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**Please note: Mirko went on a hiatus that never ended. These things happen. He seems to have disappeared into the ether and his e-mail address is no longer functioning. If you happen to be in touch with him at some point, please do let me know as I'd very much like to reach him. However, until further notice, he has been removed as a columnist though his articles are still accessible from the articles section of this site. He did a wonderful job while he was here and I'm extremely grateful to him for all he offered the visitors to The Muse's Muse. If he returns, I'll certainly let you know. --Jodi

By Mirko Ruckels

Hi, my name is Mirko, and like the rest of you, I call myself a songwriter. It's a strange title, and an even stranger profession, with very sporadic pay (unannounced royalty cheques from overseas arriving in the mail a year after a project), very strange contemporaries (nocturnal people with moonlight tans who have lunch at night), a very high song wastage rate (try writing 50 songs and only selecting 10, I dare you...), and constant rewriting (your draft is your best friend), but let me say that I absolutely love songwriting...when I don't absolutely hate it. OK, the love outweighs the hate, but it can be frustrating at times. That's why I have a special little motto which I use during the difficult times that helps me a lot- "Listen backwards." No, this doesn't mean I get out Led Zeppelin IV and play it backwards, listening for satanic messages and references to obscure types of biscuits, it means that I look at the lives and crafts of previous generations of songwriters to help me with my own music. This can mean jealously spying on current writers, such as Tori Amos, or going backwards to John Lennon, Johnny Mercer (does "Over the rainbow" ring a bell?), Debussy, Mozart, Bach (going waaay back...) and back to the days when western music as we know it first started in the Roman Catholic Church, the days of chants and plainsong. You can take all sorts of ideas and inspiration from these different styles of music and incorporate it into your own. I don't mean that you should do your next song on a harpsichord, I mean that you can listen to the way Bach built his melodies and learn how to write a brilliant melodies, watch his voice leading and harmonic choices.

For a lot of pop\rock songwriters, the source of inspiration for their writing seems to disappear in a puff of smoke at anytime before 1955. Before this is seen as a wasteland to the average songwriter. They can't relate to anything without guitars. What's worse, many of today's songwriters only listen to music that is current. This can lead to a very stagnant, interchangeable style. It's important to listen to current music, but it is even more important to understand how music has developed, and how you fit into the scheme of things. My column will explore different generations of writers over the gulf of time, and draw ideas that we can use in our songs today. The history of music becomes much more exciting to some people when they realize that Beethoven and Nirvana share not just very similar harmonic and melodic language, but similar ideological approaches to music as well.

A short bio

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A short bio:
Mirko Ruckels is a songwriter with BMG publishing, Australia, who has written music for several international television shows. He sings, writes and plays guitar in a pop band called Ultragene. He is currently completing an arts degree at the University of Queensland with a double major in music and a single major in English and cultural studies.

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