Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review of SpinTunes1, Round 3

Here's my review of the first SpinTunes competition, round 3. The challenge was as follows:
Happy To Sad In 4 Seconds - Write a sad song about birth, a moment that is normally a happy moment, and make it a real tear jerker. You can't use the words "Happy" or "Birthday". (2 minute minimum)
In this review, as before, the entries are listed in the order of their appearance on Bandcamp. Since I'm not a judge I'm not posting my rankings, if any exist.
A few words about the challenge. You'll notice that it doesn't say "childbirth". Though it's pretty clear that any interpretation other than childbirth won't be particularly sad. You'll also notice that this isn't a challenge to write a sad song... it's a "tear jerker", which is a different thing altogether. A "sad song" can be written when you're sad, or about something that makes you sad, but "tear jerker" evokes sadness in other people. This may seem a subtle difference, but it's profound.

I thought it was pretty restrictive, and as a composer I didn't get much out of it. Here's why: when you're given a challenge to elicit a particular emotion, you are free to go where you will to do it. When you're given a particular situation, you are free to exploit it to whatever emotional ends you will. But to elicit "this" emotion from "this" situation really limits your options. The result would tend to be formulaic, because formulas do work. But there's nothing especially creative about writing formulaic material. To me as an artist, it feels less like an act of creation and more like a job. To me as a listener, I'm distracted by the marionette strings. Here are a few of the formulae I expected to see (and did):
  1. Child dies at birth
  2. Mother dies at birth (or, the father dies and the child is born fatherless).
  3. Both mother and child die at birth
  4. The child is given up for adoption. 
  5. The child has a birth defect.
 William and I kicked around a few "out of the box" ideas, such as time-traveling to the birth of Hitler or Christ. Those didn't work. Needless to say, I'm not overly fond of the challenge. That said, I judged the entries by
  1. Was it about birth?
  2. Instant disqualification for using the restricted words.
  3. How sad did it make me? Actually, I have an objective test for this one. I pulled my wife in here and had her listen with me. She's the mine canary I use for detecting emotional effectiveness. If you made her cry, you pass.
You'll be happy to hear that there were no disqualifications for reasons 1. or 2. The sadness scale, though.... hmm...

The Offhand Band - Will It
 There is a biography of this song here (click on the story tab).
I like it when people provide song bios so I don't have to explain what it's about. But Mark, I want to reach across the Internet, grab your shoulders, and shake you for this. HARD. The SONG itself is fine. But you went with "production" in the very challenge where it's decidedly detrimental! Here's the thing... if you were just to hear this song on the radio, as is, and weren't listening very carefully to the lyrics, you'd just think it were a bright and bouncy dance number. If you did listen very carefully to the lyrics, you'd shrug and say, "Boy, that's odd. Sad lyrics, bouncy tune," and go back to dancing. It's too busy, too rhythmic, and vocally, you're too on-rhythm. It sounds like you're more concerned with staying in sync with the click-track than trying to communicate an emotion. And that's a shame, because when I erase all of that from my mind, and read your lyrics, imagining a different, looser orchestration, it's really sad and could be a winner. It pains me that you hid it behind a bunch of 16th and 32nd notes.

P.S. It reminds me a bit of Barry Manilow's style. That's not a bad thing, I'm the guy who admits to liking Barry Manilow.

Caleb Hines - Will you Miss Me?
In an interesting choice of perspective, Caleb has written a song from the point-of-view of an unborn child, who is aborted. Shockingly and bravely, he depicts the actual abortion. I like the orchestration, and Caleb's subject makes good use of his unique vocal style. He pushes the right buttons. Good work. The downside is that it may be a little too shocking and brave. This mixed a bit of horror in with the sadness and kept the tears to a trickle.

Sara Parsons - Had To Be You

This is another that I think is just a bit too rhythmic and too... pleasant. If I didn't know in advance it was about a dead baby, just casually listening, I might conclude that it was just a really pleasant love song; the sort of thing you'd sing on a picnic. As I said, it's pleasant. I like it. But it's not sad.

Edric Haleen - The Star
If Edric wrote a bio of this song it would be here. Hint, hint.
When it comes to pulling emotional strings, Edric Haleen is Gepetto. In this song he has strings for religion, and love, and sacrifice, and the hopelessness of inevitable death, and hope for the future, and still manages to have it be about a birth. Completely acapella, he gives us Gregorian chanting behind a Jesuit story of the far-flung future. In so doing he maintains the tradition of the signature big reveal, and even throws in some space-geek fodder. It definitely meets the challenge. The story itself is basically Arthur C. Clarke's story, The Star, faithfully abridged and set to music. Best of all, Edric can in fact pull this off with his amazingly flawless vocals.

The downside: according to Lisa it's too intellectual, and the "big reveal" works against it on first listen. The gut-wrencher is the very last word, and the song is over by the time you realize what it's about. Prior to that the audience is simply confused as to what's going on. So the music doesn't have the right emotion to amplify. This is, in part, an artifact of the competition. We know it's supposed to be about birth. Someone listening to this without preconceptions won't have that problem, though they're still stuck with "why all the fuss" on a first listen. On subsequent listens, though, this is really, really effective.

Steve Durand - Her Mother's Eyes

Sorry, Steve. this is another one where the rhythm just kill the sadness for me. The drums just don't need to be there, and the horn bridge, while very well done, sounds like it belongs wrapped up in a different song. The subject is sad -- hell, it's the exact same subject I used myself --- but it's just too bouncy and too quick. It just doesn't make me sad. It also reminds me of something, though I can't for the life of me remember what.

Kevin Savino-Riker - My Daughter
 Kevin's written a bio of this song. Read it here.
An Irish ballad? From KSR? Yes, and 'tis sad, indeed. Lisa bawled like a baby. I teared up watching her cry. Like Steve and myself, Kevin has the mother die in childbirth. Unlike us, he had the father make that decision, and live, not only with single parenthood, but with the guilt. Gut-wrenching, and top marks. hint, hint.

Governing Dynamics - Revolving Door
Melancholy. That's the feeling I get from this. Not really tearing up sad. It flirts with sad, but it's got a little too much emo apathy in it to really take us all the way there. Then the bridge speeds up and jerks us away from that. I hope the competitors that used drums listen to this one carefully, because this is how to use them in a sad song without making it happy and bouncy.

Ross Durand - You'll Be Gone

Ross made my wife cry. Her lower lip was trembling on the second verse, then the line, "I gave you away" hit her like a logging truck and she broke down completely. It didn't hurt that you delivered it in that Bob Dylan style (she loves Dylan). And really, that's all this song needed to deliver. No production, no orchestration, just emotion. Good job.

Charlie McCarron - A Song For Sam Bell

A very odd song, this. Lisa didn't get it. I thought it was a bit surreal, and melancholy, but not tearfully sad. The problem may be that it's just a little difficult to relate to clones, especially when you haven't seen the movie. Too intellectual to be emotionally effective.

