My fourth Quarantine Sessions article features one of my original compositions, “After the Death of Boo Radley.” Below, I will explain how I came to write this song and some general thoughts about creating art of all kinds.
Original composition by Victor V. Gurbo. Featuring Mark Caserta on acoustic guitar and special effects. Music & Lyrics Copyright Victor Voccoli Gurbo 2012.
The Original Idea for After the Death of Boo Radley
Many years ago, I set out to compose a song similar to “Love Henry” – which I covered in an earlier Quarantine Session – and other classic folk murder ballads. In an attempt to reinvent the story, however, I set out to describe the murder in the past tense. I thought that telling the story of a murder in the past would put a sort of ghostly spin on the tale.
Unfortunately, my efforts were thoroughly unsuccessful. All paths led to a jumble of visuals and thoughts.
Refining the Song With Feedback
During the song-writing process, I shared it with a friend of mine who made a pastime of offering sometimes-unsolicited critiques of my work. Having already had my own qualms about it, I expected him to rip the draft to shreds. To my surprise, he instead offered some incisive analysis. I do not remember the exact words that he used, so I will have to paraphrase a bit.
My friend opined that my draft of the song was an astute nostalgia piece. He described it as a picture of someone looking back on a childhood backlit by rural America, before it was bled dry by the passage of time. In short, he described the song as painting a portrait of life after Boo Radley; after the mystery and magic is gone from life.
After thinking about my friend’s analysis, I went back and scrapped over half of what I had written. The final version of the song, which you can listen to above, was not what I planned when I set out to write it. Fortunately, it was much better than my earlier drafts. I had not performed the song in a while, but decided to kick to my good friend Mark Caserta for our fourteenth Quarantine Session.
One thing that I find most interesting about making art is that I never know whether the final product will look like my original idea. On occasion, I start from an idea and stick to it through completing the project. But, regardless of how closely a project hews to its blueprint, it is important as an artist to remain flexible. The priority in creating art is not fidelity to a plan, but fidelity to the work itself. Art done right should stand on its own and outlast the artist. Sometimes, a second set off eyes can help an artist discover what is best for his or her budding art piece.
I hope you enjoyed the article and video. Please follow this link to read and listen to my earlier Quarantine Sessions posts. I look forward to posting more Quarantine Sessions articles in the near future.