On a recent Saturday, Method Writing Coach Kathrin Seitz invited the celebrated composer Malcolm Brooks and one of his colleagues, Will Foote, to teach seven of us the process of writing a song. 

Malcolm’s non-profit organization, Documentary Songwriters – Bearing Witness Through Music (www.DocSong.org), helps people create songs from their own spoken words as they describe their own experiences ranging from trauma, isolation, addiction or conflict to personal history and recollections meaningful to them.

The impetus for this song was Gabrielle Attra left a home, a cat, and a relationship. She’s worried about her cat and also whether to begin anew in the depths of winter.

Here are the lyrics for the song. 

I woke up
My immediate thought was
About the cats
It’s so cold
Not loving another
Would only hurt me

Stray cats
They might be frozen
Frozen or dead
It’s so cold
Not loving another
Would only hurt me

I moved out
He and I had
A cat we shared
It’s so cold
Not loving another
Would only hurt me

Last night
I played with another
I could adopt
It’s so cold
Not loving another
Would only hurt me

Feedback from the morning group included: 

I’m process-oriented and especially interested in creative processes, so I enjoyed experiencing our process unfold as we worked/played/sang together. Lois Anne

What an interesting, fun process to go through. Thank you Malcolm!! Sandy Weisman

What is Documentary Songwriting?

Documentary Songwriting goes beyond witnessing a person’s story. It transforms the spoken words into an art form – in this case, a song.

  • It’s a method of creating songs from spoken words. You don’t wait for inspiration.
  • It’s collaborative. Two or more people work together.
  • No musical knowledge is needed from the person who tells the story.
  • It’s a step-by-step process. It is flexible, but you still know what to do next.
  • The process may lead to a sense of emotional well-being.
  • The song can be shared and can cross boundaries.

Who uses it?

  • Community members and humanitarian musicians who say, “I want to help people hear and understand one another at a deeper level.”
  • People with little or no musical training who say, “I love music and I’d like to try to write a song from my heart, but I could use some help, please.”

For More Information?
Goto www.DocSong.org

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** No cats were frozen in the making of this song. We used a stunt double, who did get a bit chilly…but that’s her job!

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Gabrielle Attra is a writer in Midcoast Maine. She received a B.A. in Communication from Assumption College in Worcester, MA. and an M.A. in Communication from Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT. She writes about fashion and social behavior. She has a column on fashion for PenBay Pilot intended to explore the role of fashion in our lives.

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Kathrin Seitz teaches Method Writing in Rockport, New York City and Florida. She can be reached at kathrin@kathrinseitz.com or for more information see www.kathrinseitz.com.