SHADOWS:

JoAnn Abbot - Lullabye
The rhythm is inconsistent and that's distracting. The recording is about what you'd expect from a 1936 Blues recording done in a barn, and that's distracting, too. Funny thing is that the song itself kind of works. I definitely have the picture of a medieval woman lamenting her lost child to this minstrel tune. I think it could probably use some minor tweaks to the lyric to help put it in that timeframe, but yeah, I like it. It didn't make us cry, but it could given the right performance.

Emperor Gum - 1983

Graham, you need to back off from the microphone, and this is a little below your range. Transposing it up one step would help greatly, and I have to imagine it with different orchestration. That said...

This song doesn't work for me, but it could with very little work. Normally I would say that being born into a world of woe wouldn't be personal enough to make a tear-jerker, but Emperor Gum has fixed that by relaying this as a man's address to his father. He doesn't really say, but I imagine it as him talking to his father's grave. In doing so, he gives us the very effective reminder that not all tears are sad. Sometimes they're happy, but sometimes they're a bit more complicated. Here, the fulcrum for the emotional lever really doesn't rest on the child, but on the budding respect and understanding that the singer has for his own father on the occasion of his own child's birth. It's a unique perspective among the entries. It still didn't make me cry, but that has more to do with the presentation. I think it needs a little bit more work on the last two verses, and a less tentative performance, and it could be very good.

Heather Miller - Promise To My Son
Heather, I'm not sure you needed the minor chords in the verses. This is another one of yours that feels like an unfinished story. We get to the point where the midwife knows how to keep the child safe, but we don't learn how, and it's not really even implied. It needs the additional verse. Going from verse--chorus--verse--chorus... to verse--chorus--verse--verse--chorus... allow additional room for the verse without significantly lengthening the song. I didn't really get the tears from it either, but that's a risk you take when using a story that's sufficiently removed from the listeners' frame of reference, as when using kings (or starships or clones).

Brian Gray - Not Even Close
OK, This one would get an instant DQ for lack of sadness, but as a shadow, I'm really glad Brian submitted it. It's hilarious, and is much needed to break the tension of listening to a bunch of depressing, sad songs. If sadness were not a requirement it would easily earn the top spot for humor, quality of lyrics, and production value. A friend listened and said, "Well, it could be sad for the guy in the song...." Nice try. A tear-jerker is about the audience, not the protagonist. :)

Dr. Lindyke - A Special Day
I don't review our own songs. I do invite you to do that, though, and rake me over the coals for doing all the stuff that I said was disappointing in the other songs. Do it in the comments here, please.

Wrap-Up


Now, if you're keeping track of Lisa's tears, you'll find that Kevin, Edric, Ross, and Caleb managed to deliver. (I did too, but she may be humoring me.)

Who stuck to the formulae?
  1. The Offhand Band (5)
  2. Sara Parsons (1)
  3. Steve Durand (2)
  4. Kevin Savino-Riker (2)
  5. Governing Dynamics (2)
  6. Ross Durand (4)
  7. JoAnn Abbot (1)
  8. Heather Miller (4) (though with a decidedly Old Testament perspective)
  9. Me (2)
Who didn't?
  1. Caleb. Although the child dies at birth, Caleb rescues it from the formula by taking the p.o.v. of the unborn child, and casts you as the parent.
  2. Edric. He had an entire civilization die to herald your salvation.
  3. Charlie McCarron. The "birth" here is the decanting of clones.
  4. Emperor Gum. Nobody dies, but the potential is there. It's a harsh world.
  5. Brian Gray. Nobody dies, and I wouldn't call inheriting his father's alien complexion a birth defect.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Special Day

<a href="http://drlindyke.bandcamp.com/track/a-special-day">A Special Day by Dr. Lindyke</a>
There's not much to say about this one. It was written as a shadow entry for the first SpinTunes competition, round 3. The challenge was as follows:
Happy To Sad In 4 Seconds - Write a sad song about birth, a moment that is normally a happy moment, and make it a real tear jerker. You can't use the words "Happy" or "Birthday". (2 minute minimum)
With a challenge this restrictive, preparing for it consisted mainly of thinking of the saddest things I could about childbirth. Note that the challenge doesn't say childbirth, just "birth", so technically it's possible to fudge in some other kind of birth ("birth of a nation", etc.), but none of those other things are particularly sad.

My inherently optimistic nature responds to such things as birth defects with, "well, at least he's alive," so the saddest possible scenarios (to me) are the death of a parent or the death of the child. Since I have no small bit of experience being a single parent, I decided to go with what I know... single parenthood. So this is a song written from the point of view of the father, addressed to his wife who has just died in childbirth. To make it a little more emotionally difficult, I made the child a girl so that he would be out of his comfort zone. And because the challenge says we couldn't use "Happy Birthday", I deliberately included birthdays without saying those specific words.

It's Country, because Country is made for sad songs.

A SPECIAL DAY
by Dr. Lindyke

She has angel eyes
You know, the kind that draw you in
Of the deepest ocean blue
And I realize
As I look at her face and her careless grin
She gets those things from you

A year from now

A year from then
A cake of bittersweet
I promise now, I will find a way
To make this day a special day
Just like the way I know you'd want it to be

In the years ahead

There will be things she's going to need to know
I don't know what I'm going to do
I always thought we'd see her
Grow and love and someday wed
I never thought it would be without you

A year from now

A year from then
A cake of bittersweet
I don't know how, but I will find a way
To make this day
A special day
Just like the way
I know you'd want it to be

This day …

A Special Day …
Just like we dreamed it would be.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Review of Round 2 Songs That Weren't Written

The SpinTown competition is hosted here: http://spintunes.blogspot.com. The Round 2 roundup is on this page.

In my review of SpinTunes 1, Round 2 songs, I noted that three of the competitors did not manage to submit a song by the deadline, and were therefore eliminated by the competition. In an effort to be completely fair, and taking advantage of of a freak crack in space and time (amplified with the aid of a common drinking glass held to my ear), I've decided to review the songs that these worthy competitors would have written, had they written entries. 

Ryan Welton - Beat Me Daddy, Nine to the Bar

Ryan Welton brings his smooth jazz stylings to this unique piece performed on electric piano, snare and upright bass. Ryan sounds for all the world like a young Mel Torme as he storms through the syncopated intro and through the 3/4 time verses. Not bad at all; I like Mel a lot. However, when I saw that the chorus was in 9/8 time, I was frankly concerned about how Ryan would pull this off. His solution is as technically brilliant as it is unique... write a song in 6/8, and stutter. Pell mell he melts from the melodious Mel Torme to mellifluous Mel Tillis. It's an eclectic mix, to be sure, but a mix that matches. I think this one's a real keeper, and it's a shame you're not going to hear it. 

