belong.

Similar to the other chorus, but it changes perspectives as a way to tell the story. We’re all here for this finite amount of time and we take photos (LOTS of photos) to remember moments. We’re connected to people in photos as we are in that same space at that same time and seeing old photos that include lost loved ones can be nostalgic and bring up pleasant memories as you think about that person.

Yet you move past a generation and the people in the photos just become one-dimensional. You may be able to identify who they are but since you never had any interaction with them, it doesn’t evoke any memories. Yet they are still a part of your life because without them you wouldn’t be here so we’re actually connected through generations even though we’ve never met.

Here’s a rough version of the song:


1 Comment

  1. You never realize what you have until you see someone else who doesn’t have it. This song paints a beautiful picture of a family that’s missing a piece. It makes me realize how lucky we really are. I love how your songs point out what’s really important in life and how we should value what we have.

    Liked by 1 person

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