- Maria Montessori
We are often too preoccupied with our own ideas, with what we are planning to say, to pause and truly listen to the ideas of other members of our group. Listening is crucial. It can be a gateway to empathy, and empathy is one of our most important abilities when it comes to any type of collaboration, but especially a creative endeavor. For to truly understand another we must not only know what they think; we must also understand what they feel. Listening skills develop quite naturally during the songwriting process, and can be enhanced and expanded with the proper attention. Empathy, too is naturally facilitated via the songwriting process. Melody, harmony, rhythm all affect us emotionally. As the music moves us we begin to discover that other members of our community are being moved emotionally in the same way. We begin to understand ourselves and each other more deeply as we combine, evaluate and experience an awareness of both thought and emotion.
Harmony, too, highlights the importance of combining individual elements that retain their integrity, their individual voice yet unite to create something more. Another component of collaboration of course is coordination. We find ways to integrate our individual voices so that each supports and enhances the other. Rhythm, both metaphorically and practically, performs this function. Rhythm unites us and coordinates us in a concrete, physical way; music moves us physically as well as emotionally. The structural components of a song: lyric, chorus, bridge, etc. also provide a method to organize our ideas, providing a construct for our creative output.
In order to realize and experience these concepts the group as a whole and each individual in kind must attend to one another. Having a strong sense of self and an appropriate respect for our own ideas and input must be paired with genuine attention to and appreciation of the ideas and feelings of the other individuals with whom we are collaborating.
Fostering unity not uniformity leads to creative collaboration
•A common cause or goal
Beyond these elements optimal collaboration should create a result or process in which all participants are left better off; otherwise the potential exists for the condition to deteriorate to exploitation. Lee Iacocca has been famously quoted as saying "lead, follow, or get out of the way." I would replace that simply with "participate." Having a voice, both figuratively and literally illustrates that your contribution counts, your participation matters. Additionally, collaboration need not result in homogenization but in harmony.
Melody shows us that each note, true to itself, plays a part in creating a cohesive whole greater than the sum of it's parts.
Using the power of songwriting to raise self and social awareness and as a call to action.
One of the first ways that music calls us to act is to dance; to move in concert with rhythm and melody. It is not uncommon for our bodies to respond involuntarily with the tap of a foot or a nod of the head. A song provides further impetus because there are words attached; words that can inspire and motivate. We hear, we imagine, we empathize, we participate, we are moved to act. Such is the power of a song.
As the process of globalization continues to produce not only increasingly interdependent economies, but increasingly intertwined societies, and as new technologies break down the physical barriers between both cultures and individuals we have an increasing need for innovative approaches to understanding ourselves, our neighbors, wherever they might be located, and how we can live, work, play and achieve together in harmony. Further, as we continue to delegate more and more logic-driven processes to software applications there will be an increasing need for the human component to provide imagination, creativity, interpersonal skills, and the ability to inspire and motivate. "We predict that people who are good at idea creation will continue to have a comparative advantage over digital labor for some time to come, and will find themselves in demand." - Brynjolfson and McAfee The Second Machine Age
As we move ever closer toward this global community we may ask ourselves: How does one connect within a community? How does one find their unique place, their voice, their role or roles, their integrated yet individual identity; develop a healthy pride while developing and expressing respect and appreciation for the contributions, opinions, skills, and goals of others? That balance is nowhere more beautifully expressed than in music, especially in the process and result of songwriting; each piece adding value, each voice unique yet supportive; one with the other woven together to create a harmonious synergy. Our voices need not cancel each other out nor culminate in discord, rather they have the potential to come together to create a symphony of complimentary elements.
Oursongs™ uses collaborative songwriting as a way to explore a variety of concepts including, but not limited to: community, culture, identity, democracy and the interplay of creative self-expression and effective, practical cooperation. Via rhythm, melody, harmony, lyric composition and the other components involved in understanding music, music composition, and songwriting specifically, these larger concepts are uniquely demonstrated. The exploration and practice of songwriting with this conscious focus helps us to address and understand issues such as the following: How do we successfully and effectively interact with other cultures and individuals; how do we celebrate our own culture and identity while at the same time recognizing and taking advantage of the enormous opportunity for enrichment that other cultures offer?
Moreover, the lyric component of songwriting provides a forum for the generation, exploration and development of ideas and a uniquely engaging platform for expanding vocabulary and developing a deeper understanding of language and the versatility of expression it can command. Song lyrics, much like poetry, often employ metaphor and require both inference and interpretation. Other types of lyrics require a strong understanding of narrative. It has been well documented (SASI 4-year-study) that the benefits of this type of program go well beyond students' art skills. Researchers found an 8% improvement in English Language Arts test scores over the control schools, and a 9% edge in Mathematics. Absenteeism also declined, and students who had lost their connection to school — something that happens all too frequently in middle school — rediscovered their self-confidence and their interest in learning.
Finally, the process is engaging. It is by its nature enjoyable; a joyful experience. The acts involved in the songwriting experience, of expressing ourselves both musically and lyrically are inherently fulfilling. Students come away not only with new skills and deeper understanding, but with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.