Bram Tant - Hulalalalalalalalalalalalala

Controversy over "what is a song" aside, it's arguable that "Kebab Shop" is one of the most successful experiments in alternative styles in SpinTunes history. Bram capitalizes on that success by offering us another Arabic-themed number. Unfortunately, I'm not sure he's left the controversy behind. Without a doubt, the dig at judge Sammy Kablam in the bridge was absolutely inspired (if overly blunt), but even I'm not sure that an the titular ululation qualifies as a "lyric", especially when it composes the entirety of the verses. The repeated refrain of "Jihad!" is effective and meshes well with the previously mentioned bridge. Overall I'd say this song clearly demonstrates why it is the first and only example of 1/32 time I've ever heard. Props to Bram for the concept, but I'm not quite as thrilled with the execution. 

Jon Eric - I Really Am Superman Damn It

While I'd like to review Jon's unwritten entry, I can't. Sadly, Jon was taken from us just hours before he was not to write this submission. Apparently he woke to find that the world had indeed become kryptonite, and that he could not fly. Unfortunately he discovered this as he was beginning his morning commute from the roof of his house. RIP, Jon Eric. May your shade shadow future rounds.

May all of these fine musicians shadow future rounds.

So this completes the Round 2 Roundup. Many thanks to BoffoYuxDudes and Denise Hudson for their help in discerning the lyrics of these nonexistent tunes.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review of SpinTunes 1, Round 2

UPDATE: I managed to post a big ol' review without ever linking to to the competition itself! Here it is: http://spintunes.blogspot.com.
The Round 2 roundup and VOTING is done on this page.

Unlike my review of Round 1, in this one I'm touching on every competitor.

The challenge here was wide open... Write a song where the choruses are a different time signature than the verses. (2 minute minimum). Other than that, anything goes, except that all entries must have lyrics. The competitors had 12 days to complete the challenge. I'm firmly convinced that it doesn't matter how much time you give people... some will crunch at the end. I'd be firmly in favor of a shorter period, such as the one-week Song Fu period. Even with the liberal schedule, three competitors didn't make the deadline and will be eliminated.

Of the remainder, every song meets the challenge, so there are no technical disqualifications. I therefore judged the songs on how well they transitioned the time signatures, how well the time signatures supported the story and/or mood of the song, and basically how much I subjectively like it. Since the challenge was all about the time signatures, I weighted just a little in favor of songs that used signatures somewhat more exotic than the usual 3/4 and 4/4. I did not judge based on performance unless it was just really close, as this is a songwriting competition. These are not bands, they're composers.

Overall, this was a really strong round. I was a bit surprised that the additional time and wide-open challenge apparently made things more difficult for the challengers this round rather than less. But the entries were strong.Here are my comments in the order the songs appear on http://spintown.bandcamp.com

The Offhand Band - Another Universe.

This is simply awesome. The transitions are great, and the use of 2/4 time to represent a ticking clock is inspired (tick-tock-tick-tock), and continues through in later verses to underscore the binary choices of this universe. The change of time signature to represent the other universe is superbly done. I love everything about the song; especially the way the chorus opens up at 2:50. From a performance standpoint, the vocals aren't stellar, but as a pianist, I'm really blown away by this arrangement. There are no flaws in the riffs, and it leaves you with a genuine smile. This is just an exceptionally good song. Kudos.

Jenny Katz - Miss You

Another great song. I really like Jenny's voice. The theme is simple enough... "I miss you". The time signatures neither help nor hinder it, and lend a sort of carnival flavor, bolstered by the choice of calliope for instrumentation. OK, so maybe it's not a calliope, but that's the effect. Did I mention that it's pretty? Well it is.

JoAnn Abbot - Life

I'm really proud of JoAnn for having produced this song. She's not a musician, nevertheless managed to squarely meet the challenge, on time.  The song spans an entire life. So the arrangement could use some work, and there's a bit of difficulty in the rhythm. but damn it, she's never played these instruments before. JoAnn may not survive this round, but if not she can retire from the competition with her head held high.

Edric Haleen - Love
(There's a mini-biography of this song here)

The intro screams "Mike Lombardo piano-rock" from the perennial show-tune factory. It's surprising, and great, and to be sure, Edric brings his own theatrical style to the rock genre. Using 5/4 where you might expect 6/4 makes the verses seem to rush headlong, which is only to be expected when one is falling in love. It's a great effect, and Edric's time transitions are not only flawless, they're seamless. This earned my vote.

Sara Parsons - A Little Time

Sara's Parsons' voice is a mink blanket, and I love her guitar arrangement. I'm a little confused by the lyrics. "Spend a little time with... me, but don't waste your time... on me". It's definitely a "mood" song, but I'm not sure what mood it puts me in. But it's smooth and pleasant, and I could listen to it repeatedly.

Caleb Hines - Insomniac Lullaby
Caleb's use of 5/4 time effectively communicates the distress of insomnia, as does the ever-so-slightly harsh violin (that's not a bad thing). The promise of sleep in 3/4 time is soothing and likewise effective. The music and instrumentation all work to support the lyrics. A solid entry.

Governing Dynamics - Eleyna Dreams

This has a really nice, dreamy quality, as well as it should with that title. Eleyna is paranoid. GD says the time signature of the verses is 3/4, and I suppose it is, but with that drum line I think I'd rather call it 6/4. It's that drum line that cements the dreamy quality of the song, and keeps us just a little off our toes. When it moves back to 4/4 it feels as if it opens up quite a bit. I quite like the imagery of the lyrics.

Emperor Gum - Smoulder (Yaoya Oshichi)

I kind of wish Emperor Gum had a koto (or even a uke) instead of a guitar, but I get the idea. This is a telling of a 17th century Japanese tale in which a girl falls in love with a boy and then attempts to commit arson. The time signatures and rhythms do work to the advantage of the story, but perhaps too well. And that's the failing of this song for me... the first line is "I'm bored" and by the end of the first verse I was. I can't say that this is bad, because that's certainly what the song was communicating. The transitions to fire were likewise effective. However, as much as I'd like to like it for artistic reasons, this song's just not my cup of tea.

Gorbzilla (featuring the Godzookies) - Than Infinity

OK, no fair. Gorbzilla filled this song with kiddie cuteness. The 5/4 verses don't sound rushed here because of the staggered voices. I have to admit I had to play this through a few times to ensure that the time signatures actually changed, and sure enough the one-line chorus is in 3/4 time. You just have to love this one. Do it for the kids.

Ross Durand - Waltz With The Devil

Bob Dylan meets Jed Clampett. A good, old-fashioned political protest song lamenting the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Extra points to Durand for a topical topic.. And, true to the title, the chorus puts us in 3/4 time to waltz with the devil. The only beef I have with it is that the transitions are just a little jarring. I might have liked to see it turned around so 3/4 was the prevalent rhythm, but that would have been a ground-up re-write. Nevertheless, it works well enough as it is, and I like the song.

Steve Durand - Rara Avis

"Rare Bird". This is one of those songs that are musically well-performed, but I'd really like to hear it with someone else singing. The lyrics get lost in the chorus, which is a bit of a shame. It's got a nice jazzclub sound to it. The choice of signature neither aids nor impedes the lyrics, which aren't bad, but neither do they stand out from the competition. Steve seems to have been on the same page as Jenny Katz when it comes to the "dabba-dabba" vocalization. That must have been fun to record.

