One of my favorite all-time songs is “All Along the Watchtower”. Written by Bob Dylan, I love the Hendrix version, and the one performed by U2 is my second favorite. It has occurred to me more than once to write what I see, what the lyrics call to my mind. “While women came and went, barefoot servants, too”. I can see a castle, the hustle and bustle of maids, concubines, knights, guards, entertainers, and royalty. I haven’t researched it, but I’m wondering if Dylan wrote about the coming of Death and destruction, or the second coming of Christ? Both have been predicted to wipe out eras of hedonistic human behavior, and replace it with something worse, or better. Is it literal, or a metaphor for one’s personal life? When I give myself the opportunity to daydream, I’ve also “written” a movie script where Disturbed (the band) writes and plays the soundtrack.
I recently attended a Natalie Merchant concert. I’ve been a fan of hers for years, hanging out on the fringe purchasing a CD or two, but always cranking the radio’s volume when her powerful vocals alerted me to what I consider my life story, “Wonder”. It still brings tears to my eyes when I hear it. On her current tour, she has taken over twenty poems and arranged them to music. All kinds of music. Folk, blues, rock. There is a slide show that she narrates and wonderful musicians that accompany her on this project. She said it took over six years to complete it. A true testament to her musical knowledge, talent, and drive to take someone else’s work and rearrange it for her own pleasure, and that of her fans.
Collaboration is one thing, working with another artist, perhaps one that plays with a different medium, to add your personal flair. So is taking something someone else has done (a painting, a dance, a play, a poem, a song) and reworking it into your chosen medium. Natalie took poems and put them to music. I want to take a song and make it into a short story or novel. I also want to use music to build a movie, rather than the other way around. To keep it small, and perhaps more manageable, I might suggest a lone project to start off. I have no intention of trying to contact Steven Spielberg with my movie idea, or even emailing David Draiman (singer for Disturbed) about writing songs for an idea that floats around the buffet table with my muse. Instead, I’d like to look into what Dylan meant when he wrote “All Along the Watchtower”, then sit down with my pen and spiral and see if those ramparts, arrow slits up the staircase in the tower, or light blue, gossamer material draped over a princess as she hurries along a deserted corridor, bare feet slapping on the stone floor, tossing cautious glances over her left shoulder, the front of her gown held away from her feet by delicate fingertips, forms anything other than brief pictures on the movie screen in my mind. Yes, that would be the place for me to start.
I invite you to borrow another’s piece, add your own flair, and see what happens. Will you take a dance and write a poem? Will the poem be about the dancers, or the story? I had the opportunity to view the Cezanne exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. Perhaps I’ll take a painting and write a story or poem, either about the picture itself, the artist, or a museum guest who pauses extra long to appreciate the parallel brush strokes. On my list of things to try, is a collaborative effort. What if I paired up with an artist and they depicted with oil and canvas one of my characters or a scene in one of my novels? I imagine the ensuing conversation would be quite lively. Why did they use those colors? That perspective? What were they feeling or imagining as they painted? And what information might I gain about my characters, my work, myself as a writer? The more I delve into this aspect of myself, the living artist that must create to breathe and thrive, the more comfortable I feel in my craft. To venture out and seek a paired project with another creativity junkie would be an opportunity to stretch my circle of comfort and to grow exponentially.
Where will you turn to gain a bit of insight into your own medium? A dance? A song? A painting? A sculpture? A poem? A photograph? A seven course meal? Someone else’s gift to the world could well be your stepping off point. Wanting to go all way and dive into a collaborative project? Leave your ego at the door and approach the other artist with an open heart and an idea, an itch that you’d like to explore. Listen and share. Do the work. Then come back here to leave a comment on how it went, and what you learned. In the meantime, I’ll crank up “All Along the Watchtower” and give my pen free rein to capture the colors and textures and characters of the song, of my interpretation of another’s creativity, flavored with my personal flair. If you visit www.myjoyenterprises.com you’ll see that I have the Prologue and first two chapters and the Dear Reader letter for my newest novel, Of Prophecies and Promises, available. Is there something in my words that sparks a picture for you? A poem? Share it!