Lorraine Feather: I Love You Guys

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"As with any close relationship, be it a spouse, friend or collaborator, we all hold out a fervent hope that as our hierarchy of needs change, we can all grow and change together in some parallel way. Lorraine and I have been quite lucky in this matter. We've been writing together for close to 30 years, going back to the first major recording of one of our songs, 'Big Fun' by Barry Manilow, for his album Swing Street and the subsequent CBS television special, Big Fun On Swing Street. In those days, the music came first and then the lyrics, often [with each of us] working our part out on our own. We continued writing all through the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s, at which time I became quite busy as a TV composer, so songwriting took a backseat for me for the next ten years.

"As Lorraine began to write her own albums featuring herself as an artist, our method of working changed. She came up with the lyrics first and we started to sit in the same room, working out these tunes together, at least until we had a substantial part of the song written. Then I would develop the arrangement more until the next time we got together. I think sitting in the same room and hashing these ideas out can only occur with two people who've worked together for many years and have established a vulnerable and trusting relationship.

"I like to think of our collaborative efforts as growing deeper with each new project. However, I've always felt that our writing over the years has been quite emotional. What I love about it, and feel is quite unique about Lorraine's lyric writing, is that it covers the whole landscape of the human condition. Besides the humor, wit, literary and poetic intelligence, Lorraine's lyrics are at the same time full of longing, yearning, comfort, acceptance, sensuality, and even fear. So I like to think of our songs as an ongoing development of our talent and skills that is hopefully growing deeper with each new project.

"As for the song 'Hearing Things,' it's written in 6/4 time but does not have a waltz feel. The rhythm, as I learned later, is a Peruvian style called a Lando. The accent is on beat 1 and 5, so it has the feel of 1234, 12. I feel the music and the lyric of this piece create a very mysterious, almost existential mood. Lorraine and I decided to have a chorale at the end of the song, where the rhythmic feel becomes more waltz-like. Notice how beautifully Lorraine's overdubs blend on the different lines in the mostly 2-part but sometimes 3-part harmony."

When asked if he saw any other differences between Feather's work on Attachments and her last recording, Tales of the Unusual, Arkin said, "I only see small differences between the two projects. Mainly from a music and lyrics standpoint, there seems to be more of a spatial aspect to Attachments. There's more instrumental 'blowing' or improvisation in this album, and I feel the compositions contain more of what I would call positive and negative space, meaning more spread out. I feel this album really breathes and the listener has more room to experience the project as a whole. Also I believe the subject matter is more universal, [something] most people can identify with."

I asked Arkin if he ever employed a device that I sometimes use myself when writing: which is, reading lines I have written out loud to myself, in order to hear the sound of the words as opposed to the meanings of those same words, in order to make adjustments when sounds or cadences could be at odds with the sentence's meaning, potentially causing confusion for the reader. In my case it would result in changing the vocabulary or grammar to suit the communication; in his case, it would mean adjusting the composition to suit Feather's lyrics.

"I do a similar thing to you, although my version is I sing the lines to myself. It seems the choices I make as I'm composing happen on a subliminal level, somewhat outside my conscious awareness and thought process. If a melody works for me, it's usually because it feels right emotionally and seems to feel in sync with the lyrics. Some songs kind of compose themselves, while others need rewriting or revisiting. Sometimes a change in a song will reveal itself after a writing session, in sort of a visceral way, kind of like having a splinter in your finger that will irritate you until you take care of it. Changes in the writing process can take place by the piano, but often come to me while I'm doing something completely unrelated, like taking a shower or driving my car. Lorraine and I discuss the lyric before I start writing the melody, so we're usually in sync as to what the meaning of the song is about."

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