Charlie McCarron - Sleep On It

I'm sorry, Charlie. This is that song. I tried, I did, but I can't bring myself to like this. I know the lyrics are supposed to be ironic and clever, but they just sound like rambling to me, even on the third listening when I know where it's going.

Kevin Savino-Riker - Here At The Door

This song has enough ambiguity that it has the most intriguing lyrics of the lot. If I were forced to guess what it's about, I'd say it's about illegal immigration. This is either disguised by the style, or I'm wrong. But that's not the point. The point is, it's intriguing as a puzzle box, and it easily has the most complex, crafted tune of the bunch. The polyrhythmic track gives it that sense of weirdness you'd find in a 1971 LSD fantasy. Those were my wonder years, so I'm really diggin' this tune. I'm also digging Kevin's vocal stylings.

Heather Miller - Bullseye
The transitions are just a little too abrupt here. The time signatures don't help or hinder the song as a whole. But it's not bad. Performance-wise, it's top-heavy... needs bass. I think I'd like to hear it with acoustic guitar in place of the electrics. Embrace the country. It's also a little short. The song's aching to tell a story, girl-meets-boy, but it's never allowed to really do that. Well, it does, but it seems under-developed. 4:30 would be about the right length for this song, which would get you at least another verse and a bridge in there.

Gödz Pöödlz - Identities Assumed

I couldn't vote for GP last round, but I'll be damned if I can't vote for them this round, especially after they offered this entry. Some cold-war Poodlz action complete with Ray-bans, trenchcoats. I don't know if it's the recently-busted spy ring that inspired this song or not, but it's timely nonetheless. The transitions are smooth, smooth, smooth with nary a stutter or mis-step in the synth bass. It has that ineffable "Poodlnezz" about it that takes a subject that might be pompous in someone else's hands and renders it lighthearted and cool. Yup. Cool just about sums it up.

Denise Hudson - Flex Time

On her most "normal" of days Denise will fit 12 beats into a 4-beat measure, so this one's probably got some heads scratching. Conga? You'll either get it or not, and that leaves me wondering if the judges will let her through to the next round. The time signatures are exactly as she has noted in the lyrics, though the conga doesn't really help you to pick them out. I imagine this one being played with an upright bass and some changes to the conga part to better support the signature. The thing is, I'm not exactly sure what this song is about. With a title like "Flex Time" you might expect it to be about working conditions, but looking at the lyrics I'm pretty thoroughly puzzled. But it's a sort of stream-of-consciousness piece that would be right at home in a beatnik poetry bar, and I really want to hear the re-mix.

"Buckethat" Bobby Matheson - Space Pirates

Bobby's managed to take a sea chanty, complete with accordion, and translate it into space travel. And -- move over Paul and Storm -- it's funny! The transitions from 3/4 to 2/4 are appropriate and spotlight the humor, and the lyrics are really, really clever. The story is consistent, and gives a few opportunities to toss in a few "Arr"s. Bobby's was the last entry submitted, and he was rushing to get it in at that, so I'm not 100% surprised at what happens at 2:51. It still gets my vote.

DID NOT SUBMIT (eliminated)
Jon Eric
Ryan Welton
Bram Tant
(Update: these non-submissions are reviewed here)

SHADOWS:
Boffo Yux Dudes - How Low Will You Go

I think it's a crying shame that a technical glitch kept it from getting played at the Listening Party. A bitter nerd gets revenge on his ex-girlfriend on the day of her wedding.

Dr. Lindyke - Minutes and Hours

Nice try. I won't be reviewing our own entry.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

TechDirt on RIAA Accounting

As a follow-up to their explanation of Hollywood Accounting, TechDirt.com has dished up the dirt on RIAA Accounting: Why Even Major Label Musicians Rarely Make Money From Album Sales. For those who have read Courtney Love's famous rant on the subject, the only surprising thing is that it still goes on today, and it's not illegal. Immoral, yes. Despicable, yes. Illegal, no. Goodie for the RIAA.

Follow the links, read the articles, and never shed another tear for the poor RIAA and their quest to operate in the artists' best interests. As near as I can determine from anyone who's opinion matters, the RIAA do not now, nor have they ever worked in the artists' best interests.

Support independent musicians who use the new model to get their music directly to you without the need for the redundant leeches at the RIAA. Support Creative Commons.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Edric Haleen's "All For This Moment"

 This is in response to a discussion of songwriting started by Edric Haleen on the TMA forums, which is now ongoing at our new artistic "home", Artifiction. I'm simply moving some of what I wrote there onto this blog for safe-keeping.
 

 This is a response I posted in the TMA forum to Edric's bio of his song "All For This Moment". Click on the song title to read the lyrics, hear the song, and link to the biography. Edric doesn't have a mechanism for comments on his website, so I'm posting the reply here. 

FYI, "All for This Moment" was written for Song Fu #4, Round 1. The challenge was to write a song from the point of view of an inanimate object.

---

One of the things I like about reading a Song Bio is learning what was important to the songwriter during the creative process. Edric, I think it's fantastic that you left the chords unresolved, because an engagement is, of course, the beginning of anticipation for the marriage to come. (And of course, marriage itself doesn't resolve anything either... often that weightless sensation we mistake for love just indicates that the ground is approaching fast! (I'm twice divorced, but am I bitter? Nooooo...))

When I first listened to "All For This Moment", what impressed me was what you managed to do with this pig of a challenge. It's very easy to fall into the "I'm a lump and nothing ever happens" mentality and try to squeeze out as many variations on "to be" as are conceivable. One would expect a lot of "I am"s in this kind of challenge coupled with a number of fairly useless adjectives and adverbs.

But YOU managed to pack a lot of action verbs in those lyrics!* "I hear"... "I feel"... "I see"... "And we would SHINE!" An inanimate object, yes, but one that exerts a great deal of influence over the emotions of the humans both in the song and listening to it. To me, that emotional impact makes the whole of the lyrics greater than the sum of the words (that probably makes sense if you're into gematria). Couple that with the fact that the song is eminently listenable and kudos to you! Great job!

==
* in honesty, I was surprised at the number of people who managed to avoid the "I'm a lump" mentality. Not everybody, but enough to engender hope for the future of the creative spirit.

Biography of a Song: Postcards From Picasso

This is in response to a discussion of songwriting started by Edric Haleen on the TMA forums, which is now ongoing at our new artistic "home", Artifiction. I'm simply moving some of what I wrote there onto this blog for safe-keeping.

They don't have to be complicated or deep, For instance:

Biography of a Song: Postcards From Picasso
To hear this song and read the lyrics, click here.

William tells me the inspiration for this one was really simple. Parker Brothers used to publish a game called Masterpiece, where the players bought and sold pieces of art (some of which were forgeries). Among the game equipment, there were postcard-sized replicas of the artwork to be traded. William just picked out a number of the paintings he really liked and wrote the song around the names of the painters.

