Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Song Fu Statistics

Microsoft Excel Microsoft Excel OpenOffice.org CalcOpenOffice.org Calc

In the name of all that's anal retentive, I've compiled statistics for ALL of the Song Fu competitions. I have it in Excel and OpenOffice.org formats. If you're interested, bookmark this page. I'll keep it updated here.

UPDATE 2010.01.03: I've added a "% of Total Votes" tab. Now you can see how each song did relative to the others within a competition round. This eliminates misinformation that arises when comparing the raw votes of two rounds having different participation. (A song can have the most votes and do poorly, percentage-wise, compared to other rounds.) This makes it possible to do meaningful trend analysis.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Twelve Days of the Campaign

The Twelve Days of the Campaign.ogg The Twelve Days of the Campaign.mp3 (live demo - piano)
This is a ghost Song Fu; one of the things they were looking for this year was a Winter Holiday song that's not about the holidays. I'm thinking this one probably wouldn't meet the challenge on technical grounds. This is more of a parody than a brand new song, but nevertheless here it is. I also am a little late on my self-imposed deadline, but thought better of it when I realized that I'm not actually competing, had some other obligations, and had already done a YouTube vid and penned a Biography of a Song this week. Combined with my revised Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, this comprises the extent of my holiday songs for this season.

For those that aren't familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, the Dungeon Master (“DM”) is sort of the author and game referee. This is a conversation between me ("D") and my son Timothy ("T") (originally Will was going to do it, but Tim volunteered for the meager bribe of being allowed to open a Christmas present early).

The Twelve Days of the Campaign
dave & will leigh
D: Tim, let me tell you about this D&D campaign I'm in.
T: Is it good?
D: Yeah, it's great!
T: Well tell me about it! [music starts] Wait a minute? It's musical?
D: Yep.
On the FIRST day of the campaign my DM gave to me
A Deck of Many Things!
T: Isn't that a lot?
D: Not really.
On the SECOND day of the campaign my DM gave to me
Two spider gloves
and a Deck of Many Things!
T: Don't you mean gloves of spider climbing?
D: yeah, but that doesn't scan.
On the THIRD day of the campaign my DM gave to me
Three chain mail armor
Two spider gloves
and a Deck of Many Things!
T: You do know that's three Decks of Many Things so far, right?
D: Yeah. So?
On the FOURTH day of the campaign my DM gave to me
Four bags of loot
Three chain mail armor
Two spider gloves
And a Deck of Many Things!
T: OK, I sense a pattern. How bout we cut this Monty Haul campaign short. Just skip to the end.
D: you sure?

T: Yep
D: OK.
On the TWELFTH day of the campaign my DM sent at me
Twelve Chromatic Dragons!
Eleven Lich Lords!
T: what!
Ten Cyclops Fighters!
T: say again?
Nine Cave Trolls!
Eight Red Beholders!
T: now wait just a minute!
Seven Hill Giants!
Six Angry Orcs!
FIVE UNDEAD THINGS!
T: Aw, come ON!
Four bags of loot
Three chain mail armor
Two spider gloves
And a Deck of Many Things!
T: you suck.

So Long

This song is just a little weird. My lyricist, William, had noticed a little boy who was a dead ringer for a kid he'd known growing up. The boy was about the same age now as they were then, if you follow me. It hardly seemed possible, in that albino African-Americans aren't common. So he wrote these verses.

Around the same time I was reading a story by Harlan Ellison called "Jeffty is Five", in which not only does Jeffty never grow old, but Jeffty's world is equally unchanged. So, given the verses from William and an understanding of the concept from H.E., I finished the song. Here, this explains the concept:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffty_Is_Five

The song is simply an exploration of what it might feel like to always be a child. I know when I was young, I couldn't wait to be older. What if your birthday never comes?



Man! Look at that serious face! I'm really tempted to do that again, this time wearing a Guy Fawkes mask or something.

So Long
wmh - pre-1982

He was young when I was young
It seems I knew him long ago
And now I don't know him at all.
But he doesn't grow

And it's been so long
He doesn't grow
His day won't come
His life goes on
It's been so long
His eyes, they show
When death has come
Take me along.

Forever ever frozen in time
Escaping age for a life
He remains a child, remains behind
Still moving in my eye.

And it's been so long
He doesn't grow
His day won't come
His life goes on and on and on
And it's been so long
His eyes, they show
When death has come
Take me along.

The black boy with the white face
Who runs who hides who plays
Forever hidden in space
Still moving in one place.

And it's been so long
He doesn't grow
His day won't come
His life goes on and on and on and on and on...
And it's been so long
His eyes, they show
When death has come
Please take me along.
(So long, so long!)
Take me along
(So long, so long!)
Take me along

.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Twenty-Two

Twenty-two.mp3 (live demo - piano)

I'm watching the Song Fu competition with some interest. A few people said I should compete in such a thing, but honestly I think I may write too slowly to do it. So I'm going to simply try to see if I can do the challenges. It's not really a fair test because I've already seen the sorts of things that other people did for rounds one and two, and I've had two days of looking at both of those challenges plus the last one.

To give myself a better test, I'm going to try to do all three songs by next Saturday, though I'm not necessarily going to do them in the order the challenges were presented.

Here's my take on the second challenge, "Write a song about a number."


