Prompt 80: Sing from a common sentence.

Lately, I (Jascha) have been obsessed with Paul Simon, a peerless American songwriter. Here’s what he says, in an interview from the early 1990s, about the delicate task of writing the first line of a song:

“How you begin a song is one of the hardest things. The first line of a song is very hard. You want a first line that has a lot of options, to get you going. Like a road opening out, not closing in. It’s good to start with something that’s true. Something simple and true, that has a lot of possibilities.”

If you go back and look at his songs, you can see that he takes his own advice. So this week, let’s make it easy on ourselves. Let’s use some of the most common sentences in the English language, randomly selected by the magic of the Internet, so spur us on into spontaneous song.

Your mission (should you choose to accept it):

1) Go to, a list of common English sentences, randomly selected every time you visit.

2) Read the first sentence aloud. That is the first line of your song.

3) Sing your song, starting with the first line. (more…)

Prompt 79: Endings. And Beginnings.

Your correspondent—Amado, today—is about to go through some pretty knarly changes. Welcome changes, most welcome indeed. But pretty fundamental. Putting a bookmark in this book, setting it aside, and picking up another that has long been set aside, bookmarked in its place.

Some of our participants are about to, next week, head off to the Omega Center for a week of singing with the teachers at the head of our Circlesinging practice. I know from experience, it can be life-changing.

It’s (almost) never too late. There’s almost always tomorrow. 26,299 days out of 26,300 (on average), there’s tomorrow. And this Truth reminds us to pursue your true life’s work, no matter where you are in your life—but don’t delay getting started!

Your Prompt: Sing about endings, and new beginnings. Perhaps you can recall a time in your life when one chapter ended, and it opened the way for another to start. Perhaps there is some aspect of your life that is in this state right now. Sing it. (more…)

Prompt 78: Sing these hands.

This week we return to a visual prompt. And … here it is:


Your task is simply to use the image as a jumping off point for singing. (more…)

Prompt 77: Context, Motif, and Melody

Here’s getting a little nuts-and-bolts. Maybe these concepts are meaningful and useful to you, maybe they’re just a distraction. But we’ll present them, and you can decide what to do about it.

Sometimes, when we make a part, it isn’t so much brilliant in its own right, but it exists to set up some kind of musical context that other parts can easily co-exist with. Motors and Interlocks often are like this, when we’re singing in a group. Other times, a part we make commands attention for the brief while it’s around. Memorable, maybe a bit of a fanfare, though not necesarily melodic. And then there’s one more kind on discussion for today—the kind with longer tones that takes the listener through a discourse with a beginning, middle, and end, even if it’s a looped bit.

This week, consider the degree to which this way of describing parts is meaningful or useful to you, and then we’ll sing about it!

Your Prompt: Make a piece that has in it contect parts, motif parts, and melodic parts. Gain a sense for how the different kinds of parts function in your piece, what they do for you and for the overall sound. (more…)

Prompt 76: Gentle With Yourself

Have you ever committed yourself to something? Really dedicated yourself to a new daily practice, or a New Year’s Resolution, or a task you really need to finish by a certain time, or to consistently serving a community of people who’ve come to rely on you? Sure you have, one of those things, or something like them.

Have you ever fallen short of your commitments, your ideals?

Sure you have.

Consider again the poem “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver. There’s something in it that reminds us that we’re human. That—being human—is something paradoxically humble and awe-inspiring at the same time.

So let’s not be too hard on ourselves for our stumbles and our failings. Let’s begin again, because only if you quit have you failed.

Your Prompt: Sing a song that is gentle with yourself. Sing a song that forgives yourself. Whatever is in your recollection that needs gentleness (and perhaps even a little redemption), grant yourself that gift, and give it to yourself with song. (more…)

Prompt 75: Move and sing.

So often, we just stand and sing. But your voice lives in your body. So it’s no wonder that, when you focus on moving your body in new ways, new music comes out of it.

Teaching a class on “Improvising from Folk Songs & Dances” this summer, with my wonderful co-teacher Diana Yourke, I have seen how much music is liberated when the body is invited to move in its own way.

So this week, let’s experiment with moving and singing at the same time. Let’s see how deeply movement and vocalization are connected. (more…)