Since it reminded me of a Spring afternoon in Paris, it became a Musette piece (in 3/4 time to lighten the mood). I got stuck on the bridge (all of the verses had the same meter, and I really didn't want to pick one), but Rhod (Durre, of Gödz Pöödlz) got me over that by suggesting a musical bridge. In the last verse I changed "sidewalks of night" to "city of lights" to strengthen the tie to Paris.

(Here's how I read things into what William writes... you already know everything there is to know about the origin and meaning of the lyrics, but when I read it I imagine an art student spending his days at the Louvre in the company of great art, and by extension, in the company of the artists themselves.)

Voila!

Biography of a Song: Brain Farts

This is in response to a discussion of songwriting started by Edric Haleen on the TMA forums, which is now ongoing at our new artistic "home", Artifiction. I'm simply moving some of what I wrote there onto this blog for safe-keeping.

Be warned, this "biography" may contain sensitive personal information, which - as it's written from my perspective - is subjective and probably completely innaccurate.

Biography of a Song: Brain Farts
<a href="http://drlindyke.bandcamp.com/track/brain-farts">Brain Farts by Dr. Lindyke</a>

If nobody else is going to post a biography of a song, you're going to get another one from me. But before I do I want to say that this is REALLY a good idea Edric's got here. When you write the song biography it makes you think about your writing process so you can really understand why you chose one path over another. In writing the bio you find out that your thought processes aren't so random as you imagined, and you really do have reasons for the words and chords you choose.

That said, I'm now going to describe something totally frivolous. I mentioned in chat a couple of weeks ago that I felt like doing something "vaguely Irish", and finally settled on an Irish drinking song. Several reasons for that... 1. I wanted to do something that could be done on a bodhran if you wanted to; 2. I didn't want it to be Scottish, as Joe 'Covenant' Lamb does that so wonderfully and I would feel like a kid trying to wear Dad's suit; 3. I'm not a Scot and I'd get it all wrong; 4. Reasons 2 & 3 don't apply to Irish drinking songs because ALL Americans are Irish on St. Patrick's day, and -- being drunk -- you're expected to screw it up.

(This differs from an actual Irish drinking song in that it eventually does end. Maybe those do, too, but I've never been able to go the whole distance. It also differs from just about everything I write in that it's a narrative song.)

So what to use as a topic? Well, love, obviously, but what specifically? As it so happens, I was listening to Jonathan Coulton's "Big Bad World One", which is about a guy who's shy around women. So I thought, "Great! I'll turn THAT into an Irish drinking song!" (you might suppose I'd had a few already). I had a ready-made theme... shy guy is tongue-tied by women. I decided that this guy was gong to be hung up on one specific woman, as True Love should always be a staple of this sort of thing. Then I thought, "it's not much of a story if it doesn't go anywhere," and decided that he should somehow overcome his shyness and get the girl. This being a drinking song, once he got her he shouldn't want her, for some silly and hopefully ironic reason.
So with a 3/4 time beat in my head I started with the chorus:
Oh! Hi diddle diddle de day...
She makes me tongue tied and me mind go away
I wish that I could be a man of her sorts
But my true love she gives me brain farts 
Sadly, I can't blame these words on William. This song is entirely my fault. And what drinking song doesn't have a few nonsense syllables? Probably a lot, but let's not go there. From now on I simply call this [CHORUS]
In my demented haze I chose Brain Farts as the title before I even got started, so I knew it was going to appear in the chorus, and at the end of the last line as a surprise. This is the cause of the stilted language, of which you'll soon see more. Now armed with a chorus, I knew where this was going (to Hell in a handbasket), so I started the story proper... 
I once saw a lassie of beauty so pure
That with only one look I was perfectly sure
The love of my life could only be her
So I purposed to pledge her my troth. 
Yes, I wrote "troth". Not only was it appropriately archaic, but it's a near-rhyme with "mouth", which I'm going to use in a moment: This starts with an inverted F and there's nothing surprising at all about the progression. F, C, Bb...
  I strode right up to her with moves debonair
  And drank in the fragrance of her lustrous hair
  She blinded my eyes with her beauty so fair
  And that's when I opened my mouth:

  Phthbt. Uhmm. D'umyu cuoum heerofn?
I've got one line to signal his intentions, and two more to describe her effect on him. If this were an ACTUAL Irish drinking song this would take approximately seven verses. But we live in a world of fast food and microwaves and I don't have that kind of time.

Don't ask me how to pronounce that last line. Obviously, he's trying to say "Do you come here often?" and can't get the words past his thickening tongue. He's really tongue-tied and not smart enough to keep is mouth shut. The music simply stops for the moment while you attempt to deliver this Rain Man dialog.

We move on to her reaction, which is musically somewhat more animated than the delivery. The chord progression's pretty much the same, but it's sung a bit higher, and with disgust.
  She said,
  Get lost you idiot, there's drool on your face!
  Just you keep your distance or I'll get my Mace.
  She left me so fast it looked just like a race
  And her fragrance was her only trace.
I have no idea if they sell Mace (pepper spray) in Ireland. I don't care. They sell it here, So I'm saying Loverboy lives in New York or something. I actually like the last line. I wanted him to stand there, rejected and dejected, with the memory of her presence, and I wanted the (lack of) presence to be tangible. You know how you can taste perfume? Like that.

[CHORUS]

So we're back to our opening tune:
  Well, I'm not some loser who settles for no
  I tracked down the number of her telephone
  I gave her a ring, heard her dulcet “Hello?”
  And I opened my mouth and intoned:

  Phthbt. Msnf wlyu mmmmbe onf um daaate
Well, I think it's funny precisely because he is a loser. But I needed him to be persistent for the payoff in the last verse. So once more he trips over the rug in his mouth, worse than before. I think this line originally read, "Will you go out with me on a date?" Her response is again animated.
  She said,
  Hang up, you stalker, now this isn't fun!
  Don't ever call back or I'll dial 9-1-1
  And then with a click! my true love was gone
  And I cursed at my treacherous tongue
Definitely someplace in America. But if sung overseas, "9-1-1" should be replaced with "9-9-9" or whatever's appropriate, which still rhymes well enough when delivered with a brogue. (btw, my spell-checker/dictionary insists that a brogue is a shoe. I had to laugh, because it's oddly appropriate for a song about a guy who keeps his foot in his mouth).

I also like the "treacherous tongue" line. It's all about the blame. He can't get it through his head that the problem's not in his tongue, it's in his head.

