Song a Day for a Month Concert

Alan Westby, Librarian, Art, Music & Recreation Department,
coffee cup with musical notes as steam and the text Song a Day for a Month Concert
Song-A-Day for a Month is a community of individuals who challenge each others' creativity in an interesting way. Twice a year—in January and July—participants attempt to compose "one fresh song per day" for a month, and then upload them to the project's website. Early the month after the song writing, participants present a few of their new songs in a concert open to the public.
The Song a Day project was founded in 2014 by Grammy Award-winning composer and musician Alex Wand, and his brother Paul. Wand has degrees from the University of Michigan and CalArts where he studied with composers Bright Sheng, Ulrich Krieger, and Wolfgang von Schweinitz. As an instrumentalist, Alex specializes in stringed instruments, including guitar and sitar. In his songwriting, he often employs storytelling, influences from non-Western music and alternate tuning systems. He performs with such ensembles as Three Thirds, Desert Magic, and Partch, and at festivals including REDCAT, MicroFest, and the Xinghai International Poetry Festival. Alex's compositional work includes soundtracks for short films and a documentary.
Woody Guthrie, half-length portrait, facing slightly left, holding guitar
Woody Guthrie holding guitar, 1943. Courtesy of Library of Congress

Wand was first inspired to attempt this challenge when he heard the story of the creation of Woody Guthrie's Columbia River collection. With the goal of promoting the dams on the Columbia River, the federal government hired Woody Guthrie to travel the Pacific Northwest in May 1941, and write songs inspired by the subject. The goal was to create public enthusiasm for the project which was facing fierce opposition from privately-owned power companies. Impressed by the beauty of this area of the country, Guthrie wrote 26 songs in a one-month period, including some of his most popular titles, such as Roll on Columbia, Grand Coulee Dam, and Pastures of Plenty. Guthrie commented, "I pulled my shoes on and walked out of every one of these Pacific Northwest Mountain towns drawing pictures in my mind and listening to poems and songs and words faster to come and dance in my ears than I could ever get them wrote down."

The Columbia River Ballads project inspired Wand to attempt to write a song a day himself for a month. With the plan of creating a community of like-minded creative people, Alex and his brother developed the Song-a-Day website in 2014. In the Song-A-Day project, the definition of 'song' is used deliberately loosely in order to allow a wide variety of participation. In addition to voice & lyrics, instrumental pieces, electronic pieces, field recordings, spoken-word pieces have all been submitted under the project's umbrella. The eclecticism of music written for the project allows participants to gain influence from genres outside their usual musical interests. Besides individual compositions, some participants have created and submitted collaboratory works.

Anyone is welcome to participate in the exercise. The project gives musicians a chance to share their creativity with other people without the pressure of showing a polished, finished product. In the spirit of the project, fleeting ideas and fragments are welcome. Participants communicate with and encourage each other during the month by commenting on each others' contributions. In the first Song-A-Day, 26 participants wrote over 400 songs. To date over 4,000 songs have been written as part of the project.

On Sunday, August 6, Central Library will be hosting the eighth bi-annual "Song a Day for a Month" Concert. Join us in Meeting Room A, from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.