Twenty-Two
dfl - 13 Dec 2009

Twenty-two
We don't know each other well
But I've seen you in the hallway
As I check my mail
And I wonder if you're busy Friday night?
We could get to know each other, if that's alright
We could have some coffee, enjoy a talk, and then we'll say goodnight
I'll slip down the hallway to my room, go to bed, turn out the light
In the morning when I get the paper I will smile at you
And I'll say, "Good morning, number twenty-two!"
And you will smile at me
And you'll say, "Good morning, number twenty-three!"

.

Today's the Day (cover)

This is a rough cover of Inverse T. Clown's original song, "Today's the Day". I went for lowest common denominator with this one, hence simple guitar (the only kind I play), and I ignore most of the great figures that are in the original. I made some other changes to the tune (and esp. the bridge) appropriate to the genre. In every case where the lyrics are changed it's because I forgot the words and had to make something up quick, not because I thought I was improving it.

Also check out Edric Haleen's terrific cover of this song on InverseClown's YouTube channel.



Today's the Day
"Inverse T. Clown"

I had a dream last night
In which everything wrong in my life went right
And much to my surprise
It was a quick transition
It played out so vividly
That's it's hard to describe what it did to me
Suffice to say I took it
As a premonition

Today's the day I get a move on
Today's the day I change
Today's the day that I improve on
Who I am and everything I do:
Today's the day that I break up with you

Just stop and think about
All the times I gave in so that we'd work out
If you look at the score
I think I tip the balance
But you prob'ly think that's great
'Cause you take and you drain and manipulate
I guess every succubus
Is gonna have those talents

Today's the day that I get angry
Today's the day I fight
Today's the day that I harangue
The telling-off that's way past overdue:
Today's the day that I break up with you

Don't look at me like that
With your cute pouting lips and your big, sad eyes
You're pretty, but you're pretty much a bitch

It's time for you to see
That the world is the world universally
And nowhere does it say
That you can run my planet
So you take our history
And your need for control and co-misery
And brace yourself real good
Then go ahead and cram it

Today's the day that I'm the victor
Today's the day I win
Today's the day I do your sister
Here's a toast to starting life anew:
Today's the day that I wake up
It's time to say I've had enough
Today's the day that I break up with you

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Still Alive (cover)

Another Jonathan Coulton cover. It's Still Alive, the ending-credits song from the video game, Portal.



BorbaSpinotti got me thinking about doing this. It hadn't crossed my mind before because I really like the song as it's done in Portal, and it never occurred to me to re-interpret it. As it stands, other than mucking about with the dynamics I'm not doing anything to re-interpret the tune... it's just how I'd play the accompaniment if I'd written it, and its simple enough that most anybody could learn it. Instead, I decided to re-interpret the vocals, since I could never in a million years pull off GLaDOS, and Jonathan Coulton already simply sings it as a ballad. So I imagine that the Aperture Science labs are NOT run by the AI, GLaDOS. Instead, they're run by a real, live mad scientist. Then I cast Peter Cushing in the part. Then I throw in a little Bill Shatner sing-talking. I hope it works. It will sound better with practice, I'm sure.

If you're completely confused by all this talk of GLaDOS, read the Portal Wikipedia entry. Basically, it boils down to this: in Portal, you're the lab rat in a science experiment being conducted by a deranged computer.

Now, if you like the arrangement, and want to play it yourself, I teach you how here:

You'll need the lyrics and chords. You can get them HERE. Then check out the JoCo store on the same website and try out the other songs. Buy some.

The tutorial is appropriate to beginning musicians. More advanced pianists will quickly get bored.

It's the best angle I could get with that camera, nevertheless my hands get in the way of the keys, so I hope you get the idea. My fingering sucks in some places, so it's a case of "do what I say, not what I do." Use the fingering that's comfortable to you and keeps you out of trouble. As for myself, I don't think I've played a song exactly the same way twice, and probably won't ever. Things get added, subtracted, or shuffled around according to my mood and audience. So don't sweat the small stuff.

The important thing to remember is that you're a performer, not a tape deck, so make the song your own, and above all have fun with it. They call it "playing" an instrument for a reason.

Here's JoCo singing it.
And here's the song as it appears in the Portal ending credits.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Big Bad World One (cover)

This one's not funny, yet it's one of my very favorite Jonathan Coulton songs because it's just very simple and honest. Let's face it, anybody who's ever gotten tongue tied over the girl can relate to the sentiment: "She's so amazing I couldn't possibly rate. I might as well not try."

Go HERE for lyrics & guitar tabs, or get his Thing A Week version and donate to the starving artist from THIS LINK.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Future Soon (cover)

"The Future Soon" is by Jonathan Coulton. Having grown up geeky, I completely relate.

Go to jonathancoulton.com for lyrics, guitar tabs, or to donate to the starving artist. He'll appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Like Norman

This is really one of my favorite songs. Oh, yeah, I love this tune. I did it as a neo-spiritual. Theres a minor crescendo at "I once killed a man...", and things come to a real head in the last verse, where you've got strings, chorus, tho whole bolt of cloth, right up to the last word, where it just ends. The song is cut short, just like the life of the Inmate. It's impossible to hear it without getting a chill.

At least, that's how it is in my head. One of the biggest frustrations of being a composer without a band is that YOU don't hear what I hear. Nevertheless...

They say you should write about what you know. If that's true in every case, then how in the world are we qualified to write about Death Row? Because in a deeper sense, we're all on Death Row, with no possibility of parole. Try this: read the lyrics and think of it in terms of a metaphor for your father's death. We think of our parents as indestructible, and their deaths are the first real foreshadowing of our own mortality. This is when, like the Inmate, we see the Angels coming.

