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  • Writer's picturedjSwade

Lemon Cello!

A few days ago, I asked you to help me decide whether to compose a new song called "Rufus Butterfly" or "Lemon Cello." I love both ideas, but your clear favorite was "Lemon Cello." Sorry Rufus, but you'll have to wait for another day.

The possibilities for "Lemon Cello" are myriad. Of course, there's the liqueur limoncello. Pretty obvious. And lemons. They get kind of a bum rap. They're not so bad. In fact, I have great memories of summers and homemade lemonade. And the color is so vibrant and alive. Great stuff! Cellos are lovely instruments. Zuill Bailey, soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, teacher, and artistic director, has stated that the “... cello is the most perfect instrument aside from the human voice.” Wow! I am also intrigued by implications of combining citrus and melody. Citrus brings to my mind trees, fragrance, thick skins, pulp and sweet/sour. I can see these qualities in melody as well. Think of trying to create a "sweet/sour" sound or a composition that has a "thick skin."

With this new piece, I'm going about things a bit differently than I usually do. I typically have a melody in mind, or some words. At the very least, I have an idea that'll help guide the creation of the song. This is the first time I can remember using a title or phrase to get me going. It reminds me of when I was in high school. I was hanging out with a couple friends. We got into a conversation about starting a band, but none of us played an instrument. We didn't even know if any of us could sing. We didn't let that stop us. We quickly got to the first order of business, picking a name. I don't remember our decision and that's as far as it went.

I've already started assembling pieces and ingredients for the new song. I think the centerpiece is going to be a little guitar riff I've been playing around with for the past few days. I'm thinking of weaving it through song in three-part harmony. Will it be acoustic or electric? I'm not sure yet, but it'll be fun to figure it out. I've got a couple of new effects pedals I want to put to work too, so I should have a blast figuring out the texture of that part.

I love playing with words and this title/idea really opens up some great options. Once I knew "Lemon Cello" was next, I started jotting down little snippets and phrases. I want to populate the piece with some of those and I'm still deciding whether to sing them or speak them. Will there be a few phrases that loop, or will a complete poem unfold? What voice or voices will say those words? Even if it's my own voice, will I speed it up? Slow it down? Disguise it? I have many questions that'll be a joy to answer. I also want to slow this one down, possibly to around 75 or 80 beats per minute. Of course, since we're working with a cello, I think it'll be appropriate to have some stringed instruments in the mix, dontcha think?


I think this song will take shape fairly quickly. That's how it's feeling right now anyway. This is the part of the creative process I love the most. All these sounds, images and notions drifting through my head. Endless opportunities to create something beautiful, or at least fulfilling. I haven't messed anything up yet. I want to sustain this feeling forever, or at least keep doing it over and over again with each new song. And guess what? Nothing's stopping me from doing just that. So, I'll let the process work and savor it. At some point, you'll hear the result. And I hope you love it as much as I'm going to love putting it together.

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