Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spam poetry

I've always had great trouble writing lyrics. I get very self-conscious about trying to put words together in ways that aren't contrived. As a thought experiment I have periodically taken lyrics to some of my favourite songs and tried to imagine that I had wrote them to see if they'd get past my internal editor.

Ground control to Major Tom
Ground control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

I hear the train a'comin
It's rollin' round the bend
and I ain't seen the sunshine since
I don't know when

Here come old flat top he come groovin' up slowly
he got joo joo eyeball he one holy roller
he got hair down to his knees
Got to be a joker he just do what he please

And so on and so on. All great songs, all great lyrics, but if I'd written them, they would never have seen the light of day. For me, the challenge is turning off my internal editor long enough to try and develop an idea completely and then deciding whether or not it's crap. Of course, given my entire recorded lyrical output consists of one song and one line from one chorus of another song, you can gain a little insight into how regularly this process is successful for me.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney regularly proclaimed that they had no special creative talent. They wrote most of their early songs sitting side-by-side at a piano or with guitars, ukuleles or whatever other instrument they had at hand and bashing away at them until they heard something they liked. They particularly enjoyed finding bizzare combinations of chords at random and then trying to find vocal melodies that worked for them. John particularly liked to compose at the piano specifically because he knew less about it than the guitar and thus was less likely to rely on the tropes that had served him well in previous songs.This is why so many of their songs have chord changes that are theoretically "wrong", but oh-so-right. Kind of like the idea of the proverbial thousand monkeys, they claimed you just needed to wait around long enough and you'd hear something good.

If you believe this theory of creativity, then a great artist is no more than a great editor of the cultural flux that passes through his brain. All art is found art. The artist just found it hanging around his brain at the moment when he had a guitar/paintbrush/pen/can of soup in his hand. If this is so, does it matter what the source of that flux is? If the artist is just an editor, then can he take anything, call it art and be its creator?

Following the thought a little further, you could argue that all consumption of art is a creative process because to consume the art, you are interpreting the stimuli in a way that it pleasing to you. So, in consuming art, you become the artist.

I first came across the idea of spam poetry years ago, but I received a spam email just now with, arguably, the finest specimen of its kind I've ever had the privilege of receiving.

I present to you,

Anus Embus Syren Bride Anon.
sudd pore corny dulse!
glean rait pore scat?
marry fled qualm spill?
doty inker.
dull col rake tardy.
psalm duff rein ado.
apace palpi.
shout mark tower clan.
apace glean helve scan.
delve col embus.
bud syren pore who?
catty sudd scan syren.
sally rein col betid?
nexus reedy shay guest?
palpi samp apace scull.
old pore reedy grass.
grass inker stoke sudd?
spill calve sue scat?
cong scull.
corny lotto who wrap!
samp pear wrap embus?
cong old cur pule.
tenth work psalm.
anus embus syren bride.

I guess I don't quite buy into that theory of creativity, otherwise I would have credited the poem to myself. Still an interesting idea though...

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