Now is that deep or what?




Like Norman

wmh - August, 2005

I live in solitaire like Norman
Truly he's a friend of mine
But I don't see the angels a-comin'
So Norman tells me that I am blind

Norman tells his great big stories
Mostly funny -- sad at times
If I could only be like Norman
I might escape these walls I climb

A promised land beyond the fences
Of which he speaks now 20 years
And says if not for all this muscle
These past mistakes would disappear

I once killed a man like Norman
I mean, at least that's what they say
But he could never harm another
I know him and it's not his way

I hear footsteps echo down the hall now
They've sent for Norman, absent stay
They say they've come to end the misery
Of all his victims here today

Alone in solitaire like Norman
Truly, once a friend of mine
But now I see the angels comin'
And here I am, just like Norman
Oh no!
Here I am, just like Norman
Oh, Lord!
Here I am.
Just like Norman

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

WavesAndWays.mp3 (live demo - piano)

Yes, I've succumbed to the lure of YouTube... mostly to post music for now, but I may find other uses for it. The channel is http://www.youtube.com/leighdf.

For now, I'm putting up some stuff that's already been posted as MP3s in this blog, but there's a new piece for the Christmas season, this rendition of Jolly Old Saint Nicholas.



As I mention in the video, August always gets me thinking about Christmas, because the USAF Band would practice their Christmas show in August in Washington, D.C. It was extremely good, and supremely entertaining, and more than a little bit surreal to sit on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial in the heat of Summer watching the band (more of an orchestra, really) performing Christmas Carols with the backdrop of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial behind them.

What I was thinking that particular August was that, since so many aspects of this religious holiday had been made secular, wouldn't it be fitting to recover, commandeer, or hijack some aspect of it that started out secular or materialistic and make it religious. So this wrote itself in just about no time at all. Here are the lyrics:

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas
dfl - August, 2005

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas
Lean your ear this way
Don't you tell a single soul
What I'm going to say
Christmas Eve is coming soon
Now you dear old man
Whisper what you'll bring to me
Tell me if you can

Johnny wants a pair of skates
Suzy wants a sled
Nelly wants a picture book
Yellow, blue and red
I want you to pray with me
To Jesus high above
Help me find a birthday gift
For the Lord of Love

And I want peace in Persia
And in old Jerusalem
I want everyone to welcome Him
When God comes home again
I want us to love one another
That's all I have to say
May peace and love surround us all
When we wake on Christmas day

[this reprise is preferably done by a choir, if you have one]
We pray for peace in Persia
And in old Jerusalem
We will welcome Him with open arms
When God comes home again
Let us love one another
What more is there to say?
May peace and love surround us all
When we wake on Christmas day

May peace and love surround us all
When we wake on Christmas day

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lazy

OK, they all can't be winners. This is just an audio doodle, really. One of those things you jot down in a notebook and find years later when randomly flipping through it.

I'll put up an MP3. Later.

Lazy
dfl - Aug 2003. 2nd verse added 11 Nov 2009

Well, I don't get drunk
I don't carouse
I stay at home
Don't rabble-rouse
And I've never once been tossed out of a bar
I wish I knew why it were so
But I'm a home-boy don't you know
And if it weren't for bein' lazy I'd go far.

Yes, if it weren't for bein' lazy I might find a cure for cancer
If I got up off my butt there'd be no question I couldn't answer.
Yes, the world would be a better place
And multitudes would shout my name
And everyone would know my face
I'd save the world and change the game
And nothing would ever be the same if it weren't for the fact
That I don't care to act.
Yes, I'm lazy to the core
I don't even want to sing this song anymore.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Before It Began

BeforeItBegan.ogg BeforeItBegan.mp3 (live demo - piano)

A couple of things happened with this one... first, William wrote the lyrics on Mother's Day, 1989, and I'm sure I got them soon after, according to my notebook. At the time I couldn't think of a thing to go with them, and I don't think there's any particular story behind the lyrics themselves.

Then last night this song was just laying on top of the pile of unfinished songs. About the same time I'd gotten an email from Deston saying that she enjoyed Waves and Ways and no one had ever written a song for "a Deston". Knowing full well what she meant, I thought instead about a song for Deston to sing... I mean, what good is a song about Deston for her enjoyment when she's got this really awesome voice she could use for mine? (smile when you read that) And while she has a very powerful soprano, I like it better when she tones it down to a more controlled alto.

So marry that thought train with these lyrics that were sitting in front of me at the time, and I thought there would be nothing better for it than a classic smokey-nightclub torch song... but one that had some nice powerful parts to be belted out along with the sultry parts.

So that was my thought process as I was putting a tune to this. My wife, Lisa, likes it a lot, and has adopted it as "her song", which I don't mind in the slightest... Music is like love: it's worthless if it's not shared. At least I know this song doesn't completely suck. I'm singing on this file... hopefully we can correct that soon.



Before It Began
wmh - Mother's Day, 1989

I wish I had the chance to say I love you again
I wish you weren't content in just being my friend
And if we had it all to do all over again
I'd still just be this human child afraid to pretend

It's safe to say it's over, 'cause I don't know what that means
As I dangle un-animated by my worn-out puppet strings
I really thought we had it, but what is the use
When two people forfeit love and won't acknowledge the truth

(Because) It's over, really over before it began
Destined to become something neither one of us could stand
I remember walking hand in hand
Alone after midnight before it began

I fell in love again just yesterday
Then this morning came and took it all away
Strung out on a high wire for all to see
My heart the famous casualty

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Waves and Ways

WavesAndWays.ogg WavesAndWays.mp3 (live demo - piano)

This was on top of the pile at lunch today, and when I glanced at it, it just had a tune. Sometimes it happens that way... I read a lyric and the tune is already there in my head. The rolling little piano intro was first. It's intended to remind you of water, and the chorus to remind you of crashing waves. Anyway...

