Friday, May 01, 2009

Pat Metheney - I Don't Know Why

What makes a song “yours”? We see this frequently in music. Someone writes/sings a song and it’s associated with them. Later on – another artist comes along and covers the same song. In fact, isn’t that what all the garage bands of our youth did? Perform their favorite artist’s songs?

Some covers are so great – and others – well don’t you just wish they’d never happened? So – why is Pat Metheney playing this song a great rendition of Nora Jones’ original? Surely it’s more than he’s doing an acoustic guitar version – and hers is piano with lyrics. Is it because he’s subtly changed the timing of the song?

In this case I think it’s a successful remake. Yet there are all those “musak” versions of songs that just make you want to put ear plugs in and hope to never ever hear them again.

When you think of Pat Metheny what is your first association? Is it jazz? For me, he’ll always be linked to Falcon and the Snowman. Now that I search for that song I keep coming across the David Bowie version. So why is that song linked to Pat Metheny? A little digging reveals he was backing Bowie. I guess I have a pretty good memory for what the DJs were saying back in 1985 when this movie was released.

Of course – some of you probably saw the movie. Me? Ha! You know I don’t go to the movies.

How is writing different? I read somewhere about a new author who took a Jane Austin book and rewrote it with her own characters. It went on to be a success. (and of course I cannot for the life of me think of the author OR the book title, so perhaps I’m employing a little bit of hyperbole here.) That story sticks with me though. What if I were to take a short story – and copy it scene for scene, but with characters and a time period different from the original? Would I learn something about this craft? Would my characters be rich and textural – or because it was all “planned and copied” would they be a cardboard version – lifeless and dull?

Food for thought over this coming weekend.

Speaking of food – I’m totally going to be brave tonight and go attend this Tacomentary. I don’t know the people behind this blog (although there is a friend-of-a-friend connection), but I love how they write about food. I’m hoping I’ll not be the only over 40 person there – and won’t feel like a complete freak among what I assume to be a Duke University Crowd.

Happy weekend everyone!

1 comment:

Bob said...

I think the Pat Metheny works because he made the song his own, so to speak. Jazz is all about taking a tune and making it your own. And sometimes it is just a better version of the song. Eric Clapton did that - exquisitely, in my opinion - on his unplugged album. He remade Layla, and while I like the original, I really like his cover.

I read something recently, that scientists studying genius were coming to the opinion that there isn't some devine spark, some genentic mutation that produces an Einstein - there is a method that can produce such work. Among the discussion was something very close to what you referred to in your post - taking an established work of fiction and "updating" it. I.E. finding the bones of a great piece of literature and using them to produce another. This isn't copying such as it is analysis and practice (unless you submit this work as originally yours - then it's plagiarism!). They say that Benjamin Franklin - as a writing exercise - took essays from The Spectator magazine, translated them to verse, then translated his verse back into prose and then compared his prose to the original essay checking to see where his was inferior to the original and why.

so - your proposed exercise to copy a work, updating the setting and characters with your own - could quite possibly give you some insight into why the original work is so good, and maybe help you develop the tools to produce your own original work that attains the same standard as those you "studied".