[CHORUS]

OK, so at this point I was ready to give him his "out". But I had a hard time figuring out exactly what it would be. I thought maybe classes, or a psychiatrist, or a talk with his grandfather, or just screwing up his courage. Nothing really worked. Eventually I just chucked it all and used magic. I recalled the gypsy caravan that used to park near my house in Caversfield. Real old-world gypsies with the wagon and the cooking outside and the sharpening of knives, and the fortune-telling... every werewolf movie cliche' rolled up into a horse-drawn wooden caravan, and they were there every year in the proper season. These were Romanichal, but for my purposes it doesn't matter if our "gypsy" is Romanichal or an Irish Traveler.
  So I went to the gypsy to buy me a draught
  Of something that wouldna make me sound so daft
  I purchased a potion called “old Number Nine”
  For some silver to her hand from mine
More stilted language. If there's a way around it, I didn't find it. Obviously "Number Nine" is an allusion to "Love Potion #9", which I used to keep from having to use another seven verses to explain it. And yes, that's how to spell "draft". Curse Madison Avenue!

Now originally I had "Loverboy" splash the stuff on, like aftershave. But when I remembered how Love Potion #9 was supposed to work, I had him drink it down. And it works so well! Obviously, this gypsy is a much better chemist than Madame Rue!
  I drank the stuff down, felt me confidence grow
  I felt like a winner from my head to my toe
  I strode right up to her with moves debonair
  And said to the lassie so fair:

  Hey baby, what's happenin'
That's last line should be delivered veeeeerrrrryyyyy smmmooooothhly, in a liquid basso to curl the toes and melt the heart of our Lady Fair, in a parody of Barry White. Again, there's no music and no accompaniment for the line.
  She just stood there smiling with drool on her chin
  And a slack-jawed expression inviting flies in
  I thought, “She looks stupid; besides, she's too thin!
  There are much better women to win!
This is a really quick turn-around, I know, but I really didn't feel like dragging it out. Microwaves, remember?
  Now she follows me 'round everywhere that I turn
  She's been such a nuisance she makes me blood burn
  She bumbles and sputters and makes such a show
  That me appetite's starting to g
And here's our payoff. After all that mooning on his part, he gets to experience some of the discomfort that he put her through. So maybe he gets the upper hand, or doesn't. I leave it to the listener. We cap it off with a modified chorus:
  Oh! Hi diddle diddle de day...
  She acts like a fool and she gets in me way
  I wish someone would come and haul off this tart
  'Cause she's cramping my style... with her brain farts
And that's it.

Now, PLEASE somebody else write a Bio!!! You'll enjoy it! We'll enjoy it! It will curb Global Warming! If not for yourself, do it for the children!

Biography of a Song: Doves

 This is in response to a discussion of songwriting started by Edric Haleen on the TMA forums, which is now ongoing at our new artistic "home", Artifiction. I'm simply moving some of what I wrote there onto this blog for safe-keeping.

Be warned, this "biography" contains sensitive personal information, which - as it's written from my perspective - is subjective and probably completely innaccurate.


Biography of a Song: Doves
To hear a (poor) recording of this song and read the final lyrics, click here.


Never encourage me. I'm going to bother you again with a more typical example of our process, as I previously threatened to do. Here's one where I changed one word.

I got the lyrics to "Doves" in email in August of 2008, though William's notes say he wrote them October 9th, 2005. The inspiration for the song is as follows: Willy had a neighbor who was a WWII vet. This neighbor used to work in the garden every day, and there were a pair of doves that nested in the eaves of his house overlooking that garden. When the old man died, the doves disappeared and haven't been seen since. So this is a song about death and transformation, very different from the previous death song I described.

I happen to like this one. A LOT. One of the things I like is that this song works for anybody with a shred of spirituality, even if you don't know what the lyrics are about. You can imagine that the doves are guardian angels, or animal spirits, or whatever works for you. The neighbor, incidentally, doesn't ever appear in the song. This isn't about him, it's about you, the listener.

When I got this it was four verses, which I read through a couple of times to determine the mood. It starts:
The blind Minah bird, he mocks the dawn
Caged all day, still talks and sings a song
Deaf to morning, noon and night
Dreams of freedom and takes to flight

It was definitely moody, and I could hear immediately that start out with a minor chord. I thought it would probably need to start somewhere around the pitch of conversational speech. I would have started it with an Am if the tune hadn't taken me down to the basement at "to flight", but more about that next verse.

The "Caged all day..." line had me worried, because I couldn't fit it into any meter. Finally I just gave up and decided to play the tune as I'd envisioned it but just compress these words to fit it in there without regard to it. Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble" came to mind, where he does that sort of thing a LOT. Turns out that actually performing that is akin to patting your head and rubbing your belly.
The doves don’t roost here anymore
Not now nor in the year before
The nest abandoned while we sleep
Take perch in Eden then retreats

This verse is perfect metrically, and it held the tune when I first read the lyrics. A little wistful. We don't know anything about these doves, nevertheless we're sad that they're gone. As such, the tune doesn't try very hard here, and ends in a downward direction as they retreat from Eden.

The chord progression is Cm / Ab / G -- Cm / Ab -- G -- Cm

The verse also gave me the opening riff, though I couldn't tell you in a million years what thought process took me there. It's basically an improvisation on those same chords.
Seems paradise resides beyond the blue
Where there’s no substitute for the truth
Take wing in disappearing light
And let heaven’s eagle be your guide

[instrumental]

This seems to me to be a proclamation of realization, some denouement that the singer has come to, so it needs to be lifted up (this comes mostly off-mic, and he's just telling us about it). There are probably a million different interpretations of this verse, and it was our intent to leave it open to all of them.

That said, the basic chord progression is dead simple, being 4 repetitions of Ab -- G -- Cm. Anything interesting musically is in the tune and in whatever you choose to add to the accompaniment. In the first line I insert a Bb chord between the G and Cm at "beyond" just for stress. When playing "for the truth" I crawl the base from C to D to Eb to F to give us a little auditory "Jacob's ladder" to the truth, whatever that may be. And after "disappearing light" I allude to the opening riff.

I think the thing that really makes this work is the segue into the instrumental, which is intended to remind you of birds in flight. As such you're introduced to it through an upward progression right up the scale from G-A-B-C-D-Eb in the left hand with the appropriate right-hand stuff going on and then it "opens up" a bit for the doves in flight. I imagine it with the "la-na-na-nah" backing vocals, so threw some on the demo track.

Yes, that's how I think of my choice of chords. I focus on what's important to me, which in this case was only that bass progression, and then fill in what's necessary and natural. There's what I WANT, then what I have to have.
The doves don’t roost here anymore
Not now nor the year before
The nest abandoned while we sleep
Take perch in Eden then retreats

My first draft of the song did not repeat this verse. When William heard it he asked if I'd "repeat it somewhere". "Can you bring the doves back into it somehow?" He was right, they needed a reprise. Prior to this, I'd gone straight into the bridge, which was too abrupt.
And if it’s truly all been done
What’s the use then to carry on
To pass some Rorschach test of life
To comprehend and just survive?

Though metrically it could be a verse, this is the bridge. It HAS to be in that it's so very different in tone from the other verses. It's the Big Question: Why are we all here? Is the meaning of life really whatever you imagine it to be? Is the point of being simply to be?