Today is my sister's birthday. I tweaked the lyrics a little bit to give an homage to the Beatles (she was a big fan in her teens) and to add a reminder that this is a birthday song. Having grown up in Charleston, SC, it seemed appropriate to me to dedicate this song of the sea...

To Carrie.



Waves and Ways
wmh - 28 May 2006, dfl - 22 Oct 2009

It's not the way your ways have bound me
It's the way your smile surrounds me
It's the sunsets and the view
And it's the way that I love you

Be it Spring, Winter, or Fall
In any clime at all
The sun rises in the Summer sky
It's in your heart your beauty lies

And if we travel to the ocean
To witness breaking waves
You will go with me
But the memory stays
We can Let It Be...
As in younger days
As we watch the Waves and Ways

Over the waves there are ways
Through a fog bank or a haze
You can't sink a sturdy ship
Without an anchor or loose lip

It's not the way your ways have bound me
It's the rescue since you found me
Afloat in a sea of indecision
You're my lighthouse and religion

And if we travel to the ocean
To witness breaking waves
You will go with me
But the memory stays
We can Let It Be...
As in younger days
As we watch the Waves and Ways

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Two Wills

TheTwoWills.ogg TheTwoWills.mp3 (live demo - piano)

As to what this one's about, your guess is as good as mine
. William told me, or tried too... but my head exploded.

Then he asked me what genre this is, and I didn't really know, but said "
something like Reggae." (If it doesn't sound like that to you, it's because there's no instrumentation. Just trust me... in my head it sounds like that). Actually, with proper instrumentation this would probably be in the neighborhood of Third Wave Ska. That's a fusion of Reggae, Punk, R&B, and Big Band. Yeah, I know... sounds like some kind of bastard love-child, but it's kind of appealing, like a mongrel puppy.

Just so you know how different the drafts I post here are from what I actually have in my head, here's an example of the sound, kind of close to what I have in mind. Keep in mind that the sound can vary wildly from band to band. These guys are fairly typical (I think), but it can sound anywhere from gritty punk to Smash Mouth... the Jamaican heavy off-beat is the key. Anyway, keep that in mind when imagining background instrumentals and rhythm. I imagine it as not being too polished... sort of a "trashcan band" sound, with unusual instrumentation. For instance, where a lot of Ska bands would use brass, I'm thinking accordion. So in this song you can yank out the punk and some of the Big Band influence and replace it with Zydeco.

No, really.


The Two Wills
wmh - 2o November 2006

In my tiny workshop
I manufacture many stories
None of which is of the important kind
It could be the satisfaction that I receive
When I read other peoples' minds

Call it a mirrored self-portrait
Of memories and time
A life played out in dreams I guess
Through guerrillas and pantomime

But i
n my tiny workshop
I manufacture many stories
None of which is of the important kind
It could be the satisfaction that I receive
When I read other peoples' minds

I know you can't fool everyone
But Lord knows how I've tried
And when it comes down to faith and truth
I worshiped, I've dodged and lied

But i
n my tiny workshop
I manufacture many stories
None of which is of the important kind
It could be the satisfaction that I receive
When I read other peoples' minds

The two wills tug at one another
One is day, the other is twilight
Hunting down the devil darkness
But looking forward to the morning light

And i
n my tiny workshop
I manufacture many stories
None of which is of the important kind
It could be the satisfaction that I receive
When I read other peoples' minds

I read their minds
I read your mind
I read your mind
I read your mind

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ovin, You, Gene & Me

OvinYouGene&Me.ogg OvinYouGene&Me.mp3 (live demo - piano)

This one's another about William's childhood; in this case, summers on the coast in Savannah and Tybee island. It's a nice, simple Country tune.

My friend Gene Monroe died of Lou Gehrig's disease shortly after this was written. This song has nothing to do with him, but it does have his first name in it, and mentioned a lot of the sorts of things he liked. He couldn't do much for himself at the end, but he could listen to music, and he enjoyed this. That alone made it worthwhile.

Ovin, You, Gene & Me
wmh - 2 March 2006, for Della

Waiting all Winter for that seagull summer
With Fall out too far to see
There's only the salt breeze
Amidst quail filled pine trees
On the sunny rock shores of Soap Creek

And I can still see the gas glow
For miles from my window
A beckoning and warm sight to see
Soon silhouette shadows
Give way to the night
Quickly becoming childhood memories

Then when the tourists are all gone
My thoughts simply slide along
Sideways but straight as can be
To a laughter long lost
Captured and lying in wait
For Ovin, You, Gene & Me.

I recall events on a little river
It's currents flow swift through my mind
Even ever verging tides crashing on Tybee
Can't was away starfish lit dreams
Or the ebbing hourglass sands to the sea

I truly hate what silence sounds like
It's deafening to me
Way beyond blue, yet under the shade tree
There's a place in the past
Prepaid first class
For Ovin, You, Gene & Me.

Then when the tourists are all gone
My thoughts simply slide along
Sideways but straight as can be
To a laughter long lost
Captured and lying in wait
For Ovin, You, Gene & me.

