ABOUT

Our Work

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Documentary Songwriters is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation. We seek to increase empathy in the world by co-writing authentic songs with communities in crisis.

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What are three core qualities of a

Documentary Song?

Authenticity

The song arises from the spoken words of an individual’s lived experience.

Accessibility

The melody and words can be sung by people without trained voices.

Artistry

The song expresses a shared exploration of ideas and suggestions from its Story Source and Teaching Artist.

Meiyue Liu | Camden, Maine

“It is a fascinating process to see one of my very personal stories transformed into a song. For my refrain, every time I sing it, I become more grateful. Hearing other people sing along with me makes me feel more connected to them.”

More about a documentary song's central collaborators

The Story Source

Recounts a personal experience

Generates the very beginnings of a melody

Contributes ideas and feedback throughout the complete writing and arranging process

Helps ensure that the song that emerges conveys the emotions of their story

The Teaching Artist

Listens deeply to the story source

Leads them through the DocSong process

Contributes ideas and feedback throughout the complete writing and arranging process

Provides songwriting expertise and perspective to ensure that the general listener might understand and feel the emotional message of the song

Both the Story Source and the Teaching Artist provide ideas and collaborate. Together, they explore different ways to shape the song and give it an identity that is authentic to the story source and accessible to future listeners.

HOW IS A
DocSong made?

The seven steps of the Documentary Songwriting Method

Documentary songwriting is a unique, step-by-step method of co-writing music that fosters empathy, boosts self-confidence and strengthens community. It demystifies creativity and allows someone with no musical background to express themselves through high-quality songs.

  1. Draw forth a story
  2. Distill into a free verse poem
  3. Shape into lyrics
  4. Design a melody for one verse and a refrain
  5. Choose chords
  6. Edit the remaining verses to fit the melody
  7. Make a live recording
WHAT DO
DocSongs do?

Documentary Songwriting builds connection among people, reduces loneliness and frees up creativity.

It has been used to enhance understanding between Turkish and Greek Cypriots, to tell the stories of refugees from the Middle East seeking asylum in the Netherlands, and to tell women’s #MeToo stories. Our projects have been featured on TEDx and on NPR’s Morning Edition. Our Teaching Artists bring the world’s stories to us and share the stories of our communities with the world through song. 

WHO ARE
DocSongs for?

Participants of the Documentary Songwriters programming gain self-esteem when they can turn their experiences into song. Documentary Songwriters trains Teaching Artists (TAs) in the Documentary Songwriting Method and supports them in their completion of various projects with organizations worldwide

TAs guide participants through the process of generating lyrics, melody and chord structures, and participants need no prior musical experience. Through completing these projects, TAs also learn valuable skills that help them in all aspects of their careers, including deep listening skills, effective communication practices and the ability to plan, implement and follow through with complex projects.