This week on All Songs Considered, we grapple with the alchemy of creation — the myriad ways a musician gets from blank page and empty studio to a full sound and lyrics that ring true. We were inspired in part by a show Bob saw recently by Magnetic Fields front man Stephen Merritt, where he performed 26 songs, each based on a letter of the alphabet. (Merritt, whose projects are often governed by external limitations, claims that his best-known project, 1999's monumental triple album 69 Love Songs, took him only a year to write.)
The seven songs on the show (one is a collaboration between a drummer and a pair of remixers) follow on that theme: Each posits a means of making magic out of circumstance. For one group, the key was stripping away ambition and returning to a single voice. For others, sparse hometowns, the ghosts of...
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