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Composer’s Notes

Randy and I started writing songs together somewhere around the mid to late 90’s. Honestly, I don’t remember the exact year. We had both written songs with others prior to working with each other. We found each other on line, in the early days of the internet. I think the site was called “The Muses Muse.” Although I had written both music and lyrics in my pre-Randy days, I was starting to find myself moving away from writing lyrics and more toward the music/melody. When I went online in search of a new creative partner, I specifically wanted a lyricist.  One of us answered the others’ ad and he sent me some lyrics for a song called “Starlight”.  I wrote some music for it, made a demo tape and sent it to him. We’ve been writing that way ever since. (except that I don’t make tapes anymore, and I don’t have to send anything in the mail.)

     Whenever I receive a song from Randy, the first thing I do I read the lyrics over a few times, and absorb everything I can get from them. They are usually very complete in a number of ways, theme/form/structure, so ideas usually come to me very quickly. I start to feel things like genre/tempo/, at this point I may also start to feel an arrangement style.  Like reading any great poetry, the expressions and emotions, are very visible even at this point. Randy is very good at using language in a creative way. His songs are rich with imagery and metaphor. Besides being a brilliant poet, Randy has a great knowledge of song structure, so his lyrics always arrive in a very song friendly format. There are times when I might make suggestions for changes to the lyrics, usually just for the purpose of making a word or line fit in with the meter of the music. Occasionally I have suggested that a verse might make a better chorus or bridge. I always run those things by Randy, and let him make the final decisions and changes on anything related to the lyrics. In return he trusts me to make the musical choices. He certainly can offer musical suggestions, and on occasion has, but mostly we stick to our roles and responsibilities within the partnership, I respect and trust him with the lyrics and he returns the feelings for me regarding the music.

     When I have my ideas roughed out in my head, and can visualize how I want the song to sound, I then take it to my studio (using the term studio very loosely) and there I began to experiment with a guitar or keyboard to help flush out the arrangements. At this stage, the ideas can still change, and often do, right up to and including the recording process. I make a demo recording for every song we write together.

    The “All We Need To Know” project was born out of our desire as writers to create a concept project. We had written a lot of songs together to that point, but we began talking about wanting to make an album that was more than just a collection of songs. We wanted all of the songs to have their own identities, but be related by an overall concept within the album, and importantly it should have thematic relevance to humanity and or the world. Ideally, the songs would also both inspire, and entertain. Most of the songs in the project were written by the process described above.

     The songs were mostly written in the order that they appear on the album. The first one was “Hypothetical Pollution”, followed by “Shadows on a Wall”….etc.  I think each lyric that Randy wrote inspired the next one and so on.  Interestingly, the title song “All We Need To Know”, was one of the last ones written, and its conception deviated somewhat from the usual writing format. We had written a song, prior to the beginning of this project, where the words and music did not fit together. Randy sent me the lyrics, and rather than creating new music for them, (as I should have) I tried to use music that I had already written. I really liked the tune, and thought I could weld it all together. Fortunately, Randy also liked the tune, and re-wrote new lyrics to fit.

     The song “Edge of Infinity”, was, I think, the last song written for the project. We felt the project needed another song, and one that could take you on a journey, within the journey of the project, something climactic, before the final song. We discovered an older piece we had written, that was unused. In fact, it was just a verse set to music. We both loved it, and the final two words of the verse were, “endless sea”. We decided to use it as a chorus for the new song. Randy brilliantly created verses and a bridge for this song. I never asked him this, but I think “endless sea”, is a metaphor for “infinity”. And although the word “infinity” only appears once at the end of the song, the power of this one word drives not only this song, but it leaks into aspects of the entire project. This song was the most difficult for me to write the music for, partly because I was writing from the chorus out. Typically, it would be the other way around. It’s probably my favorite of the project. (but that could change if you ask me at another time)

         I would love to see how far this project could extend if set loose on the world. In its simplest form, it is a concept album, lyrics and music, vocals and instruments. I ‘ve always thought it could be so much more. I would love for it to be presented with a complement of artistic mediums such as, dance, visual art, traditional art (painting/sculpture), light, theatric art…..

I believe this project has surpassed our original goals for it. I think I can speak for both Randy and I and say that we are both extremely proud of it.

Love is, “All We Need to Know”


Jim Shaw

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