Inspired in Oakland: Immersion Composition Society- Playtime!

It’s a sunny day here in O-town and I’m insanely crazy excited because it’s ICS day!!  Immersion Composition Society or ICS is when songwriters sequester themselves away to write songs all day.  On our own, we write as many songs as we possibly can, record them roughly at home, then get together that night for a listening party. And we only listen.  ICS started in Oakland, and has now gone global. ICS is the single greatest thing that has helped my songwriting over the years because it is all about:

  1. Setting time aside to write;
  2. Creating space & playtime with the Muses;
  3. It’s all about quantity- how fast can you write lots of songs;
  4. Kicking the critic to the dust, no editing;
  5. Playtime with the Muses.

I’m redundant with the Playtime part because besides leaving the critic in the dust, creating has to have space to be playful, silly, & outrageous too. It has to fly & float and take us wherever. And honestly- I may write 10 songs in one good ICS day: 8 of them are crap.  But the more you do this- set time aside for your art- the more quality comes out of those sessions.  Probably half of my music now is written in these kind of ICS days.  I do ICS solo too -but getting together with other artists around town is pure awesomeness.

I’ve been thinking about my own struggle lately with the poetry challenge (30 poems in 30 days); why some nights does it feel like work to finish a poem whose inspiration came so sweetly? I get to the 11th hour and I’m stressing about…edits…the sound…is it good enough. But this isn’t what the prompt is about: the month of April, for poets everywhere, is supposed to be when we set aside time & space to play with our poetry Muses; to invite them close, daily; to listen and respond to them; to actually write. We are meant to be Oracles; to spout & spew, to play with our art & to just put it out there! And isn’t it true- that for all of us, that in our best work- you can actually feel that playfulness?

So suddenly, I get this now- going into my ICS songwriting day: its about playtime. Where is all this crazy joy coming from? I think I’m excited b/c songwriting is pure bliss in general- but really, I haven’t set time aside to just creatively play since writing songs for my last album.  How can we keep our art fun? By setting aside time to play with our craft- to spill paint, to make junk, mistakes, outtakes; to work so fast that who knows what will happen.

You can edit later.

Here is an example of a song born out of my second ICS years ago. I meant to go back & change the words; I was restless for something to happen.  I could feel my Muses hovering that day, but couldn’t figure out what to do with the energy. It came out fast! A punk song.  Later with the band, I slowed it way down, imagined myself in a NYC lounge, modulated a bit, and gave it to a jazz band.  It’s on my new album. 😉


Who knows what instruments or genres I’ll be with today.  But I stocked up on food last night; instructed all to ignore me. I just need to find my mics for recording. And if that fails- I will record old skool to an old boom box!  or my phone!  Haha! (don’t let the demons of technology distract you…)

I give myself permission to be silly, off beat, ridiculous, b/c the clock is ticking. And now, I can feel the Muses come closer…

I wonder, what is the first thing my Muse would say to me? This will be my first prompt for the day.  Oh wait…I can hear it already….

“And where have YOU been?!”    This will be my first song title of the day.  😉

Author: tara linda

musician, poet, art and jewelry-maker

3 thoughts on “Inspired in Oakland: Immersion Composition Society- Playtime!”

  1. i really like this idea; it’s universally true that in order to create quality work you can’t just “wait” until the Muse strikes you, you must make ample opportunity for that to happen!

    1. Yes. It adds some discipline to the mix and just widens the opportunities to create. After awhile- it becomes closer to habit. I would imagine writing books is like this, yes?

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