From the day we first met
The sun rose, the sun set
On Ovin, You, Gene & me.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Summerlea

Summerlea.ogg Summerlea.mp3 (live demo - piano)

William tells me he wrote this about days gone by and his own childhood. When I read it, I think about it from a parent's perspective, about my own kids. So, when I got these lyrics from William I decided to import a grand old tradition from England and name my estate. My house is now called "Summerlea". If I had one song to leave for my kids, this would be it.

This recording isn't exactly as it should be. The song is written for guitar, and I will record it on guitar as soon as I fix both my capo and guitar pickup.

Summerlea
wmh - 6 April 1995

I've traveled so far to meet you
On a road that seemed forever
Never knowing where you are
Or where I'll be when I get there
Chasing phantoms in the nighttime
Spurred by lonely moments past
Guided by the stars in Heaven
To realize the dream at last.

Return me there
To Summerlea
Forever where the children play
We'll run and hide
And should it rain
We'll come back again some other day

Seasons of our lifetimes
Live within us all the while
Youth, you know, won't die away
It only lies somewhere inside

Summerlea
Return me there
To pass the chance would be a sin
And if you leave
It behind completely
You can never go back again

Return me there
To Summerlea
Forever where the children play
We'll run and hide
And should it rain
We'll come back again some other day

We'll run and hide
And should it rain
We'll come back again some other day

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mary, I Want Her

MaryIWantHer.ogg MaryIWantHer.mp3 (live demo)

Once again, lyrics from 1990, music from today. Unlike the last one, I know exactly what this is about. The title is a fairly obvious pun, and I'm sure you're smart enough to get it on your own.

Mary, I Want Her
wmh - 25 March 1990

Twisted bits of cellophane
Wrapped around my brain
Blistered lips and fingertips
As Mary calls my name

Waiting but impatient
Another day slips by
I climb the walls inside myself
In fear she won't arrive

And Mary, I want her
She shields me from the night
She allows my soul
To sink below
The realities of life
She'll come and she'll go
A dream in smoke
She'll change the wrongs to right
She will drown me in
Oblivion
And make my bed tonight

Thinking of how I'll run to her
A glaze forms on my eyes
To taste her kiss so bittersweet
And listen to her lies

Forced in part by habit
The need reveals dark corners
Of the mind's desire to satisfy
In ways I've never shown her

And Mary, I want her
She shields me from the night
She allows my soul
To sink below
The realities of life
She'll come and she'll go
A dream in smoke
She'll change the wrongs to right
She will drown me in
Oblivion
And make my bed tonight

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Open Source Music Tools

We release our music under a Creative Commons license. Creating music on the cheap requires inexpensive (but effective) tools. Here are some that I've used.

Audacity
Performers
need to process audio recordings, and you don't have to look any further than Audacity for that. Audacity allows you to do multi-track recordings, cut and paste, filters, fade-ins, fade-outs, etc. Basically, Audacity is to sound what a word processor is to text. Audacity can export the finished projects to MP3 or OGG Vorbis. Audacity is cross-platform, running on Linux, Windows, BSD, and OS X.

Composers, on the other hand, need to put their music into a readable format... fake sheets, guitar tabs, or sheet music. Now, there is a software package that creates really amazing sheet music on par with that produced by high-quality typeset published music. That's GNU LilyPond. LilyPond does for sheet music what TeX does for text publications... it takes a description of the output and makes it look positively outstanding. Read this essay for a complete description (link). The problem is that it's not the easiest thing to use. Oh, let's face it... it's an esoteric mess. What's needed is an easy-to-use editor produces output LilyPond can read. We'll come back to this thought. In the meantime, let's look at some editors.

The "premier" music typesetting package is Finale, but as the cost is $600 for new users and about $115+ for upgrades, I haven't bought it. Frankly, I don't think Finale's output justifies the price if you're creating MIDI files and sheet music. If you compose for a living, you'll probably buy this though. That might change in the near future.

I've used number of different programs... including commercial software like Music Write and NoteWorthy Composer. Neither of these is free, but that's not the biggest strike against them. I don't find Music Write ($59.95) very easy to use, although it seemed that way when I first used it (possibly because it was the first program of this sort I used). Among other things, Turtle Beach muddies the waters with too many versions of this program. There's Starter, and Songwriter, and Maestro... the only one worth considering is Maestro. But there are other packages that are better for my purposes and maybe for yours.

NoteWorthy Composer ($49) is a bit cleaner and easier to use. It's also easier to enter lyrics (although this can be improved upon). I used it to create the sheet music on this site. Now, it works, and like Music Write, it allows you to record from a MIDI keyboard, simplifying note entry; but I'm not terribly thrilled with the limited number of formats that either of these programs read and write. Basically, they don't play very well with others. And that's a big, big negative. For instance, they can't share files with each other, so if you're working with a partner you've got to use the same program. So now you're not working with the music, you're working with the tools. The tools should be invisible.

Also, the sheet music produced by both NoteWorthy Composer and Music Write is ... well... mechanical. It just doesn't look very good. It's computery and regimented, and doesn't flow at all like sheet music should. I suppose that people who grew up with this stuff wouldn't notice the difference, but I have inherited a lot of music from the early half of the 20th century, and it's beautiful. You can't say that about these commercial packages.

Now, it would be really cool if NoteWorthy Composer or Music Write could write to LilyPond's format for really professional rendering, but they can't.