So it's the bridge. And since it's the Big Question, it has to be a big bridge. And it should be delivered as if you finally had your big chance and you were standing in front of God, ready to get all your questions answered... and he was ignoring you.

Now, Willy would probably laugh if I told him that. He thinks it's hilarious when people read into the stuff he writes. But the process of songwriting for me is exactly that... I take what he wrote, try to extract any meaning that HE had in it, and then try to insert, musically, whatever meaning I read into it, hopefully without stepping on his message. If the process is successful then we have something better than either of us could have produced on our own, and we leave enough ambiguity that the listener can infer even more meanings of his own, making the song personal to him or her.
For paradise resides beyond the blue
Where there’s no substitute for the truth
Take wing in disappearing light
And let heaven’s eagle be your guide

[instrumental]

And once again to paradise. The word I changed was "Seems" to "For". I felt that the repetition of this verse needed to be more forceful in tone. I think that this one word shifts the meaning greatly. The first time through it's a guess or observation; the second time it's a statement of fact. Musically, it continues the more forceful tone of the bridge, as applied to previously established tune. Appropriate modifications are made to the tune.

Again we go to the instrumental of the doves in flight, and this time the song fades as they recede into the distance. I didn't bother with the fade in the demo, but it should be there. When playing it live I end on Cmajor rather than Cminor to impart a more hopeful ending to the song. This is intended to be wistful, yet hopeful; not sad.

Biography of a Song: Click

This is in response to a discussion of songwriting started by Edric Haleen on the TMA forums, which is now ongoing at our new artistic "home", Artifiction. I'm simply moving some of what I wrote there onto this blog for safe-keeping.

Be warned, this "biography" contains sensitive personal information, which - as it's written from my perspective - is subjective and probably completely innaccurate. Also be warned that these lyrics contained strong language, not suitable for children.

BIOGRAPHY OF A SONG: Click
To read the lyrics and hear the song in "final" form, click here.

Since I (Dave) usually work with a lyricist my process is a little different, but in many ways not so much. The work I'm about to describe is more collaborative than usual for me... I don't usually go back for seconds or thirds on lyrics. Perhaps I'll describe a more typical example later.

It's reading Edric's line about the death of a friend that prompted me to write about this particular song, as it's about that very thing. Keith was one of my very best friends in the world. I had known him since high school. He was a pawnbroker who owned a string of pawnshops in two states. He had a beautiful wife and two children. Then his business partner embezzled every dime from the company. Keith lost the business, his house, his wife & kids... everything. The only indication that we had of his impending death was a single statement weeks before; "I'm too old to start over." That, I think, is the crux of it. I think he felt he was old and used up; he thought he was alone. One night when he was scheduled to be at another friend's house for dinner, he sat in a room instead, put a gun to his head, and pulled the trigger.

Writing the song was a bit of a challenge, in that there are some places you simply don't want to go (and there are places we did not go), but we felt we wanted some kind of memorial for Keith.

The concept began a few weeks after his death as I was driving. I was trying to imagine the emotions that could drive somebody to such an act, and came to a few conclusions. One is that a person doesn't decide to kill himself on the spur of the moment. There must be a process of deliberation with oneself. It's a thing you have to talk yourself into, and it must seem logical from your point of view at the time. I also thought about the gun. Keith was a pawnbroker and former prison guard and had a concealed carry permit. His gun was an automatic; not the kind of thing you play Russian roulette with. I had not been thinking about a song until this very point, when I thought that Russian roulette provides a fitting framework for the internal dialog I mentioned. Then I wondered if I was actually capable of getting through the process. I began with the structure of the song, which would be that each verse culminates in a decision to pull the trigger, with the hammer striking the chamber with an audible "click". The last verse would have no click.

I called William and told him what I was looking for lyrically (unusual, in that most of the ideas originate with him). Ninety percent of the time we collaborate through the mail; first snail mail, then email; and the process begins with me receiving a lyric. This time it was telephone and mail.

I should mention here that I recognize two basic kinds of lyrics in popular music: the story and the mood. Most of the people on this site, for instance, are storytellers. You have a narrative and convey that in the song. This then that. On the other hand, a lyricist like Bernie Taupin doesn't write a story, he creates and sustains a mood. So there's no real answer to the question, "What is 'Grey Seal' about?" It's about what you feel. "When You Go" is a JoCo example of that style. William doesn't write stories, but we had a few additional guidelines to follow for this song so that though we don't tell a story you can imply one. First, the mood should start dark and get progressively darker and violent until the end (that is, to the extent that I'll allow myself to get violent in a song, which isn't much). Second, we weren't going to constrain ourselves with actual events or facts. Facts do not convey our message. Anyway, I got back some lyrics starting as follows:
Click
Pop the cork
The champagne has gone to my head
Quick
Snap the picture
For in seconds one could be dead
The hammer falls
...
I couldn't really use them, in that they didn't convey the emotion I was looking for. Champagne, for instance, alludes to celebration. I know what he was going for... to start from the happiness of his wedding and move forward, and sometimes you can do that with a word or two, but here we didn't have time. The thoughts conveyed here are not a memory of good times, but brooding about the present having turned to shit. I didn't think it was necessary in this case to start at A to get to B, so I asked for a re-write, and got back something like this:
click
tock tick tock
the spider builds her web
it’s only me and you now
and the demon in my head

click
tock tick tock
no hands are on the clock
as time has lost all meaning
with my head upon the block
...

That was more like it. Six verses for six chambers. Now we start out in a room, alone with just the spider, and the ticking clock. I liked the demon because it gave us a clear indication of where this was going. With two sets of lyrics to draw from it was my turn to start writing the song, which begins with editing the lyrics.

William is a rare individual in that he has no apparent possessiveness about the words he writes. The way he sees it, he writes poetry and I write music. The poem and the song are two different things. Sometimes I use what he writes verbatim, but often I cut and hack and re-arrange based on the needs of the music. Since we've always worked by mail we don't have a lot of give and take, so he just trusts me not to screw it up too badly.

In this case all of the verses were very short and identical, so I knew that I'd have to extract a chorus and bridge (I wound up keeping the bridge and half-discarding the chorus). I also thought the "click" would get lost in the "tick tock tick", although I did like the clock. I still didn't have a tune, and I thought I'd be using a sampled sound or something. In the end I just say, "click". I also thought it would be more effective to highlight the inner dialog by removing the "and" so that he's talking directly to the demon in his head. And by removing some of the clicks and combining some verses I have a longer verse to work with:
click.
the spider builds her web
it’s only me and you
the demon in my head
no hands are on the clock
i'm down upon my knees
my head upon the block...

That sets the mood. "My head upon the block" tells us in no uncertain terms that we're looking at an impending death (I'll talk about the clock later). Now I want to increase that tension, make a decision, and pull the first trigger. This is going to be different musically.
all the life long struggles
to stay above the ground
the hopes and dreams are beaten flat
by the hammer coming down
And the hammer falls...

