Planting the Seed

9 March 2017

This week we have a Guest Blog by Zac Scott who explored songwriting with the mums and babies.

My second visit to WHALE Arts Centre in Wester Hailes was endearing, relaxing and inspiring. Surrounded by teddy bears, ukuleles, bells, drums, shaky things and whacky things, we spent just over an hour making, singing lots, playing, experimenting and performing music together.

We began this session by looking at the live “Playlist” that I had prepared (a snippet of which you can find below!) and collectively ‘feeling’ the vibe in the room before deciding which songs to try out together. (Of course, since it was nearly December, I’d thrown in a bunch of Christmas songs too – which, eventually, went down a treat!). By singing songs that we like listening to in a group, essentially “re-creating” the art of another musician, we can quickly use that enthusiasm to work together towards creating something new. This session was mostly about using this concept to manipulate and re-write 7 Years by Lukas Graham – turning the lyrics into something that was personally relevant to each of us.

There’s loads of ways to write a song, but because it can be so vague, we decided to start with a pre-existing song’s structure. We thought that it might help us into the process without any pressure. We could subtly figure out the following things by using a pre-existing song: what’s the artist’s message? What might my message be if I was telling my story? In hindsight, this seemed to pay off. One member of the group wrote these completely beautiful lyrics which you can see below:


They capture the depth of their relationship with themselves, their child and the wider world – and they are also full of optimism. It was inspiring to read how honest her words were, before then realising how much successful, agile and fun this structured writing process was. We then spent time practicing, writing more, taking things away, perfecting some of the children’s improvisatory solo’s and then dividing the song up into even more before we filmed the performance of it!

As always in the session, we talked a lot about music and our musical experiences. Talking about music is also something that brings us together – and, in this informal way, can play a crucial role within communicative development for the whole group. Young children suddenly mimicking and copying melodies or words, or translating them onto an instrument such as a xylophone or glockenspiel in the middle of a song out of the blue is always incredibly rewarding. My highlight in these moments is always how much the children can change the feel of the whole song – especially when you hear them emulating the melody by scat singing it for example. It’s especially endearing and wonderful to mark and celebrate this when it happens. The mothers all collectively smile at how charming these moments are. Creating an improvisatory space for them to rock out more with songs is something I want to experiment more with, so we can find more of these types of reactions to music.


What’s Next?

These sessions have so far been particularly successful in providing a collaborative space for mothers and children and will be great to refer to when we try new writing methods in the sessions to come. I will be collaborating with Grace Dale (piano player and singer) and the whole group to write short songs in the form of a lullaby – something that will help frame the beauty, honesty and optimism of the kind of lyrics we managed to produce in this session.


Why not check out some of the songs we sang along to online?!

Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way
Five – Everybody Get Up
Fleetwood Mac – Everywhere
Michael Buble – Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Pharrell – Happy
Take That – The Flood
The Proclaimers – 500 Miles
Lukas Graham – 7 years