Denemo is an attempt at putting a front-end on LilyPond, and it sort of works. But it's weak compared to the commercial software mentioned above, and I frankly don't like it much. It's too... programmy. Where the commercial software fails on the output, Denemo fails on the input. It's no better in the interoperability department either... it reads MIDI files and its own format.

MuseScore
Lately, though, I've found MuseScore. I don't know how this one snuck up on me, but it's at version 0.9.5, which means both that it's been through a lot of development before I ever became aware of it, and that it's damned close to a 1.0 release, meaning commercial quality (though it's Open Source, and free). I like this a lot. I'm not a great fan of feature lists, so I'm going to limit this list to just those things that make MuseScore really stand out:
  • It imports a lot of open formats. (MuseScore, MusicXML, LilyPond, BB, MIDI, Capella, and Muse)
  • It exports to all of these, plus PDF, PNG graphics, PostScript, SVG, WAV audio, FLAC audio, and OGG Vorbis.
  • It really, really improves on NoteWorthy's method of lyric entry. MuseScore gives you real-time WYSIWYG data entry instead of having to count syllables on a lyric sheet.
  • It lets you input notes from a MIDI keyboard, like the commercial software, and unlike the weaker Open Source programs.
  • It supports multiple instruments and every clef (including TAB) so you can create band scores as they're meant to be seen.
  • LilyPond. I mentioned it above, but it bears highlighting. Once you've composed and arranged your piece you can export it to LilyPond's format and get an absolutely superb rendering of the music.
  • It's cross-platform, running on Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. Those expensive commercial packages only run on expensive commercial computers.
MuseScore is a real keeper. I expect that it will get much better as it moves past the version 1.0 mark.

Audacity
An honorable mention goes to the Able Midi Editor ($24.90), which side-steps the whole notational issue by throwing away classical notation in favor of a "piano roll" editing. This is dead simple to comprehend... at the left of the windows is an illustration piano keyboard. Each not is a mark beside the key it represents. The duration of the note is represented by the horizontal length of the mark. That's really nice if you don't read music and your needs are simple. But it has a lot of downsides. Music is, by its nature, expressive... and this notation is not. Slurs... dynamics... forget 'em. But it's a nice try. WIDISoft also publishes an audio-to-MIDI recognition system ($99), which, if it works, may be very cool. I haven't tried it, though, so will leave discussion of it to a later post.

TuxGuitar
What I haven't addressed thus far is guitar tabulature (tabs). Whereas classical notation has notes on a staff of five ledger lines, guitar tabs have 6 ledger lines, representing strings. On the lines are printed numbers, representing the fret on the string. There are a number of packages for this, but the Open Source package worthy of consideration is TuxGuitar. Like all of my recommendations, it's cross-platform, and this one reads and writes GuitarPro ($59) files. Now, if you're learning guitar, run, don't walk, over to TabGuitarLessons.com and click over to the free downloads. Here you'll find Advanced FretPro, a free metronome, and some very nice books (in PDF format) on reading tabs.

Have fun!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Broken Laura

BrokenLaura.ogg BrokenLaura.mp3
I never would have predicted that this was the next song. I thought I'd be doing an old one instead of something new, but this one's both... lyrics from 1990, music from today. It's one of those that I had no idea what it was about... so I asked William, and it came from a past experience of his. The truncated version is this: have you ever had a girlfriend/wife/significant other that was just loopy enough that you didn't know who she was from one date to the next? Well, this song is for her.

Every name in this song refers to the same girl. In a departure from the real-life story, I decided to write the music from the position of somebody who knows she's loopy, but loves her anyway.


Broken Laura
wmh - 13 July 1990

Wake up every morning in a stranger's bed
Brush the cobwebs from your eyes
Wonder who we'll be today
It's unknown, but no surprise

Ann, she ran a marathon
Monday has a child
Tuesday calls for doctor's help
Wednesday wears a smile

Clad in chains of innocence
It's but the memory which survives
Mother tries to keep in touch
With this menagerie of lives

Broken --- Laura
You're a growing mystery
Falling --- Star
In a whirlwind of insanity
Broken --- Laura
A tree of different leaves
Many --- Hearts
A stranger to reality

Thursday bought a wedding dress
Friday buys a gun
Saturday saw no hope
But Hope sees Sunday come

Beth had plans to buy some land
But caution's Carrie's way
Daphne logs her diary
While Shelly's secrets fade

Broken --- Laura
You're a growing mystery
Falling --- Star
In a whirlwind of insanity
Broken --- Laura
A tree of different leaves
Many --- Hearts
A stranger to reality



Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hangin' at the Kelly One-Stop

HanginAtTheKellyOneStop.ogg HanginAtTheKellyOneStop.mp3
No surprises here... this is a countrified boogie about a gas station/country store a few miles from my house. As far as I can tell, it's the only building in Kelly that isn't a house, church, or fire station... which means it's the only social gathering place/watering hole/restaurant in the area. I stopped by there last Tuesday evening, and it was absolutely packed with people from their teens to their fifties. I was planning to write another verse, and may still do that, but William tells me it already says everything there is to say about the place, so I'm calling it complete in short form.

Boogie woogie isn't my forte, but you'll get the idea.



Hangin' at the Kelly One-Stop
dfl - 1 Aug 2009

In Sa'Ca'Lina there's a place that's right up your alley
But you ain't gonna find it in your Rand McNally
On highway number nine you gonna find a wide spot
They call it the Kelly One-Stop shop
They got both kinds of bait... fishin' and jail
Things are lookin' great if you're a red-blooded male!