It doesn't take us many words to get there. I think the ambiguous imagery evoked by the "hammer" is very effective. But the hammer fell without report, and he's still alive. So we start over, moody again.
click
absent sense of humor
by the white coats and the blood
staring up mesmerized
by the naked light above
swinging like a pendulum
flying like a dove

The words from "absent" to "mesmerized" don't appear in the first two of William's drafts, and I'm almost certain I didn't write them, so that was probably pulled from another of William's drafts at the last minute (when it gets to the point when I'm working with the music I'll often just leave a placeholder for words and ask him to fill them in later). I do know that the white coats and the blood actually started as a flash-forward reference to the paramedics and it's now out of context, but I kept it because we're not telling a narrative. Don't ask me why I know what the line is about but not who wrote it. A lot of times we don't know afterward who wrote what. I have a lot of detailed notes about this song, but lost or forgot that bit.

It's the bare incandescent bulb hanging from the naked wire that grabs our attention. I particularly liked the religious implications of the last line, so I left that whole bit as written.

By this time I know where the music is going. Each verse beginning with a spoken "click" will start softly and rhythmically, to allude to the ticking clock I took out of the lyrics. The actual tune is pretty much determined by the lyrics, and I don't have a lot of conscious input there. I simply read the lyrics and hear the tune, and it's right, and that's the end of it. I know when the lyrics are right because the tune is there in them. I HAVE to have lyrics to get to the music, even if I'm writing an instrumental. That's not scientific, and I really don't care, 'cause that's how it works.

Now it's time for the second decision, which will musically parallel the first. That's as close to a chorus as we're going to get, which is to say not at all:
years and lives and fortunes
pass away without a sound.
time’s just numbers on a clock
whose hands won't turn around

I know now that this decision, like the one before, is delivered with a wail of frustration and anger and the pent up longing for things that are lost. And when they're gone, they're gone without so much as a glance to the rear to acknowledge that you were even there. It's filled with nameless emotion that you can't admit to because you're too busy convincing yourself and others that you're "dealing".

The "numbers on a clock" theme is one we've used before, but we have no problem plagiarizing ourselves. Part of the meaning here is the irrelevance of any outside influence on what is going on in this room at this moment. He is in a pocket of time, alone and isolated. It also alludes to the frustration of a life that doesn't seem to have moved forward, and in fact has slid back down the slope. (And yes, the clock had no hands before and now it has hands. It doesn't matter. We don't care. In dream-state, nothing is fixed.)

Instead of immediately pulling the trigger, he re-affirms his decision, forcefully:
and the time is here at last
moments here on earth were fun
while this final one’s a blast...
...and the hammer falls.

He's ready. He's doing it. This is it, NOW. Close the eyes, pull the trigger, GET IT OVER WITH.
click
damn it! i'm not a droid
when i get annoyed
why can't you avoid spouting freud at me
i don't give a fuck
'cause lately i'm struck
how my luck is just stuck in the toilet so...

Sadly, at this point I'm out of words from William. He gave me six verses for six chambers. I reasoned that we don't know where the bullet is, but six being unlikely, and being in need of longer verses, I combined them and ran out of words. So these were written by me, and at this point I was writing the lyrics to the tune, because the tune had legs and was running away, which explains all the internal rhyme which I wouldn't have come up with on my own. "Damn it!" is a venting of the frustration. The decision is made. He's no longer playing Russian roulette, he's out to murder himself. But he does have some last things to say.

We live in a world where men are not allowed to have emotions. An angry man is a threat, he's a danger; he's never just a human being who has been hurt or wronged. We're required to grow from boys into robots. We have antidepressants and mood stabilizers and God what else... as if FEELINGS were DISEASES to be treated with chemicals. We must "manage" our anger instead of venting it to be released harmlessly into the atmosphere. Here, he has been wronged. He's been damaged. He's been hurt, and he has all the pent up anger and frustration that goes along with that. And he can't focus it anywhere, can't so much as point a finger and shout, "Fuck you!" because they're gone. So where's it going to go? All that anger? All that pain?
don't tell me what to believe
to wear my heart on my sleeve
while you steal everything i've achieved...

...and the hammer falls.

This is just wrapping up. From his POV, the decision is made, don't talk me out of it, don't give me a solution, everything I worked for is gone and I'm ending it now. When the hammer falls for the last time the song is over. There's no one there to hear the report.

When the lyrics are done, so am I, for the most part. Other than directing the mood, as I described, the song usually writes itself. I make a few conscious decisions like time signature and major or minor key, and I pitch it to where I can sing it (although I've found it increasingly difficult to sing earlier songs that were higher pitched). Stylistically... I don't care. I don't stress over what phrasing or fills or figures I can put it. What I've described above is what it's supposed to convey, which I can't myself impart. When I'm recording it I'm most concerned that you can hear the words. My voice is wrong for it, I can't bring myself to put the energy into it that it deserves something edgier instrumentally. In my head I hear some really heavy electric guitar.

The song is written to start on an A minor chord, but I've knocked that down to a G minor so I can hit the higher notes.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Minutes and Hours

This is our shadow entry for SpinTunes 1, Round 2. The challenge:
Write a song where the choruses are a different time signature than the verses. (2 minute minimum)
This particular song doesn't mean anything. It's a song designed to communicate a mood, to which you assign your own meaning. But the line "Sweet and yet sour are the times of this life" sort of dictated a bittersweet tune to me. Since I first saw "The Music Man", I've been fascinated with the idea of using the same tune with different time signatures[*], so the choruses and verses share a melody here. Let me know if the tune helps the lyrics or not in your comments.

[*] in The Music Man, the songs "Seventy-Six Trombones" and "Goodnight, My Someone" share the same tune, but are in different time signatures and tempos. "...Trombones" is a march in 4/4, and "...Someone" is a lullaby in 3/4.

<a href="http://drlindyke.bandcamp.com/track/minutes-and-hours">Minutes and Hours by Dr. Lindyke</a>
Minutes and Hours
Lyrics by William Hoover

[introduction, 6/4 time]

[chorus, ¾ time]
Minutes and hours keep me awake
Minutes and hours allow me to say
That which is ours shall never fade

These minutes and hours at the end of my day.

.

[verse, 4/4 time]
Midnights bring showers as the sun falls away
Lightning, like fire, produces, let's say

Something like flowers, a beauty this night

In minutes and hours may shed their last light.

.
[instrumental bridge, 6/4 time]
[chorus, ¾ time]
Minutes and hours know I'm a friend.
Kings and those higher say let's begin

Finished, not tired, all things must end

Together acquired, as it is, not has been.

.
[verse, 4/4 time]
Sweet and yet sour are the times of this life
Bold, sometimes coward, I laugh to defy

Minutes and hours, a long lost romance

This time is ours, if only by chance

.
[chorus, ¾ time]
Minutes and hours keep me awake
Minutes and hours allow me to say

That which is ours shall never fade

These minutes and hours at the end of the day.

.
[instrumental, 6/4 time, with 4/4 in the final 3 measures]

.