Category: Sweet Auburn Magazine

Sweet Auburn Extra: Interview with Suzanne McDermott

July 13, 2023

We contacted Suzanne McDermott early this spring regarding her song, “Meditation at Mount Auburn Cemetery” which appears in Sweet Auburn Magazine 2023 Vol I.

Can you tell us, what first brought you to Mount Auburn and when was it?

When I was hired at MIT in January 1991 to support the Office of incoming President Charles Vest, I lived in an apartment in Belmont. I love to walk and explore neighborhoods and am fond of historic cemeteries. Once I discovered Mount Auburn Cemetery, I visited frequently during my time in the Cambridge area.

What inspires you about Mount Auburn Cemetery?

The lyrics to my song, Meditation at Mount Auburn Cemetery pretty much describe everything I find inspiring but in a word, beauty; the beauty of life on earth and human expression.

What would your advice be to a first-time visitor to the Cemetery?

Take time to wander without expectation, with reverent curiosity and a map in your pocket.

Watercolor painting of trees
Watercolor by Suzanne McDermott

If you could travel back in time, what person or persons buried or memorialized here would you like to have a conversation with?

It would be fun to have a long, leisurely afternoon and evening dinner party with an assortment of men and women particular to my personal interests from different eras.

If it had to be one person, I’d choose Randall Thompson. Rather than a conversation, I’d prefer to tag along with him for a few days, assisting in some capacity and sitting in on classes, rehearsals, performances, administrative duties, meals, and car rides. 

My second choice would be Abraham Maslow in a similar capacity.

I wouldn’t mind hearing Henry Wadsworth Longfellow recite Evangeline to a small private group.

How long did it take you to write the Mount Auburn song?

All my life.

How would you describe your music?

That’s really a question for an objective listener but essentially, songs for voice and guitar with intelligent, poetic, spiritually evocative lyrics.

Learn more about Suzanne!

Sweet Auburn Extra: Interview with Rat Tally’s Addy Harris

Sweet Auburn Extra: Interview with Rat Tally’s Addy Harris
July 13, 2023

There’s something really special about making a place of mourning really beautiful and accessible. It made death a little less scary for me I think. That you could be buried in a place that is so inviting to the living, and be apart of the world in that way still after you’re gone.

– Addy Harris

We contacted Addy Harris early this spring regarding her song, “Mount Auburn Cemetery” which appears in Sweet Auburn Magazine 2023 Vol I.

Can you tell us when you first visited Mount Auburn Cemetery?

It was probably 2016 or 2017 and it was magical.

Do you have a favorite place / monument / tree in the Cemetery?

I love the red maple trees. I just recently went this past fall and it was incredible. And I love sitting at the lake across from the Mary Baker Eddy Monument!

What would your advice be to a first-time visitor to the Cemetery?

 Grab a map at the front, and take every little path you can. There’s so much to discover there off the main roads. Every time I go I see something new. And don’t miss the view of Boston from the tower!

How long did it take you to write the Mount Auburn song?

I’m pretty sure I wrote it and recorded a demo in one day. That song really just wrote itself. I thought about the first time I went and how much I missed it and how I had been to so many places in my life, but nothing else really compared.

What is your songwriting process like?  How long have you been writing?

 I’ve been writing more seriously I’d say since college, probably about 8 or 9 years. My songs usually start with a single line or moment that I jot down and build around, or a short melody that comes to mind. I tend to write in phases where I’ll write a bunch in a few months and then nothing the next few haha.

Do you write the lyrics or melody first or together (I mean, does it come to you first in words or melody)?

 I’d say words are usually first. Sometimes I’ll have a melody in my head I love but I almost always change it around a bit to fit my lyrics. I rarely change lyrics to fit a melody! I’m really lyrics driven, and my songs are really built around the words.

How do you know when a song is finished?

Oh man I have no idea. It’s really just a feeling of completion. I think maybe when I know none of my lines were written as filler and they all fit together properly. But sometimes they aren’t DONE until it’s all recorded and produced! You can add things here and there even when I thought it was all finished when I initially wrote it.

Do you write more by logic or intuition, or some combination of the two?

Definitely a combination I’d say. Both of those things are kind of intertwined for me anyway.

Do you dream? Does any of your writing work present itself to you in dreams?

I actually dream so much. More than I’d honestly like to I think.  Sometimes I’ll write a song or a melody or something in a dream and I always forget.

What would you like your obit or epitaph to say?

I hope my obit mentions that I was a songwriter and a good friend.