Yeah! (Yeah!)
Yeah! (Yeah!)
Hangin' at the Kelly One-Stop!
Yeah! (Yeah!)
Yeah! (Yeah!)
Hangin' at the Kelly One-Stop!
Bootin' and a-scootin' with the cream of the crop
Hangin' at the Kelly One-Stop shop!

[boogie riff – 16 bars]

Yeah! (Yeah!)
Yeah! (Yeah!)
Hangin' at the Kelly One-Stop!
Yeah! (Yeah!)
Yeah! (Yeah!)
Hangin' at the Kelly One-Stop!
Chuggin' down a cold pop-top til you drop!
Hangin' at the Kelly One-Stop shop!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Merry-Go-Round

Merry-Go-Round.ogg Merry-Go-Round.mp3
For some reason, though the lyrics are over a year old, I didn't get them until a couple of weeks ago. This is supposed to sound a little "off-center" or "off-balance". That would be apparent if you look at one of the verses below from the proper point of view. A shiny new no-prize to you if you spot it.

I finished it last night, if "finished" is the word... to me, it sounds like a show-tune, so I'm hesitant to actually do anything more with the lyrics since something might present itself for inclusion. As a show-tune, though, it would be very hard to sing... I run out of air constantly. It would probably be better broken up into a duet.



Merry-go-round
wmh - 18 May 2008

I'm spinning like a rooster who is perched atop a weather vane
Caught up in the torrents of the driving wind and pouring rain
Swinging from a chandelier that's swinging on a twisting chain
A tiny speck of dust that is tossed up into a hurricane

Very hard to say exactly what it is I'm going through
Really hard to tell from day to day
Just what I'm gonna do
Left only to wrestle with disaster
From a dizzy point of view
On the chance that somehow I'll wake up and stumble through

There's a chance that somehow I'll wake up and stumble through

Like stepping from a moving merry-go-round
--- Onto a land so vague and foreign
I'm just another aging stutter stepping clown
--- With a red nose and shoes of orange
Exiting the center ring with only a painted frown
--- Carrying a circus everyone's ignoring
As the carnival packs it up and slowly closes down

Very hard to say
Exactly what it is I'm going through
Really hard to
Tell from day to day just what
I'm gonna do - left only to
Grapple with disaster from a dizzy point of view
On the chance that somehow I'll wake up and stumble through

There's a chance that somehow I'll wake up and stumble through

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Orphans on the Run

OrphansOnTheRun.ogg OrphansOnTheRun.mp3
Now, there's a secret associated with writing these songs and just recording them raw so they sound crappy and unfinished. I don't hear the crappy, unfinished song. In my head I hear the completed song with a all the proper instrumentation, with no flubs. Mostly, I record them so I don't forget them. But if somebody wants to do it right... cool.

Orphans on the Run is very old... we were not terribly long out of high school. I haven't played it in years, and was frankly a little surprised that I remembered it all. Besides being out of practice, this one's deceptively difficult to play, mostly because it's all rhythm, and it's fast, and it doesn't let up. I run out of air halfway through the verses for the same reason. Nevertheless, for a long time this was my favorite song; I don't think anybody else appreciates it much. I think the lyrics in the third verse (excluding chorus) is just fantastic.

The funny thing is, I have no idea what it's really about. None whatsoever. I asked William about it, and I'm not sure he knows, other than it was written on a Sunday morning. So I'm going to put it in a category with melted watches and other "WTF" artwork... you figure it out.



Orphans On the Run
William Hoover (1982)

It's early morning Sunday and out in the street
Are orphans on the run flying on their feet
To escape a crazed preacher man holding out a gun
Shooting up the street lights and worshiping the sun
So scared to be the one, chasing orphans on the run.
He's scared to be the one, chasing orphans on the run.

It's early autumn cold and the beggars huddle close
As needless tears unfold surely someone knows
These orphans on the run who struggle to survive
Now dying from what's done with some need to stay alive
Cold keepers having fun with their orphans on the run.
They're having lots of fun with their orphans on the run.

[chorus]
And it's cut the morning calf now hurry home
If not the waiting family may be gone
For it's life they seek and not the sun
Like those before have always done
Never to be chased like orphans on the run
On the run,
On the run,
On the run,
Orphans on the Run.


It's later now in winter still as season reaps this life
So proud so high on overkill lies picturesque in bloody white
This face which smiled seldom laughed, and lost to bitter months
Bears no permanent epitaph, reads though as caring once
Buried here no father's son, no orphans on the run.
Lies here no father's son, no orphans on the run.

[chorus]
And it's cut the morning calf now hurry home
If not the waiting family may be gone
For it's life they seek and not the sun
Like those before have always done
Never to be chased like orphans on the run
On the run,
On the run,
On the run,
Orphans on the Run.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Love Shines

LoveShines.ogg LoveShines.mp3
This is part of a batch of lyrics written in 1989 and which I didn't put music to until March 2nd, 2001.

I put a tune to the chorus in the wee morning hours of June 6th, 2002... William's anniversary. However, I didn't get the verses and bridge finished until Valentine's Day, 2003. How appropriate, hmmm?


