BOOK | BLOG
What makes Harriet Schock truly special is her willingness to share her hard-won songwriting knowledge with others. She does this with her songwriting classes, private consultations, online courses and in her seminal book, becoming remarkable.
The book is an extensive collection of articles written for the songwriting community and was originally published as a regular column in the Los Angeles Songwriter’s Showcase Musepaper, and later in the periodicals of the National Academy of Songwriters.
becoming remarkable, which includes Harriet’s Rosebud CD, is available here.
A listing of what’s inside…
for songwriters and those who love songs
by Harriet Schock
Table of Contents
Foreword by Nik Venet
About the Chapters…
PART I – INTEGRITY
Step One: Touch Somebody
If You’re Doing It for the Money,
You May Not Make Any
The Art & Craft of Songwriting
Songwriters … A Community
Do We Know Where We’re Coming From?
Stop and Look at Who’s Listening
Reality: The Training Wheels
Chimera Is Curable
Writing from the Inside
Songwriters Say It All
Art and Romance: An Analogy
Do You Read?
Cookies or Newspapers?
The New Literacy
Burning Desire to Communicate
Some Points to View on Viewpoints
PART II – CLARITY
Truth vs. Facts in Songwriting
When Little Things Mean a Lot
Listen & Learn
You Talkin’ to Me?
Judging Your Own Material
Finding the Pony
He Says, She Says
Listeners Vote for Communication
Smoke and Mirrors
PART III – TECHNOLOGY
Words or Music … That Is the Question
Writing Words to Music
What, Me Study?
Melody – The Unsung Hero
The Rhythm of the Melody
Playing It by Ear
Customs & Critics & Rules (Oh, My)
But What Do Strangers Think?
Is There Life Between Songs?
“That Sounds Like It Belongs in a Movie”
Titles: The Heart of the Matter
You Oughta Be Write in Pictures
Writing in the Margins
Writing in Space
Playing the Symbols Well
Cleverness and Subtlety
Starting with the Song
About the Author
becoming remarkable, which includes Harriet’s Rosebud CD, is available here.
Listen, I just HAVE to tell you: I read your book, and all along I got the eerie feeling that you wrote it just for me (of course not, but that’s what it felt like). Every single songwriter should read your book. In fact, it should be considered required reading material for all (and especially for all the open-mikers out there!) For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading passages to my writer friends over the phone, showing them the book in person and basically (at the risk of sounding too “gushy”)… GUSHING about how pertinent it is.Serina Jung
I started re-reading your book on the plane and I’m appreciating and enjoying it even more the second time. You’re a truly wonderful writer and artist. I hadn’t heard your CD previously. All I can say (without gushing) is that you’ve definitely got a new fan. You are truly an amazing writer and I’m so glad we got a chance to connect.Jason Blume
I have to say that I opened your book and just re-read the very beginning areas. I cannot put it down. I think I may have to re-read the entire book again. Reading it gives me a joy that washes over me. Thank you — again.Pat Metzger
Harriet Schock’s Blog
I’ve recently come to the viewpoint that it’s necessary to understand all art in order to understand any art. I’ve noticed that people who have an appreciation for the visual arts, literature, dance, etc. also approach music in a more vulnerable way. And, conversely, those who are virtually illiterate, and pride themselves on the fact that television is the height of their artistic appetites, may even make a living in music, but they appear to be unmoved by it, unchanged by it and approach it as a product, in much the way the commercials they watch deal with their products.
As my writer friend, Thomas Lane, pointed out after looking up the derivation of “art,” the word comes from “ars artis” meaning to join together. His “Artist Manifesto” makes a very strong point about the necessity of artists in all areas to join together. He also places the responsibility for the condition of the arts back into the hands of the artists—which will rob us of our self-righteous whining and give us a pretty huge job to do.
I am beginning to believe those around me who insist we are at the threshold of a Renaissance in the music business. I certainly hope this is true, and think it might be because of the quality of songwriting I see around me, from my colleagues, my students, my friends.
I was first pondering this possibility when I heard a statement from my producer, Nik Venet, which I feel I must quote. In fact, I keep it in mind much of the time when I’m writing, or singing. It goes like this:
Not everyone tells the truth.
It’s the truth that touches people.”
He just said it in the studio, in passing, when he was trying to get me to perform the songs we were cutting, LIVE, and by that I mean playing and singing at the same time in a total performance, as opposed to overdubbing and making it “all perfect.” You have to remember, I’m from the South (or Southwest if that’s where you consider Dallas to be) and I was brought up on advice like, “Look your best even when you’re breaking up with him,” so you can imagine how hard it was for Nik Venet to convince me to do things live. It sometimes feels like I’m being asked to stand in my underwear in bright sunlight with no make-up on. Sure it’s real, but so is a train wreck. But who can forget the impact of Anne Hathaway’s performance in the film, “Les Miserables” perhaps due to its being performed live.
I recently read a quote from the London Times that discussed the John Stewart Phoenix Live album, also produced by Nik, that had recharted in England. John voiced the same insecurities when Nik first urged him to release it, “flaws and all” because it’s real, it’s human, and it’s truthful. The effect it created arain and again is amazing. I suppose if it had been overdubbed to make the performers feel good, the listener would have felt much less.
But back to the point I opened with—that of appreciating all art in order to really “get into” one form of art. I went to an exhibit of Modern Art at the county museum on Wilshire and I studied two paintings by John Singer Sargent. I was completely awed by them. In order for him to create the picture you get when you stand across the room, from the close distance where he painted it, he had to have the craft down totally cold, and then he had to be so free of the craft, he could express himself directly and communicate without attention to technique. As songwriters, that’s the point we must arrive at, so that we don’t pull the listener into our struggle with the form, or into our cleverness with it. When I mentioned all this to Venet, he sent me a transcript someone took off a tape of a lecture he delivered at UCLA in 1984, where he taught record production to a class that achieved some renown for having started with 30 enrolled, and having ended up with over 300.
This quote actually says exactly what I want to say on the subject, so rather than paraphrasing, I’ll just give it verbatim:
“Sampled, crystal clear records, void of the human condition, cannot compare with a live performance captured on tape or a real-life experience placed on paper . . . to be sung from the heart. Only a few have the bravery to do it honestly, using their years of dues-paying craft study to free their fingers and voice from the mind . . . so that the soul, without obstruction of form, dictates the words, music and paint strokes and how they will be shared.”
The entire transcript of this speech is phenomenal, but I wanted to quote salient parts of it here, because it articulated beautifully something I’ve been trying to say to my advanced students, in answer to the sometimes unspoken question, “When is it finished? When am I good enough? When can I stop working at it and just enjoy it? What is craft, anyway? And what is art?”
So our job is to become good enough at the craft that we can become free to engage in the art, and take enough responsibility for the condition of the arts to make sure there’s someone out there capable of not just hearing—but listening. And once we know they’re listening, to give them the truth.