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Writer’s Studio at James Clemens produces concept album

James Clemens students Dylan Neal and Klifton Riley arrange music to Riley's lyrics for the Writer's Studio concept album. (CONTRIBUTED)
James Clemens students Dylan Neal and Klifton Riley arrange music to Riley’s lyrics for the Writer’s Studio concept album. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Clay Combs’ Writer’s Studio ‘translated’ lyrical poetry into song lyrics and recorded a concept album – a yearlong labor at James Clemens High School.

For their poetry unit, the Writer’s Studio “wanted something grand. The studio album was created,” Combs said.

First, they wrote in varying forms, working with rhyme and structure. They added and analyzed song lyrics, searching for “a common piece. And it was subtlety and simplicity,” Combs said. “The Power of Simplicity” became their mantra.

Next, they brainstormed and debated an album theme and negotiated on “The Significance and Symbolism of Color in Dreams and Nightmares.” They chose 11 colors for the songs’ messages.

Dividing into groups, “The ‘Dreams’ wrote 11 songs with positive connotations for each color. The ‘Nightmares’ found the dark aspect of the same colors, Combs said about the 11-track discs.

Combs brought his three guitars, a bass and drums, and students brought ukuleles and keyboards. “The Dream songs were more upbeat, while the Nightmare songs were in a more minor key,” he said.

They recorded rough demos, revised and recorded at James Clemens. Several students played instruments and sang for their own songs. The album’s genres include rock, spoken word, country, pop and hip-hop.

Next, journalism teacher Daniel Whitt mastered tracks in his home recording studio in Athens. Combs uploaded songs and album cover to Dropbox.

In “Cool Hues,” Klifton Riley wrote: swirling cool hues / pooling together / in darkness residing, cracking like glass / the mosaic of life strangely tethered / unraveling slowly until I turn blue. To listen, visit dropbox.com/s/8au1uvt4z64ujow/Cool%20Hues.wav.

Lyrics to Ryan Day and Austin Redding’s “Blissful Exodus” include:  The calmness of your soul is telling me that we need to stay / Yet you just keep pulling me away / Every night before bed I lie, waiting for you to arrive / The thought of you running through my mind. To listen, dropbox.com/s/0lpglkmexa9t3dq/Blissful%20Exodus.wav.

“I’m unbelievably proud of this group. We created something completely unique, something they’ll share with their family now and their kids when they’re older,” Combs said.

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