LOVE SHINES
wmh - December 8th, 1989

Our lives have run in circles
At times on constant lines
With ever-changing seasons
Our love will always shine

Wrapped in sheets of harmony
Wake to mornings made of touch
Brighter glowing every day
These flames of growing love

[chorus]

Love shines
As bright as the sun in the summer sky
Love shines
Twinkling like stars on a winter night
And through the dark from dusk 'til dawn
You're my candle burning strong
To light the way
And love shines, love shines, love shines on

Half-lit rooms in firelight
Grow shadows less defined
But even through the darkness
Our love will always shine

As a beacon in the twilight
To guide and harbor me
A blazing, brilliant diamond
To sparkle endlessly

[chorus]
Love shines
As bright as the sun in the summer sky
Love shines
Twinkling like stars on a winter night...

[bridge]
Bright on bright
Sight beyond sight
Blinded by the glare of things we cannot see
Mesmerized
Hypnotized
Caught up in a whirlwind of a supernova dream

[chorus]
Love shines
As bright as the sun in the summer sky
Love shines
Twinkling like stars on a winter night
And through the dark from dusk 'til dawn
You're my candle burning strong
To light the way
And love shines, love shines, love shines on

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Edisto

Edisto.ogg Edisto.mp3
This is about politics... the 2008 election. I had to ask William about some of the symbols, so here goes. The gulls are the politicians, noisily calling attention to themselves... if you've ever seen gulls, you know what I'm talking about. The pelicans are the press. “Edislow” isn't a typo... it's what you call Edisto island if you've ever lived there, for obvious reasons. “no pale pastels” came from a speech by Ronald Reagan. That should get you through it.


EDISTO
wmh - November 18, 2008

The gulls are all gathering there on the rail
Each one seems to tell his own tale
Destiny, change, and the new New Deals
Just to satisfy the many squeaky wheels

I can't possibly write down what I've seen from here
From far left or right there is so little time
The day to day choreography
And the images etched upon my mind

[chorus]
I wish everyone could dream like me
Just to see the things the way that I see
I don't claim to know all there is to know
But there ain't no pale pastels here at Edisto

How can I bend my mind 'round this island
When I can't even get past these tides
I don't know what all these pelicans know
But unlike them I'm stranded here on Edislow

And it seems to change when the blue moon blinks
Handshakes, speeches, sails, and secret winks
Kissing babies' cheeks on the beach
And promising changes that are out of reach

Now I can't navigate these waters
And I can't just sit still and still take orders
We could argue for hours and never achieve sensibility
I feel like a man trying to change the laws of gravity

[chorus]
I wish everyone could dream like me
Just to see the things the way that I see
I don't claim to know all there is to know
But there ain't no pale pastels here at Edisto

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

For Lisa

ForLisa.ogg ForLisa.mp3 ForLisa.pdf
This is a simple classical piece for my wife, Lisa. I'm including the sheet music. Enjoy.

Any resemblance to Beethoven's "Für Elise" is purely intentional. I thought a pastiche would be appropriate, as Lisa's given name is "Elisa", and "Für Elise" simply means "For Elisa".

For Lisa
dfl -
October, 2001

Marry Me

MarryMe.oggMarryMe.mp3
This is just a rough live recording, and it's kind of rushed. I may or may not clean it up.

This one's not your standard "boy asks girl to marry him", song. Rather, it's a gay man imploring a priest to perform the marriage ceremony for him and his partner. It's done seriously, though not without some irony.

It's a challenge to portray a militant, frustrated gay man who's not a stereotype. Even if you're gay, even if you're militant, you should find qualities in
this singer that you don't like. And if you're not gay, you should find a position with which you can sympathize, even when you don't agree.

People who know us might be surprised to find this "pro-gay" song here. Well, first, it's not "pro" or "anti" anything. It's a portrayal of person's feelings. That person isn't me, anymore than I'm the guy who hired a hooker in "One for the Road". I also see no advantage to portraying somebody else's opinion in any way other than in a straightforward and unbiased manner. And to those who are fundamentalists, I should point out if you truly believe in the Bible, you believe that God gave everyone free will. This alone dooms any attempt to impose morality.
We can understand and sympathize with a position without adopting it. Personally, I love the idea that different states have different laws, so you can always move to a place of your liking. In a country this big, I don't see the advantage of imposing such laws at the Federal level... such attempts only result in a Procrustean bed.

I had a hard time coming up with a tune that struck the right balance between energy and "attitude". In writing the tune I thought quite a bit about my friend "Redbear" who's living in Texas with his significant other. If you gave them the chance, they'd get married, too. I hear it as sort of a show tune. I could see it in a rock opera. A lot of jumps, starts, stops. The sort of music it's easy to drive to, though, I'd tend to speed while listening to it.


Marry Me
wmh - January 1, 2005

I hate like the dickens to complain

But these laws drive me insane
You'll wed vandals and vagrants all the same
Fundamental thought be damned
I'm just like any other man
So forgive me if I just don't play that game

I thought that from. The. Start.
You were willing to take my part
It seemed all doomed to failure
Until I saw your shooting star

[chorus]
Come on, won't you marry me
You're a man of the cloth and your word
And you surely know that I believe
So why don't you just marry me?

I'm in debt to vermin indeed
I'll get down upon my knees
I forgive all the fools who may criticize
The closet is a place to hide
Only for the very weak
I mean to hold my head up high
when I'm walking down the street


[chorus]
Come on, won't you marry me
You're a man of the cloth and your word
And you surely know that I believe
So why don't you just marry me?

I don't claim to be. That. Smart.
But you knew right from the start
The courts would rule against me
Once again I'm out of my league, so...

[chorus]
Come on, c'mon, won't you marry me
You're a man of the cloth and your word
And you surely know that I believe, yes I believe!
So why don't you just marry me?

Father, why don't you just marry me?

.